Some Northland Maori want involvement in the swamp kauri industry but one iwi is rejecting the notion as the trade does not bring benefits to its people.

The Forests Act 1949 bans the export of swamp kauri logs unless they are made into finished timber products. But claims have been made that exporters are skirting the ban by labelling kauri slabs as table tops, or superficially carving the logs and calling them artworks.

Northland iwi and hapu members said there should be more involvement from Maori.

Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi said the iwi had requests from companies to mine kauri on tribal land but declined as "the industry is nowhere near developed enough for us to maximise our participation in it".


"At the moment we just sit there as landowners, they rip it out and then get the money. How does that develop our iwi?" Mr Piripi said.

"With such precious resource we ought to be applying our artistic prowess to it, bringing out our artisans and developing a high quality and high integrity art industry, perhaps. There's a lot more that can be done - we don't want to be log sellers," he said.

Pita Tipene, chairman of Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, said kauri in any form was a "taonga for New Zealand" and stricter guidelines were needed.

"I'm of the opinion things need to be regulated by the government and there need to be stricter controls, not just people scribbling some patterns on it and sending it overseas as art work."

Te Wakameninga o nga hapu Ngapuhi spokesman Bryce Smith said he believed iwi should be in charge of monitoring exports said to be "contemporary Maori art".

"It would be nice for that to have happened in the beginning. It's too late. The Resource Management Act says we should be involved, but there is a different culture involved and that is political culture," he said.

Northland Regional Councillor and former MP Dover Samuels has accused the Ministry of Primary Industries of "pointing the finger" and trying to shift responsibility. The Ministry has said the Northland Regional Council, not MPI, was responsible for overseeing the extraction of swamp kauri.

Through the Resource Management Act, the regional council (NRC) was responsible only when extraction could damage protected species or wetlands.


Mr Samuels said he had no problem with swamp kauri being exploited, if it was done without environmental harm and if it was processed in New Zealand.

He said swamp kauri should enjoy similar protection to pounamu in the South Island, where Ngai Tahu controlled its exploitation.