20 Mar 2014

Wood Council pleased by MPs' turnout

3:29 pm on 20 March 2014

The Wood Council says it was very gratifying to see three politicians attend the biennial Forest-Wood conference in Wellington and outline their commitment to reinvigorating the industry.

While export logs prices are soaring, local sawmills are going out of business and struggling to make New Zealand-made wooden products.

Associate minister for primary industries Jo Goodhew told the conference the Government has invested $150 million in forestry innovation and science since 2010.

She said it was also working very hard to create the right business environment to encourage demand for high value wood products.

Labour leader David Cunliffe told delegates his government would partner with the industry to turn more logs into finished product in New Zealand, which would employ more people and re-energise timber industry-dependent towns such as Kawerau.

Council chair Bill McCallum says it is very pleasing to see both major parties committed to the sector.

"I'm very pleased that Labour has recognised the importance of the forestry sector and its contribution to our economy.

"We'll have to wait and see a little more of it but the mere fact that they have developed a policy is encouraging.

"The National government has recently certainly placing a lot of focus on the forestry sector and we are very encouraged by that. (But) there are a lot of things to be done."

The Greens' proposal is to award a $1 million prize for the first 10-storey wooden building built in New Zealand. Party co-leader Russel Norman told the delegates that would help to accelerate the engineered timber industry in New Zealand.

But Mr McCallum is a little doubtful.

"There's a little bit of work to be done before anyone can construct a 10-storey wooden building in Christchurch and one of those is to review and revise our building standards to actually enable that to be done.

"New technology has not been catered for or taken into account in the old standards. They're obsolete in respect to some of these new engineered wood products."