New Zealand Labour responds to Timber Industry Federation's comment that forestry is 'rape and run' industry, says rising log exports to China devalue forests

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , April 28, 2010 (press release) – While National sits by and allows research and development programmes to stall, the future of New Zealand’s timber industry is being put at risk, say Labour Finance and Economic Development spokespersons David Cunliffe and Shane Jones.

David Cunliffe said New Zealanders should be alarmed by the Timber Industry Federation’s comment today that forestry is becoming a "rape and run" industry.

"What is happening is not only hurting the industry, but is hurting the whole country as well.

"While log sales overseas have doubled, the domestic market is struggling to find enough logs to cope. That’s leading to increased timber prices domestically, and to fears that the shortage of logs domestically could end up devastating our local sawmill industry.

"That’s a huge worry for a proud New Zealand industry," David Cunliffe said.

Shane Jones said that the industry in New Zealand was heading in the opposite direction to where it should be.

"While we are sending enormous numbers of logs to China --- nourishing the local Chinese timber industry --- we are running down the value we could be obtaining from our forests.

"Last year our log exports were worth $950 million compared to $726.9 million for lumber exports. Yet lumber exports have a cubic metre unit value of $390, compared with $108 for log exports. New Zealand is missing out on a great deal of potential export returns as well as stripping our domestic timber market supply," Shane Jones said.

"We need to be producing higher-value exports if we want a wealthier country."

David Cunliffe said that finding new ways to add value to our timber products would boost the country’s economy at the same time as re-invigorating the domestic sawmill industry.

"National can’t understand this simple formula. The Government’s dismissive approach to research and development programmes provides no incentive for the domestic timber industry to do anything other than take the easiest and quickest buck available."

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