21 Aug 2015

Swamp kauri export figures questioned

8:42 am on 21 August 2015

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has grossly under-estimated the volume of ancient swamp kauri that has left the country, an environmental group says.

A listing on Ali Baba under the heading: 'Ancient KAURI Tabletop for dining or boardroom'.

A photo from a listing on Chinese-based website Ali Baba under the heading: 'Ancient kauri tabletop for dining or boardroom' Photo: Ali Baba

The ministry said swamp kauri exports rose from 1150 cubic metres in 2013 to 4300 cubic metres last year.

The Northland Environmental Protection Society said, based on export documents released to it under the Official Information Act, the 2013 figure was wrong.

The society's president, Fiona Furrell, said the figures added up to more than 1800 cubic metres, and that did not include exports recorded only by weight.

Ms Furrell said total swamp kauri exports for 2013 were 2200 cubic metres, twice what the ministry had stated.

"Of course, we're still waiting on a response from the Auditor-General as to whether she will investigate [the swamp kauri trade] but I would say this adds to our claim that the MPI has not been following the rules nor keeping accurate records of its own activities."

An MPI spokesperson responded with the following statement:

"The information released under the Official Information Act is the information supplied to MPI by exporters on relevant 'Notice of Intention to Export' forms.

"Some exporters record volume, and some record weight.

"MPI does not convert that information to any standard form because the information is not necessary to assess the compliance of a proposed export with the Forests Act.

"To assist with public interpretation, under the revised measures to increase transparency announced in July, all new exports will be recorded as volumes (in cubic metres).

"MPI inspects all notified swamp kauri exports, and has done so for many years. No companies have blanket approval to export swamp kauri. Inspection is always by individual shipment."

Digger unearthing ancient kauri.

A digger unearths ancient kauri in Northland Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

A kauri log "carving" wrapped in plastic, leaving a warehouse in Awanui for export.

A kauri log carving leaves a warehouse in Awanui Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams