Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage gave the company approval to buy up to 20,000ha of land for forestry between now and 2022 with a maximum of 25 transactions without specific OIO approval for each purchase.
Ducker strongly disputes claims the company has been given a free pass around OIO regulations.
“We do not in any way shape or form get a free pass on the purchases.
“This standing consent just eliminates the need to make every purchase conditional on OIO approval. However, the OIO conditions on being able to do so are more stringent than those traditionally required and we have to demonstrate to OIO we are meeting those conditions.”
The company was granted the standing consent based on its long, successful history in NZ with a proven track record for forest management and processing.
“It is not rape and pillage. That’s something the minister was trying to eliminate.”
The fast track approval or standing consent is one of the key components of the Government’s efforts to ramp up forestry plantings, partly to meet NZ’s Paris Accord commitments and to boost regional development.
Ducker said after operating in NZ for almost 50 years Pan Pac has established a reputation as a sound operator that has not only managed and felled forests but also added value to products through its 500,000 cubic metres sawmilling facility in Hawke’s Bay.
“It is ironic but when Pan Pac was first established in the 1970s one of the requirements from the government of the time was to have processing plant to add value and we have continued that ever since.”
The provision of processing plant by foreign companies helps with OIO approval under the Government’s forestry promotion plan today.
The company manages 35,000ha of its own forest from planting to harvesting, largely in Hawke’s Bay. It employs 450 staff including those at one of the country’s largest sawmills. It has also more recently invested in a 100,000 cubic metres mill at Milburn, Otago.
In recent years Pan Pac has struggled to maintain supplies to its Hawke’s Bay mill with quality trees and was casting around for more.
“We have taken timber from Wairarapa and Gisborne but its expensive wood by the time you get it here.”
Ducker emphasised the company is not intent on wholesale purchase of drystock properties for conversion to forestry.
“We are not going out to buy land regardless.
“It depends on validation that the capex is sound. It will not be all bare land any more than it will be all forestry.”
Forest Owners Association chief executive Peter Weir says the opportunity for a foreign-owned forestry company to buy thousands of hectares of land for trees without Overseas Investment Office approval is evidence the streamlined buying process is working as it should.