Northland timber processors call for government controls on exports to save jobs

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Northland timber processing companies are calling on the next government to slow harvesting and regulate log exports to protect local jobs.

More than a 1000 people in Northland make their living from wood manufacturing.
Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp reports that 15-years after the government called for investment in forestry, 'the great wall of wood' that was predicted is about to collapse, putting local livelihoods under threat.

"They said there was a wall of wood coming and they wanted processors here to process it for them," said Garth Mortensen of North Sawn Lumber.

"We believed we had long-term sustainable harvest no matter what happened."

But Mr Mortensen says a review has found that 3.2 million tonnes of logs is sustainable, down one million tonnes from what was originally expected.

Even less is currently being planted, and Shane Horan of Waipapa Pine says supply of logs will taper off in five years. 

"If you don't have a tree in the ground there is no future for manufacturing," Mr Horan said. 

The Northland processors say many foreign companies with cutting rights here are taking pine early before locals have a chance, and they're focusing on getting the government to step in.

"The short-term issue is how we manage slowing down the volume of logs getting harvested in Northland so that we've got sustainability to protect all the jobs," Mr Horan said.

Mr Mortensen said: "The only way now for Northland is to regulate the amount of export log going across the port."

He says 59 per cent of the harvest in Northland is going across the port this year, "and that's our jobs and that's our future going across the wharf".

At the moment 1400 people in Northland make their living from wood manufacturing, an industry worth $750 million a year.

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