Forestry reform bill 'cumbersome and unworkable'

Friday 29 May 2020

There has been scathing criticism of the NZ government's latest forestry reforms at a parliamentary select committee. The reforms are part of the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on Budget night] and has already surfaced for consideration at a parliamentary select committee.

This law would require forestry advisers, log traders and exporters to join a register and agree to work on nationally agreed standards. The aim was to reduce the number of logs being exported raw and to direct more towards New Zealand sawmills and create jobs as a result. A series of submitters told Parliament's Environment Select Committee the law was badly designed and would be expensive and ineffectual.

One submitter, chief executive Tony Clifford of Hawke's Bay wood company Pan Pac, said the law would give too much power over the industry to a small group of people. "One of our key concerns is the power [in the bill] to make rules and impose costs onto the industry when very little cost-benefit analysis has been undertaken," he said. "In our case, we just see [the law] as being cumbersome and unworkable."

Other criticism came from Don Wallace of the Farm Forestry Association, representing about 100,000 people owning shares in 14,000 small forests - many of them making little money. He questioned the need for a new forestry authority when its work was already being done by several state and private organisations.

"We make a small amount of money out of our forests but we will lose much of that if we have to pay for another agency to duplicate the work of others that already exist."

Jon Tanner of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association came out in support of the changes, saying his industry was suffering from a shortage of logs and needed help. "Wood processing companies are going under as we struggle to acquire a supply of logs," Dr Tanner said. "We have recently lost a thousand jobs in six months, and that was before Covid-19."

Tanner said governments overseas were encouraging aggressive buying of New Zealand logs, at prices New Zealand mills could not afford, by subsidising their own industries, in contravention of WTO trading rules.

Rotorua forestry consultant Don Hammond told the select committee the proposed legislation was so bad, it did not appear to know what the problem was, let alone how to fix it, and would only make everything more expensive. "This is cost-add, not value-add, and New Zealand has been a shocker for doing this over many years."

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Source: RNZ

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