14 Jul 2015

Change won't stop wetland damage - Labour

7:27 am on 14 July 2015

A Labour MP is critical of the Government's plans to tighten the export rules for swamp kauri, saying the changes won't make any difference.

A kauri log "carving" wrapped in plastic, leaving a warehouse in Awanui for export.

A kauri log carving wrapped in plastic, leaving a warehouse in Awanui for export. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Concerns had been raised about companies abusing the rules by defining items like carved logs and rough-sawn table tops as finished objects, and long planks as stump timber.

Labour Party MP, Kelvin Davis.

Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Yesterday, the Ministry for Primary Industries announced that milling operators would now have to notify the ministry of all finished kauri products for export and have them inspected.

But the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, said that wouldn't stop the damage being done to wetlands at the beginning of the extraction process.

Mr Davis said, by the time the kauri was inspected, the wetland could already have been destroyed.

"If the wetland is disturbed, the wetland would be irreparably damaged because they dig through the iron pan, the water will drain away," he said.

"So even if someone said you have to put that log back, the log would go back, within a few weeks what was formerly a wetland would be a dry, barren piece of dirt."

Mr Davis said there also needed to be a way to trace exactly where a swamp kauri item came from.

Digger unearthing ancient kauri.

A digger unearths a piece of ancient kauri in Northland. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Call for independent inquiry

The Green Party, meanwhile, said jobs processing swamp kauri would continue to be lost overseas despite the tighter export rules for the ancient timber.

Greens primary industry spokesperson Eugenie Sage said the new regime would continue to allow unfinished products out of the country.

"Rough-sawn planks have been exported as rustic table tops and that's been OK, according to MPI. It's not, in our book, because it means that jobs in processing aren't in Northland, they occur overseas," she said.

"It's quite clear in the law that to be exported it has to be a finished or manufactured product, or a stump, and what we're seeing is rough-sawn planks and logs being exported and that hasn't been clamped on."

Ms Sage said there needed to be an independent inquiry into the swamp kauri industry.