Tougher measures have been introduced to monitor the extraction, milling and export of swamp kauri, with fines up to $200,000 for those breaching therules.
The Minister of Primary Industries (MPI), Nathan Guy, was in Northland yesterday to announce immediate changes to make the controversial industry more "transparent".
But groups at the forefront of concerns about the exploitation of swamp kauri said Mr Guy's announcement proved how little control the authorities have had "over the swamp kauri gold rush". The changes mean all operators now have to inform MPI and Northland Regional Council of any extraction activity, regardless of where it takes place and whether or not it needs a resource consent.
All sites, extractions, sawmilling and the volume of swamp kauri will be inspected by a Northland-based MPI monitoring officer - a new position - and have to comply with the Forests Act 1949.
Penalties for breaching extraction and milling laws include fines of up to $200,000. Operators will need export approval by MPI of all finished products and every consignment will be inspected by MPI and Customs.
The move follows concerns raised by Far North Forest and Bird, Northland Environmental Protection Society, other conservation groups, Labour, NZ First and the Green Party about the damage extraction causes fragile wetland ecologies and the off-shore sale of a natural resource.
Those parties have called for a moratorium on the trade.
Fiona Furrell, Northland Environmental Protection Society chairwoman, said Mr Guy's announcement was a backhanded admission the authorities had failed on many counts.
"The minister could have used (yesterday's) opportunity to be a real star and clamp down on fake finished products and insist on stronger protection of rare native species and wetlands," Ms Furrell said.
"Instead he announced that rough sawn slabs can still be exported as tabletops.
"If this is the lame and incorrect way the minister interprets what a finished product is, then we need a law change to be explicit."
Swamp kauri products are allegedly shipped out under flimsy descriptions designed to fit export rules.
The changes will mean MPI fact sheets will outline the law for overseas markets. There will be regular monitoring of international trade listings and action will be taken when advertisements are misleading or indicate non-compliance.
"These changes will increase information flow and improve how we manage an industry that is important to the Northland economy," Mr Guy said.
The industry is said to be worth at least $25 million to Northland.
Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd welcomed the new vigilance and paper trail.
The NRC is only responsible when extraction could damage protected species or wetlands.