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Labour and the Greens announce forestry policies

Written By: - Date published: 3:48 pm, March 19th, 2014 - 39 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, david parker, greens, labour, russel norman - Tags:

Firstly from David Cunliffe:

The next Labour Government will give the forestry and wood products industries the policies they need as part of Labour’s plan for an economic upgrade, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

David Cunliffe announced new policies today at the ForestWood Conference 2014 to support the industry’s journey from volume to value.

“Forestry and wood processing are critical industries for the economic upgrade New Zealand desperately needs, especially in the regions.

“Our focus on investment, innovation and industry will see an upgrade in the industry to create better jobs that pay higher wages where they are desperately needed.

“To encourage investment we will provide tax deferrals in the form of accelerated depreciation to encourage industry to invest in new technology and plant.

“To boost innovation we will work with the industry and public science bodies to develop new products and technologies.

“To support industry development we will introduce measures to rebalance away from sending more raw logs overseas to developing more and better production here. These include:

  • A Pro-Wood government procurement policy for government-funded buildings up to four storeys high to boost the domestic market.
  • Suspensory loans to encourage new forest planting.
  • Forestry taskforces for long-term unemployed.
  • Introduce legacy forest status to protect our indigenous forests.

“Our opponents just cruise along, with no clear plan for our economy while wages stagnate and the cost of living continues to increase.

“Labour’s economic upgrade will lead to better jobs and higher wages for all New Zealanders”.

His full speech can be read here.  A few highlights:

Our economy needs an upgrade, because while New Zealand is the best country in the world to live in, it’s not the best place to make a living.

I have a vision of a New Zealand that harnesses the potential of all our people.

A vision of a country with the most productive and competitive businesses in the world. A vision of a country with better jobs and higher wages.

Right now New Zealand is not on a path to achieve that vision. Our economy today is driven by land banking and speculation, not by innovation and productivity.

And from David Parker:

A Labour Government will give targeted tax incentives to encourage much-needed capital investment in the wood processing industry, Labour’s Finance spokesperson David Parker says.

“The proportion of our forestry products exported as higher value processed goods is decreasing. Every year New Zealand is exporting more and more raw logs; millions each year.

“A Labour Government will change that.

“A targeted tax incentive is needed to overcome the increased risks which wood processors face in a small economy. This will encourage the substantial capital investment needed to maximise value from our wood industry.

“It will enable the modernisation of our wood products industry and allow the sector to link into the global value chain.

“New Zealand’s internal market means large-scale wood processors are more reliant upon exports than those based in large economies like the United States or China.

“Processors with a greater exposure to exports face higher risks such as concentrated exchange rates, cultural barriers and the added difficulties of maintaining trading relationships with more distant clients.

“Unless those risks are reduced, the investments in the capital equipment needed to improve scale and productivity in forest processing based in New Zealand are unlikely to be made.

“Labour will work with domestic and foreign capital to make this work.

“Our accelerated depreciation will help attract the capital needed to migrate from ‘volume’ to ‘value’.

“We want to partner with industry to ensure an increasing amount of the output from forestry moves up the value chain – from raw product to light processing; from light processing to elaborate processing; and from elaborate processing to high-technology and product innovation.

“Today’s policies represent a major step in achieving that ambition, with accelerated depreciation by itself predicted to increase capital expenditure in forest processing by between $40 and $80 million a year”.

The Greens have also announced policy designed to increase the use of wood as a building material.  From their website:

The Green Party in Government will put $1 million towards the cost of the first 10-storey or higher New Zealand building constructed with structural timber, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

Structural timber is a new construction technique for tall buildings with much of the technology developed here in New Zealand. These laminated timbers can be used as a smart, green alternative to the concrete and steel currently used for the load-bearing elements in high-rise buildings.

“The Canterbury rebuild presents a unique opportunity to use structural timber as a smarter, greener alternative to concrete and steel.”

“We will create a $1 million award in government to encourage the wider uptake of structural timber in the building sector,” said Dr Norman.

“The Canterbury rebuild presents a unique opportunity to use structural timber as a smarter, greener alternative to concrete and steel.

“The award is part of a bigger package of measures that will ensure forestry is our next high value export sector.

“Our exports of raw logs have surged while the local sawmilling and wood manufacturing industry has lost 4,000 jobs. Under National, we’ve seen a rapid simplification of our export base.

“This is not a smart way to run our economy.

“Rather than sending increasing amounts of low value-added raw logs overseas, the Green Party will encourage new technologies to be developed – such as structural timber – that will add value to our wood production and create good green jobs in New Zealand.”

Green Party forestry spokesperson, Steffan Browning, highlighted the high potential of structural timber buildings to lower carbon emissions and to add value to our log exports.

“Widespread adoption of structural timber in the building industry has the potential to substantially reduce the climate change impact of our building industry,” said Mr Browning.

“Timber buildings effectively become carbon sinks.

“Additionally, we can make our buildings lighter, stronger, and safer in an earthquake. St Elmo Courts is a six-storey structural timber building currently under construction in Christchurch and will be built to 180 per cent of the earthquake building code.

“Forestry can play a central part of a smarter, greener, more resilient economy.”

39 comments on “Labour and the Greens announce forestry policies”

  1. Nick 1

    “Pro Wood”, did Shane Jones announce it?

  2. View from the Centre 2

    Finally, something new from Labour that deserves some attention, so well done for that. One question I would have though is that this policy (and the greens one million for a building) is signaling new expenditure by the government. I’d like to know where this will come from. And yes, I know there are some obvious sources that are being eyed up by the Labour/Greens (e.g. increased taxes on top tier earners), but I’d like to see Labour being a bit more upfront (will it be taxes, reduced expenditure in other areas, an assumption of greater govt income, or something else). This would complete the picture and show that Labour/Greens are serious contenders.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1

      It will come from increased revenue, because per capita GDP is always higher under Labour-led governments, who (let’s be absolutely clear on the point – when I say invariably I invite you to check the evidence) invariably do a better job of managing the economy than the National Party’s right wing ideologues and corrupt troughers (viz. Judith Collins and her close friends and family).

  3. One Anonymous Bloke 3

    “Forestry taskforces for long-term unemployed.”

    Yeah, develop a high wage economy by forcing people into hard manual labour. Fuck your beneficiary bashing, you right wing assholes.

    PS: other than that, it sounds like good policy, but I’ve had a gutsful of this shit. Kill the poor.

    • BM 3.1

      This doesn’t please you?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1

        No. It disturbs me that right wing hate speech has infested our country to this extent.

        • BM 3.1.1.1

          I have to say, the last thing you want is more people going into forestry.
          The sooner you mechanize these dangerous jobs the better.

          Can’t say Helen Kelly would be particularly impressed with these policy proposals.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.1.1

            Yeah, I’m not sure your feeble attempts at spin will get much traction.

            Value added is always good. Forestry is dangerous, but our inexcusable death rate is entirely the result of right wing drivel. I doubt the safety regulations are going to remain on “National Party” settings for long with the corpses piling up.

    • bad12 3.2

      Lolz, you have a point OAB, but, in my younger days i did a stint of high pruning on a couple of forest blocks when there was no other work around,

      We sweated for months for little more than the dole at the time, the joy in that was the crew were all long term mates and we enjoyed our extended ‘boil-up’ lunches,

      i would suggest tho that given the rigor of such work Labour need to look at a 6 month turn-around for such work gangs being paid the ‘living wage’ and having their stand-down period removed from WINZ requirements…

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.1

        Labour needs to stop buying into right wing narratives and start representing something other than serfdom.

      • RedbaronCV 3.2.2

        If it can be organised so as not to infringe the rights of the workers, as a country we are far better “employing people” in such things as tree planting when the economy is slow, as there is a low but long term profit from these activites and they may at least promote some social cohesion as per B12

    • just saying 3.3

      Where? Can’t find any reference

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.3.1

        Hold the ctrl key down and press ‘f’.

        Then use the page search function to search for “long-term unemployed” on this page.

      • karol 3.3.2

        I don’t think it was in Cunliffe’s speech, but it is on Cunliffe’s statements about the policy on Labour’s website.

        Establish Forestry Taskforces for the long-term unemployed:

        * Support iwi forestry clusters to analyse options for their land.
        * Provide business stability for the forest and wood products industry
        * Complete the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry.
        * Formalise the government’s approach to the forestry sector in a ‘New Zealand Forestry Policy’ document.

        Edit: Oh it is mentioned more breifly in a quote in the post. I’m not getting any hits by searching for it in Cunliffe’s speeh, though.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    Let’s dig into this a little further. In 2007, after eight years of Clark & Cullen, unemployment was at its lowest level in our country’s history,

    The long-term unemployed at that time were people who were more-or-less unemployable.

    So, on the one hand Labour wants to add more value to our timber. Fucking good idea. On the other it wants to saddle our brand new high-tech timber goods market with the unemployable.

    Yeah, right.

  5. karol 5

    Video (not very good quality) of Cunliffe’s speech here.

  6. millsy 6

    Anyone noticed that there is no mention of the government owning forests??? Like they used to?

    I dont expect them to resurrect the old Forestry Service, but putting Scion (the NZFS’s old R and D branch, now a CRI), and Crown Forestry (the last of the government owned forests, now under the wings of the MPI), at the centrepiece of any forestry strategy should be at the top of the list.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    I think both those policies can be summed up as:

    More of the bloody same.

    Both are looking at giving millions of dollars of taxpayers money per year to the private sector in the hopes that the private sector will get off its ass and do something. Not going to happen. The last thirty years of Rogernomics proves that free-market capitalism achieves nothing but to crash the economy.

    Want to build up the value producing side of our economy?
    Then what’s needed is to:
    a) Ban the export of raw product such as logs and
    b) Put a few tens of millions of government funding directly into each sector. This gets even better results when the R&D is directed to produce defined results.

    • Exactly – ‘free-market capitalism achieves nothing but to crash the economy’ – yet they are addicted to it as if their brains cannot conceive of any other way and so more of the same – by now the head is bloody and very sore from bashing against that same old wall – as Ian Curtis sang, “When will it end, when will it end…”

  8. Clemgeopin 8

    Was there ANY mention of this policy on the two 6 pm news channels today? Curious.

  9. Murray Olsen 9

    I’ve got real reservations about the forestry task forces as well. Employment comes from real jobs, not from some degrading scheme that will no doubt pay buggerall and serve only to stigmatise people further. How about going back to state forestry? Grow something besides radiata pine. Research it. Build state houses with it. Pay the people working in the forest a good wage. Take private profit out of the equation.

    All I can see with these task forces is more public money being shoved into the snouts of the owners of private forests. It’s as if they’re still trying really, really hard to make Rogernomics work. Labour, all I want from you is to get enough seats that Greens and Mana can push some decent policies, because you lot wouldn’t know a decent policy if it crawled up your bums and started chewing on your gall bladders. Can you at least do that much for us?

    • kousei 9.1

      Reinstate the forest service and grow something other than just radiata pine. I agree wholeheartedly. That is what Labour should have announced. Fat chance.

    • karol 9.2

      I’m not keen on the inclusion of the long term unemployed taskforce. In the light of wider aims for the policy, it may not result in exploitation of the precariat.

      The use of the term “long term unemployed” is a problem. What “long term” unemployed? Is Cunliffe referring to the increasing numbers of people unemployed or underemployed during NAct’s term in government?

      The taskforce idea does seem to be linked to industry training, so I’d like to see more detail. It may be part of a policy to upskill the forestry workforce leading to better jobs, with unemployed people being prioritised for such upskilling and jobs. Overall the policy does aim to produce better paid workers.

    • greywarbler 9.3

      MO +1 and another +1 for still being up and at it at 3.20 a.m.

  10. George D 10

    I’m totally in favour of these forestry gangs. I want to see a return to full employment, and where that means creating real work with real wages, then do so. Every New Zealander who is able to work should be able to walk into a job – and the ‘market’ cannot and will not do this.

    I’m also very glad to see two policies that, while not identical, are extremely compatible.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1

      What part of a “real” job involves work far from home for which someone is totally unsuited?

      I suggest you examine the demographics of the long-term unemployed before your enthusiasm gets the better of you.

      • George D 10.1.1

        Plenty of unemployment in the regions.

        Just because a policy can’t solve all of a problem, doesn’t make it a bad policy.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1.1.1

          Oh, it’s going to apply to all the unemployed now, is it, not just the long term? Nah, I think you’re just thinking of things to say without addressing the issue.

          The fifth Labour government didn’t need indentured servitude to provide the lowest unemployment rate this country has ever seen. A WINZ employee told me at the time that the only people left without jobs were those who no-one would hire. I don’t know about you, but if I were a forestry worker they’d be the last colleagues I’d choose to trust my life to.

          This is a bene-bashing dog whistle pure and simple: work for the dole, and it will end badly (with any luck because Labour’s coalition partners tell the Labour Tories to go fuck themselves).

          • greywarbler 10.1.1.1.1

            OAB
            Stop criticising the person – stick to the policy. Why do you get so irritable and irascible over a perfectly sound comment? Are you someone with a painful condition stuck at home? I can’t see why you should take this out on others who are looking for the good result from policy and for Labour.

            I don’t think your comments offer light or real thought just complaints without reasonable critique.

  11. Once was Pete 11

    From a superficial look it appears to be another light weight effort. I have a feeling this policy will be as spectacularly unsuccessful as the other efforts so far. No idea about how they will deal with market forces. Do they plan to deal with the Fletcher/ Carter cartel. On one job I was involved in we could source NZ timber from Melbourne cheaper than we could get it from the same supplier locally. This is a major issue to be dealt with.
    How about speed of construction. Commercial tilt slab construction is fast and cost effective. Unless inducements are offered I don’t see architects, engineers and building owners rushing to build in wood.
    Why does labour think mills started to close in the first place? There had better be more than just local supply in mind because every time the construction industry goes through a cycle the local market will dry up. There is a reason off shore buyers want logs only. It isn’t hard to figure this out.
    I will wait for the full policy to be released before I make up my mind finally on this, but I am not holding my breathe!

    • Murray Olsen 11.1

      Fletchers and Carters have a real stranglehold on the local market and are not shy about protecting their interests against any perceived competition. Fletchers, as shown by Bruce Jesson, was basically gifted by the state to one family. It has not been good for the building industry. Short of expropriation, I don’t know what the solution is, but maybe a rebuilt Forest Service could sell to smaller outlets for local consumption? While most of the building costs are in land, the stranglehold on materials certainly doesn’t help.

  12. Once was Tim 12

    “On one job I was involved in we could source NZ timber from Melbourne cheaper than we could get it from the same supplier locally”
    …… not the first time I’ve heard that by any means (from architect/engineer relative); or NZ Salmon being sold cheaper in rural NSW than is available in NZ (last time I was there); etc.;etc

    …… maybe if some of these duopolists (such as supermarkets and building supply merchants) don’t start getting the message, it might be time to introduce a quota system whereby percentages of locally produced materials and goods must be sold locally. After all – the public usually has to pay for the cleanup of their shit left behind (such as festering milk fat pongs around Eltham)

    [Once was Tim because there now appear to be two of us]

  13. Clemgeopin 13

    Those that did watch the 6 pm news on TV! or TV3 last night, was there any mention of this forestry policy on the two 6 pm news channels? [I only watched the headlines as I had to leave]. Very curious to know if Labour is getting its fair share of important news exposure or not. I don’t really want to wade through two hours of news on ‘On Demand’, especially if there was no mention of the Labour policy.

  14. The Real Matthew 14

    Can anyone work out who we are going to sell these “value added” products to?

    There is a reason why processing in New Zealand has declined, it’s because the rest of the world is not buying it. It’s cheaper for purchasers to ship the logs off-shore.

    A subsidy isn’t going to change that.

    • Murray Olsen 14.1

      Even if we sell them to ourselves, that has to be better than buying them back from overseas.

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