Labour Party policies aimed at encouraging more high-value wood product production would have a significant benefit to the Hawke's Bay economy, deputy leader David Parker says.
Mr Parker, who is also Labour's finance spokesman and shadow Attorney-General was in the region yesterday for meetings hosted by the party's Tukituki candidate, Anna Lorck.
Labour has announced policies aimed at encouraging investment in the processing side of the wood industry so more focus goes into higher-value products instead of log exporting.
This would result in more high-wage jobs in Hawke's Bay, Mr Parker said yesterday.
"Our forestry upgrade announcements that we've had in the last couple of months have included encouraging structural wood products in buildings to create local demand to assist those who are doing those things for local and export markets," he said.
"It will take some of the risk out for them, as they'll have demand from government [through a 'pro-wood' procurement policy], which is one of the largest purchasers of structural wood products."
Labour is also proposing a "tax deferral" initiative for plant and equipment investments in the forest and wood products industry, through an accelerated depreciation provision.
"You will see that change the viability of investment in wood processing and that will encourage more processing and more processing jobs," Mr Parker said.
The party predicts its accelerated depreciation policy will increase capital expenditure in forest processing by between $40 million and $80 million a year.
With a final decision due this month from a board of inquiry tasked with ruling on the Ruataniwha water storage scheme and a related environmental plan change for the Tukituki catchment, Mr Parker said the region's water quality should not be compromised by farming practices.
A draft decision from the board, released in April, has been criticised by farmers for setting nutrient leaching rates in the catchment at levels many believe would make land use in parts of Central Hawke's Bay uneconomic.
"I would turn that on its head and say whatever the farming practices in the Hawke's Bay, they ought not to pollute rivers so they're not clean enough to swim in, and that's an appropriate environmental baseline," Mr Parker said.
"I want to live in a country where rivers are clean enough to swim in and if that requires more careful application of fertiliser and livestock management then that's a good thing and I'm not persuaded by those who say that we can't do these things in a way that's better."
The former lawyer and experienced businessman said New Zealand had a "fantastic" legal system which people could trust to deliver a sensible outcome on issues such as the Ruataniwha scheme and Tukituki catchment consenting process.