David Cunliffe focuses on wood industry and Northport

By Mike Dinsdale

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David Cunliffe
David Cunliffe

Much of the "wall of wood" leaving Northland as raw logs would be turned into high value, locally produced products as part of an economic stimulus for the region under a Labour Government, party leader David Cunliffe says.

Mr Cunliffe was in Northland last week to visit Northport, Marsden Pt Oil Refinery and the NIWA site at Ruakaka. He also met representatives of the timber industry and Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai.

Under Labour's Forestry and Wood Products Economic Upgrade policy Mr Cunliffe said a Labour-led Government would offer a package of tax and other incentives that will lead to more domestic processing.

Under the policy Labour will provide tax deferrals in the form of accelerated depreciation to encourage industry to invest in new technology and plant and to boost innovation and will work with the industry and public science bodies to develop new products and technologies. To support industry development Labour will also introduce a pro-wood policy for government buildings, loans for new forest planting and forestry taskforces for long-term unemployed.

Mr Cunliffe said Northland produced great quantities of logs, but is missing out big-time on jobs and revenue, with more than half the region's logs exported unsawn, and 90 per cent of their value lost.

He was impressed with the huge piles of logs stacked at Northport awaiting export, but said it was a shame that the raw logs were being exported for other countries to get the added value of processing them.

Mr Cunliffe said the policy would see firms processing more of Northland's logs in the region, which would in turn create more jobs.

"Northland has historically had high unemployment (it's around 9.1 per cent, the highest in the country) and I think we can get that rate down, with forestry, and wood processing," he said. "It will lead to more processing, adding more value, closer to where the trees are grown."

Mr Cunliffe said Labour would also introduce a ports strategy that would help get the most out of Northport - the country's deepest port. The port may look at expanding into a container port.

Part of that would be ensuring that a rail line was connected to the port.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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