Conservation group claims kauri email win

3:31 pm on 6 June 2016

A Northland conservation group is claiming a win in its battle to force the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to release more information about the trade in kauri timber.

Kauri logs unearthed from peat await sale.

Kauri logs unearthed from peat await sale (file). Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The Northland Environmental Protection Society has accused MPI of allowing exporters to send raw timber and unfinished objects out of the country - contrary to the Forests Act.

As part of the dispute, the Ombudsman has now told the ministry to provide reports, photos and emails it has been withholding from the group.

The society's president, Fiona Furrell, said much of the information related to swamp kauri, and what had previously been provided was heavily redacted.

The society had been fighting for two years for the right to scrutinise the way MPI had been regulating the lucrative industry, and was eagerly awaiting the uncensored versions of the ministry's emails in particular, she said.

The ministry was still allowing swamp kauri traders to export objects inappropriately glossed as table tops and temple poles, Mrs Furrell said.

The conservation group would challenge that in the High Court next month in a judicial review hearing.

Mrs Furrell said the Ombudsman had also told the ministry to release reports about five living kauri trees, felled by a Whangarei farmer.

The trees were huge and should not have been cut down, she said.

"We are now waiting for the further information including, crucially, the photos of these trees standing, so we can assess exactly how much was taken.

"Then we will go to the Whangarei District Council and ask them why this is happening in our district."

The Whangarei District Council allows private landowners to fell up to a hectare of large native trees without restriction - and larger areas with an MPI permit.

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