Larger forest owners and managers in Northland are opposing new government legislation to strengthen domestic wood processing, citing insufficient consultation and unnecessary duplication of existing rules.
In its submission on the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisors) Amendment Bill, the Northland Wood Council said inadequate consultation with the region's iwi who were important stakeholders in the forest industry was outside the Treaty of Waitangi principles.
The Bill, introduced as part of the Budget 2020, will require forestry advisers, log traders and exporters to register and work to nationally-agreed practice standards towards a thriving forestry sector that benefits New Zealanders first.
It was introduced in Parliament on Wednesday and will go before the Environment Select Committee early next month.
Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the Covid-19 crisis showed how over-reliance on log exports to a small number of markets made our forestry industry less resilient and more susceptible to global forces.
"An enhanced domestic wood processing sector will play an important part of the recovery for our regional economies, helping create new export products, new jobs for Kiwis and a renewed sense of ownership of our forests."
Forestry advisers will need to demonstrate they have the relevant skills, experience and qualifications to advise growers, and undertake training and professional development in their specialist areas.
Log trading entities will need to pass a fit and proper person test, operate in accordance with industry standards, and meet record keeping and reporting requirements.
But the Northland Wood Council said effective regulatory frameworks already existed to ensure forest industry compliance with regard to environmental standards, health and safety compliance and consumer protection.
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"It is unprecedented that the Government has moved introduced legislation to require the export market to effectively subsidise the domestic market. No other primary industry is required to do this," chairman Andrew Widdowson said.
The council represents 73 per cent of Northland's annual log harvest of more than 4 million tonnes per year and accounts for 144,000ha of the region's total 198,000ha of plantation forests.
Widdowson said significant expansion in Northland's domestic wood processing sector over the last seven years has occurred with little consultation with forest owners and managers.
"The introduction of new legislation that is aimed at ensuring domestic wood processors have sufficient future structural log supply will do nothing to alter this reality.
"A Bill, with no specified mechanism for achieving its purported aim, no clearly spelt out problem to solve and no supporting data or investigation, should not proceed under the limited time given the public and industry to consider its implications," he said.
Hancock Forest Management, which accounts for about 25 per cent of Northland's forestry harvest, and the Forest Owners' Association echoed those sentiments.
Association president Phil Taylor said the industry anticipated an unacceptable and pointless bureaucratic cost to all parts of the forest industry if the Bill became law.
"Either the new law is going to be a pointless system of adding costs and inefficiencies into the timber supply pipeline, or there is some other hidden intent further down the track in regulations under the new law, which is meant to tie trees in red tape and direct timber growing, harvesting and processing.
"We are a major industry. We are fighting climate change with our trees. We have the capacity to provide thousands of jobs, in the forests, in transport and in construction. Jobs are vital in the Covid-19 recovery. We are keen to work with the Government. This scheme is a step backwards – not forwards," he said.
Taylor also questioned why the legislation was going to be heard by the Environment Select Committee and not the Primary Production Select Committee.
Tai Tokerau Māori Forestry Collective chairman Ernest Morton said the Bill was long overdue in terms of pacifying the domestic market but said a longer consultation period would be good.
"The problem is, when we cut logs up, whether we have the ability to sell it all locally. Local wood processors can only take a certain volume whereas the overseas market can take the whole lot."