Jones looking at restricting wood exports overseas

Thursday 9 Apr 2020

New Zealand’s Forestry Minister Shane Jones has instructed officials to explore law changes that would ensure wood product is prioritised for New Zealand-based projects after the COVID-19 lockdown, instead of it being shipped overseas. It comes as the union representing construction and infrastructure workers, AWUNZ, called for help from Jones to introduce forestry quotas and regulation to prevent "foreign-driven forest obliteration" after the lockdown.

"Shane Jones says he is the regional saviour," Maurice Davis, AWUNZ national secretary, said on Friday. "I fear an avalanche of logs for short-term profit will disappear overseas to the detriment of Kiwi manufacturing and construction jobs." Davis said the priority must be looking after Kiwis' bank balances before foreign forest owners, and warned Jones that Kiwi jobs and regional families will be the people likely voting for him, so "if he does not stop the foreign forest felling the voters will cut him down".

He said Jones needs to inform log exporters that Kiwi processing firms "outrank their overseas appetites" and that the Government needs to look after Kiwi jobs and timber firms "before we fuel the Shanghai Express".

Jones, a New Zealand First MP, told Newshub his officials are working through any potential World Trade Organisation (WTO) implications, to be sure that changing the law to favour the domestic market would not break any pre-existing agreements.

He said it is time for a "new model which places a greater level of control over the export of our raw material", particularly with infrastructure projects being lined up to try and stimulate the economy once the lockdown ends, meaning New Zealand will need plenty of materials.

"I have been asking the forestry industry to look inward for two years - they've been slow to do that - so I'm going to do it for them." Jones said while the forestry sector is closed during the lockdown his officials are exploring what changes need to be made for the next three weeks, because some domestic manufacturers are running out of raw material.

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