Better options than NZ’s “Log Bill”
Friday 12 Jun 2020The Forest Owners Association says more exports of processed timber products from New Zealand looks a good prospect on paper, but Shane Jones’ current Log Bill is not going to achieve this and there are better options. Forest Owners is responding to statements from the New Zealand Wood Processors and Manufactures Association in favour of the Bill, which the WPMA expects will result in diversion of export logs to local sawmillers at cheaper prices.
Forest Owners President Phil Taylor says any legislation which diverts income from one part of a sector to another is distortionary to the economy. “It’s a dangerous experiment in protectionism, just at a time when our government is cautioning against other countries doing this. Neither the basis, nor the effects of the Bill have been researched at all, and it is being rushed through under urgency. As NZIER has pointed out, a comparable policy to protect Australian car manufacturing has cost a fortune and ended in disaster.”
Phil Taylor says the WPMA Chairman, Brian Stanley’s claim that the Bill would bring forestry into line with the rest of the land-based industries is not accurate. “There is no part of the New Zealand primary sector which has ever had a regime imposed where exports were expected to subsidise local manufacturing. It’s a WPMA fantasy.”
“Likewise, Mr Stanley asserts that since other countries subsidise their timber industry, then the solution should be more processing in New Zealand sawmills, with foresters forced to pay for it. That is misguided and dangerous. The international market in timber is way more subsidised and protected than the international log market. Mr Stanley would take us out of a Post-Covid and developing international log trade protection smouldering fire, into a red-hot blast furnace of trade protectionism for timber products.”
Phil Taylor says there are ways to grow processing in New Zealand which would work. “A timber preference policy for wood construction is one obvious and cost-free way the government could give substance to its ambitions for local processing. The government says it’s going to have a major international trade promotion for the primary sector. Forest products must be a part of that. Some doors into other countries’ markets can only be opened by cabinet ministers.”
“But the biggest opportunities are in timber product innovation. The future lies in a bioeconomy, and our plantation forests can be part of that exciting future. We want to embrace that with our science teams and government. We’d like to hope that WPMA would have the vision to be part of that as well.”
Source: Forest Owners Association
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