Winston: Forestry a priority in party talks
Wednesday 11 Oct 2017Some New Zealand forest owners are suspending replanting of trees and re- thinking investments as the country’s third-largest export earner finds itself in the sights of maverick politician Winston Peters’ protectionist agenda.
The election king-maker last week said he would prioritize a restructure of the forest industry in closely-watched coalition talks with major parties after last month’s inconclusive election result.
The plan includes a possible quota system which would force growers to favour local mills over a higher-paying export market. Exports of forest products totalled around NZ$4.75 billion ($3.36 billion) in 2015, with China the top destination.
That has put the Pacific nation’s lucrative forestry sector at the heart of concerns that New Zealand First in power will spell greater government intervention in New Zealand’s small, outward facing economy.
“Every time the government has done something like that we get what you call a hole in the supply of timber and we’re going into a hole now, an undersupply,” said Joe Carr, the owner of a privately-held logging business managing 500 hectares of forest in the far north of the country.
Carr is holding off replanting 60 hectares of his land due to the possible restrictions and said on average growers were paid a third less to sell logs locally than to export them. He said his son was re-thinking whether his family should stick to forestry after 44 years in the business.
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