No forestry work in Northland has stopped the delivery of logs to Northport, freeing up space for the storage of essential imports if there's congestion at other ports during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Parts of the forestry sector, excluding wood processing, have been classified as non-essential during the lockdown which means tree harvesting crews throughout Northland have been stood down and workers laid off.
The classification is frustrating large forestry block owners such as Ngati Hine Forestry Trust which is appealing to the Government to allow forestry crews to start work, as has been done in the cases of freezing works, butcheries and bakeries.
But Minister for Forests Shane Jones said forestry contractors and landowners should show forbearance during these unprecedented times as the country is more than half way through the lockdown.
No logs have been delivered to Northport since the implementation of level 4 restrictions more than two weeks ago while those sitting at the port are being shipped overseas as part of an effort to create space for essential imports.
These include kiwifruit exports, cement for essential infrastructure construction projects, animal feed, fertilisers for agriculture and horticulture, and liquid carbon dioxide used in the food and drink industry and to support Northland's dairy plants and water treatment facilities.
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Northport spokesman Peter Heath said there were about 110,000 tonnes of logs on site but that number would possibly reduce to around 40,000 tonnes by April 20.
He said log shipments from Northport had never stopped, even when Covid-19 restrictions prompted ports in China to stop offloading logs brought in from overseas.
Northport is designated an essential service and will continue to operate the local port service, enabling the safe passage of tankers and dry-cargo vessels transiting Whangārei Harbour.
Of the 20 million tonnes of logs exported from New Zealand each year, 2.6m tonnes go through Northport at Marsden Pt.
Nearly four million tonnes of logs were harvested from Northland forests last year, which was 10.8 per cent of the almost 36m tonnes cut down nationally.
Of the 4m tonnes, 2.3m tonnes were exported and the rest was for the domestic market.
Chairman of the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, Pita Tipene, said there was less physical contact by those felling and loading trees than people working in abattoirs yet the Government has classified them separately.
"All we are asking for is clarity and secondly, that we be allowed to go about our work. Luckily we got to the end of our harvesting when the lockdown was announced but there are other forest contractors that are still harvesting."
The trust owns 5500ha of forests in Moerewa, Kawakawa and Whangārei.
Jones, who is also the Regional Economic Development Minister, said the Government looked at options in terms of additional concessions to industries or businesses that needed to remain open.
"There are certain business elements that are allowed to continue operating like wood processing entities in Kawerau and other regions but there are others that want to go back into the bush and my message to them is to abide by the lockdown rules.
"This is not negotiation. This is where industrial interests are balanced with a pandemic. These are unprecedented times and we've got to show forbearance as we are only 50 percent of the way through during this lockdown."
Jones said Te Uru Rākau, the government's principal forestry advisor, was working with forestry stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcome.