The oversight of swamp kauri extraction and exports is to be increased, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced.
New changes will include those in the lucrative but controversial industry being required to notify 100 per cent of all finished products for export approval, and the publication of quarterly updates on regulatory activity.
The Government has been heavily criticised by opposition parties and conservation groups over exports of swamp kauri, with allegations that officials were turning a blind eye to dubious export practices.
Mr Guy said he had asked the Ministry of Primary Industries to look at improvements that could be made, and a "comprehensive package" of measures would now be introduced.
"I believe MPI do a good job and enforce the law appropriately. These changes will however increase information flow and improve how we manage an industry that is important to the Northland economy."
The changes announced include:
• Operators will notify 100 per cent of all finished products for export approval, and MPI will inspect this product.
• The local council must be notified of all extraction activities, and MPI will visit all extraction sites as part of its milling statement approval process.
• More inspections of sawmills and export consignments in Northland after a boost to MPI resources in the area.
• Overseas trade listings will be monitored and action taken when advertisements are misleading or indicate non-compliance, and quarterly updates of overall regulatory activity will be published by MPI.
The Forests Act 1949 bans the export of swamp kauri logs, many of which are tens of thousands of years old, unless they are made into finished timber products.
Whole or sawn salvaged swamp kauri stumps or roots can be exported with a MAF milling statement and export approval.
Opponents of the trade, including the Far North Protection Society, say exporters are skirting the ban by labelling kauri slabs as table tops, or superficially carving the logs and calling them artworks.
The ecologically-sensitive wetlands are badly damaged in the process, they say. Labour, NZ First, and the Green Party have called for a moratorium on the trade.
Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage said Mr Guy had been forced to backtrack on his earlier assertions that there were no major problems with how exports of swamp kauri were policed.
"Mr Guy has been well aware since we and environmental organisations started to bring the issue to light, that the industry was taking advantage of loopholes in the council's Water and Soil Plan, and letting kauri that is tens of thousands of years old be exported illegally and sold off overseas.
"What we need is a full and thorough independent investigation into the extraction and export of ancient swamp kauri, which has so far seen wetlands and a precious taonga destroyed."