Response to log traders and forestry advisors bill

Friday 22 May 2020

As expected, response late last week to the news that legislation plans to be introduced requiring forestry advisers, log traders and exporters in New Zealand to register and work to nationally agreed practice standards was quick – and varied. The bill was introduced into Parliament on budget night and is expected to go to the Environment Select Committee early next month.

The Forest Owners Association said that they anticipate an unacceptable and pointless bureaucratic cost to all parts of the forest industry, if the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill becomes law. The Forest Owners Association President, Phil Taylor, says the first details forest growers saw of the scheme was when it was introduced on Thursday night.

“The government speakers in its first reading debate seem to think that giving a certificate to someone who buys and sells logs, is going to lead to more logs being processed in New Zealand and not exported. Either the new law is going to be a pointless system of adding costs and inefficiencies into the timber supply pipeline, or there is some other hidden intent further down the track in regulations under the new law, which is meant to tie trees in red tape and direct timber growing, harvesting and processing.”

“Either way, it’s a disincentive for anyone to invest if it goes through. Just when we have planting picking up again, mostly driven by small scale New Zealand investors and farmers, the government is trying to restrict it. If ethical behaviour is the problem, then there’s plenty of contract and criminal law to deal to that. If bad advice about planting and selling is the problem, then let the government agency, Te Uru Rākau, step up and provide good advice to forest owners – not persecution.”

Phil Taylor says he wonders if the government is also going to target other primary industries to force more domestic processing. “Sometimes the raw material is the best thing – look at apples and kiwifruit. Is the government going to force the wool industry to process more than the current five percent of the national clip in New Zealand carpet mills? We currently process 42 percent of our wood harvest right here in New Zealand – more than eight times the ratio of the wool industry.”

Phil Taylor says he also can’t understand why the legislation is going to be heard by the Environment Select Committee and not the Primary Production Select Committee. “The government says the bill is going to be about ethical behaviour and timber processing. So why go to the Environment Select Committee? Forestry operations are governed by the National Environmental Standard for Planation Forestry. It’s the most comprehensive list of environmental regulations under the Resource Management Act. It took eight years to complete. Now something is coming through which the government wants to sort in 15 days.”

Phil Taylor says not only does he want the Primary Production Select Committee to hear submissions, but he wants the committee to carry out an inquiry into the timber supply chain. “The government obviously has fantasies of employing more processors with no market to sell to. It’s been fundamentally misinformed. Let’s have a proper investigation into how the system works, with plenty of good data, and how it can be properly reformed, to provide more than employment just to people who are issuing registration certificates.”

On the other side, the Chair of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand, Brian Stanley, has welcomed the announcement that introduce legislation to regulate the behaviour of traders operating in the New Zealand log market. New Zealand wood processors cannot access local logs because of massive price distortions in the domestic log market that are being caused by overseas subsidies.

“This legislation will help to ensure that log traders treat New Zealand wood processors and manufacturers fairly – enabling our local processors to add value to NZ logs and provide local employment. WPMA congratulates the Minster on leading the charge,” says Mr Stanley.

The Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill has started its passage through parliamentary processes and looks to have a test that persons trading in logs or providing advice are “fit and proper. As an industry that prides itself on, and is certified for its ethical practices, we would expect the government to set a high bar for registration here”, says Mr Stanley.

“Mr Jones is taking a step in the right direction today and we congratulate him on this. The WPMA looks to supporting the Minister’s initiative as the Bill goes through Parliament”, concludes Mr Stanley.

Source: Forest Owners Association, Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand

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