Jones: Make Hicks Bay special zone

Wednesday 27 Nov 2019

Forestry Minister Shane Jones wants to create a log barging facility at Hicks Bay and turn the area into a Special Economic Zone - The move would be part of protecting New Zealand's forests from being depleted by India and China, he said.

It follows his announcement on Friday that the Government would strengthen New Zealand's wood processing sector with new measures to help the industry, including a log buyer registration scheme that would see more logs processed onshore and provide better job certainty in regional communities.

Jones also proposed to create a national definition of wood legality and to increase the flow of transparent information for the sector.

"I sought a Cabinet mandate to stop the wholesale loss of our raw material to India and China, and insist that anyone selling overseas must be registered."

Cabinet had directed officials to pursue the measures and Jones said intends to report back early next year.

On Sunday, he told Stuff he wanted to make the Hicks Bay area a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which would see the area's business and trade laws differ from the rest of the country.

Under this he would get an act of Parliament to open up the "blue highway" to barge logs up north or to other parts of the country.

The isolated area had huge amounts of land that already have some forestry assets, but people were struggling to harvest profitably because of the distance to key port infrastructure, he said.

Jones accepted some locals would fear the proposal but said there were others who were already keen but were overwhelmed by the red tape associated with consents to open up the "blue highway".

"I've become exasperated by small minority groups catastrophising economic development and using environmental legislation to frustrate economic development," Jones said.

The blue highway proposal could not make headway prior to the 2020 election because it would take time to pass the special legislation but it was something that could be fuelled before then, he added.

In the meantime, Jones will seek an endorsement from NZ First to include it in its 2020 election campaign.

The majority of the country's forestry industry was foreign-owned and historically had a free hand in sending logs overseas, but felt no obligation to support local jobs or local processors, he said.

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Source: Stuff

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