Protected economies hurting NZ wood processors

Wednesday 21 Aug 2019

The country's wood processors say the international log price war and protected overseas economies are crippling the New Zealand trade.

The Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association told a meeting in Nelson that distortions in international trade were starting to make it difficult for local processors to be competitive globally.

The industry worked to add value to New Zealand's raw timber and supported 25,000 jobs nationwide, but it was fighting to survive.

The association's chief executive, Jon Tanner, said the global playing field was tilting less in New Zealand's favour.

That was because international competitors were playing by a different set of rules.

"And all this, we believe, is being caused primarily by subsidies that are being paid out across the world that are supporting the industries we are competing with," Mr Tanner said.

"MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) likes to call them non-tariff barriers - let's just call them the covert world of subsidies because they're really, really, really hard to see."

They were focused on finding ways to tackle the problem, but the elephant in the room was log supply and prices, he said.

The global manipulation of pricing was hurting New Zealand processors and timber growers.

The association's chairperson, Brian Stanley, said if everyone around the world paid the same price for logs, it would help their cause.

He said the onus was on government to come up with a plan that would protect regional jobs.

"People must come first and this can't simply be about providing a source of raw materials for export so that the real wealth is created elsewhere."

Mr Stanley said it was strange that New Zealand was happy to import native timbers like oak and mahogany for making furniture, yet we were not able to use our own native timber for that purpose.

"Certain New Zealand species can be sustainably managed for high grade furniture products and this would help the job opportunities for regions like the West Coast and Northland, so why aren't we doing this?"

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Source: Radio NZ

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