Thursday, April 25, 2024

Forest owners relieved but unhappy

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Forest owners are relieved a Parliamentary select committee has removed some of the sharp edges from the Forests Amendment Bill but still question why it was needed in the first place.
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In its original form the Bill would have required forest owners to direct a portion of log supplies to domestic processors, interfering with their existing commercial arrangements.

Forest Owners Association chairman Phil Taylor says the final report of the Environment Select Committee has softened the worst aspects of the initial proposal but no one has won.

“Domestic processors will get no additional access to logs other than what forest owners supply already, which we would argue is generally what they need, forest owners get additional compliance and at the margins some small forest owners will get some better advice.

“It’s hard to see anyone who will get any real, net benefit from the Bill.”

Taylor is particularly pleased the committee introduced protection to prevent the Government interfering in the commercial relationship between forest owners and their customers.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones is unrepentant, saying despite promises to create an accord to improve the flow of logs to domestic processors, a lack of action from forest owners forced him to act.

“There was an awful amount of talk and when I invited them to walk and make improvement themselves they chose not to, so I have acted.”

The committee recommended instead of introducing steps to support the continuous, predictable and long-term supply of timber for domestic processing the Bill should be amended to support the equity of access to timber for domestic processing and export.

It also recommends including an extra purpose to support a more transparent and open market for log sales through the provision of professional advice.

The committee supports the establishment of a Forestry Authority to oversee the registration of log traders who handle more than 20,000 cubic metres a year and forestry advisers.

It will have the power to require a registered log trader or adviser to provide it with information.

Jones says the concept of equity in the Bill has been improved by the committee, which has struck the right balance, especially for small forest owners who might need advice.

He says the changes will still provide a predictable and consistent log supply to domestic processors.

A minority report was issued by National Party committee members who say Government members blocked a briefing by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials on the consequences of the Bill on NZ’s obligations under the World Trade Organisation.

Jones says he is confident there are no trade repercussions.

The minority report also alleges consultation with the industry is unreasonable given it adds costs and compliance.

“No evidence has been produced to show a national problem with supply. Indeed, the number of established supply agreements suggests the opposite.”

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