Labour leader David Cunliffe says Otago and Southland are
ideally suited to supplying the Canterbury rebuild instead
of shipping logs to China. Photo from ODT files.
Logs lined up on wharves at New Zealand ports, awaiting
export, are a symbol of what is wrong with the country, Labour
leader David Cunliffe says.
While New Zealand might be the best in the world at growing
natural products, selling them as raw commodities was
''selling ourselves short'', he said.
Mr Cunliffe recently announced new forestry and wool
processing policies which he said would help move the
industry from volume to value.
Asked what those policies would mean for the likes of
Southern Cross Forest Products, Mr Cunliffe said Labour would
make sure there was secure wood supply for New Zealand-based
It also wanted to make it easier and more economical for
processors to invest in new plant equipment they needed to
reach scale and efficiencies to allow them to compete
To encourage investment, tax deferrals would be provided in
the form of accelerated depreciation.
Mr Cunliffe said he was very concerned about Southern Cross
Forest Products, where 400 jobs were at stake after its bank
placed it in receivership earlier this month because of $58
million of debt. Receivers hoped to sell it as a going
Otago and Southland was a very important forestry production
sector and was ideally suited to supply the Canterbury
rebuild, he said.
He was ''sick of hearing stories'' of New Zealand logs being
sent to China and then New Zealand timber being imported back
for the rebuild when it ''should be sent up the road''.
''It's insane,'' he said.
The Chinese knew exactly what they were doing; they wanted to
get New Zealand wood in an unprocessed state and add all the
As you went up the value chain, it created more employment
and earned more money that stayed in the local economy, Mr
The value of a cubic metre of laminates was about 10 times
the dollar value of a cubic metre of log, while sawn timber
was worth double the value of a log, he said.
Asked how its policy would reduce the number of fatalities
and injuries in the forestry sector, Mr Cunliffe said Labour
would ''give the industry a fright'' by bringing in corporate
manslaughter law and extending responsibilities to forest
owners. A ''litany of disasters'' were coming from
Asked about the response from the industry to the policies,
Mr Cunliffe said it had been ''bloody good'' but that was not
surprising, as the party had consulted widely with industry
in putting the package together.
Last week, he visited Rotorua-based timber company Red Stag
which publicly committed to a $120 million investment,
increasing mill capacity by 70%, conditional on Labour being
elected and bringing in its policies.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has been critical
of the policies, saying Labour seemed to want to ''turn the
clock back'' to the 1970s.
''Subsidised loans, expensive tax concessions, preferential
treatment, and make-work schemes for young people are all a
flashback to a time when governments decided which industries
succeeded based solely on political whim rather than
competitiveness,'' Mr Joyce said.
He questioned why the forestry industry should receive
''preferential treatment'' over the high tech manufacturing
industry, ICT, the services industries, the construction
industry or the farming industry.