Nick Smith; Thick as a Short Plank?

Written By: - Date published: 9:56 am, July 3rd, 2015 - 25 comments
Categories: accountability, China, exports, same old national, sustainability - Tags: ,

National Party Minister Nick Smith appears to have misled Parliament in his response to what appears to be clear evidence of the illegal export of kauri logs. Kauri can only be exported as a finished product or as a stump. Smith, speaking on behalf of the beleaguered Minister of Primary Affairs Nathan Guy, claimed in the house that “The law that was passed defines stumps of kauri including up to four or five metres of the lower portion.”

That’s rubbish. The law (The Forests Act 1949, amended 2004) actually says an exportable swamp kauri stump is the root section of the tree, and a portion of trunk from the ground-line, no longer than the tree’s diameter.

The Act makes no mention of specific lengths, but the principle is the the length of the log may not be more than the width.


Smith was replying to questions from Northland MP’s Winston Peters and Kelvin Davis. Peters showed the house a photo of kauri logs about to be shipped out of NZ and off to China in apparent contravention of the law (above). The photo was lifted from the website of Oceanic Navigation, the shipping company who took the kauri out of the country and show logs approximately 4.5 to 6 metres long, but only 2 metres or so wide. The taonga was lost to the country in 2013.

It is not currently confirmed who arranged that specific export of  kauri logs, but there aren’t many large exporters in the North. One of them, of course, is Kauri Ruakaka Ltd, formerly Oravida Kauri, but we can only accept the word of company director David Wong-Tung who says his company has always complied with the laws of New Zealand, has never traded or exported illegally, and never would.

Any suggestion that there is a connection between Oravida, major donor to the National Party, and Nick Smith’s misleading of Parliament is obviously entirely spurious and completely without foundation. Nor is there is a proven link between Oravida and the logs. That’s something the local newspaper the Northern Advocate was quick to point out following a report linking Oravida with the export of Kauri. Their swift correction makes it clear that their offending article was “not intended to give the impression that Kauri Ruakaka Limited (Oravida), Judith Collins MP and her husband have engaged in any illegal or improper conduct in respect of the collection or export of swamp kauri.”. So that’s alright, then.

The truth is much simpler; Nick Smith isn’t really as thick as a short plank. He’s just often stumped and clearly not the finished product. But perhaps it would be a good idea for National if he was exported off the front benches anyway.


25 comments on “Nick Smith; Thick as a Short Plank?”

  1. There are a few things rotten in this country and it is sure as hell not the Kauri logs.

  2. Sabine 2

    He pretends to be thick n slow n dimwitted, but it pays him his bills, and generous benefits for the rest of his life. SO i think he will find it very very easy to not know what is a stump and what is a log. His well being depends on it.
    This can be applied to the National Government in full. The country is run by con artists, and for the largest part they are ok with it.

    So there, he has got nothing to worry about.

  3. plumington 3

    Maybe Nick is looking out for his mate Judith and her vested interests in kauri exports
    Corruption and grubby fingers were millions are made by breaking the law from the right honorables through govt deptartments
    Didn’t a poor napuhi leader resign over a smuggling protected species?

  4. Lanthanide 4

    Two things:

    1. It’s the diameter of the tree at the ground-line. There was some mention on RNZ this morning that the logs being shown here gain some of their length from below “ground-line”. Sounds like a plausible defense, but I’d be quite skeptical how they can conclusively prove what the “ground line” on one of these stumps would be, since they’ve been sitting in a swamp for centuries.

    2. A couple of weeks ago when RNZ-MR interviewed the US owner of a company that deals with these Kauri logs, he sounded very knowledgeable – unsure if he prepared for the interview or not. One interesting thing he repeated at least twice, and that Guyon didn’t pull him up on, is that he said the length of the stump could be the circumference of the tree, rather than the diameter. Did he simply misspeak, or have the trees hes imported used the (incorrect) circumference as their length reference, instead of the diameter? If this mistake has been made, how common is it?

    • Cheers, Lanth. Groundline and stump are defined in the Act thus:

      “groundline, in relation to any living or dead tree, means the point at the base of the tree where the tree, when standing, commenced or commences to be naturally in contact with the ground”

      “stump means the basal part of a living or dead tree (whether rooted or uprooted), being the roots and that part of the trunk that extends from the groundline to a point (up the trunk) equal to the maximum diameter of the trunk; and, for the purposes of this definition, any remnant of a tree shall be regarded as part of a complete tree”

      So diameter, not circumference. If the tree is one metre wide at the groundline, then the log length must also be a metre. If you look at the photo again, it’s clear the logs are not 1:1 so they don’t meet the definition in the Act. And as for how common? Far too common, I’d say.

      • maui 4.1.1

        In the photo above, the kauri “log” closest in shot does not flare out at either end – so in my eyes it’s a section of tree trunk, not a stump.

        Looking at Kauri Ruakaka’s stockpile ( of kauri “stumps” it looks like most of them are kauri logs. You can see in the bottom-right hand corner of that picture of their yard an area that looks to be stumps – the shapes are darker and ill-defined. Some of these may be legal, others may still be too long. The other 80% of that yard looks to be straight kauri logs obviously having a linear shape. If all of those logs are kauri then they’re all illegal in my view.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    If the Gnats want to use stupidity as a defence we should lay it on thick – it will cost them votes.

  6. adam 6

    How many times can a man lie and keep his job?

    If your a working stiff – none.

    If your a minister in the Key government – the sky’s the limit.

  7. Grant 7

    No connection? Yeah right!

  8. Nick Smith understands the legislation perfectly well. He just does not want to admit it.

    • Lanthanide 8.1

      What’s more embarrassing, stating the law (which is what the question was about) and coming up with some excuse to blame the department for these particular logs.

      Or, deliberately lying about the law, in the hopes no one would notice, only to subsequently be found out and a much bigger deal be made?

      Clearly the latter route is the stupid one.

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    I wonder if the energetic Mr McCready could prosecute Nick for breaking the law with respect to Kauri exports.

    • Lanthanide 9.1

      First, he was standing in for Nathan Guy whose ministry it actually is.

      Secondly, Nick Smith himself will not have broken any laws (nor Nathan).

      • Stuart Munro 9.1.1

        Somehow I feel he might nevertheless have some complicity. I wonder if any of his known associates are breaking the law. If so, sentencing should be harsh, because ignorance is be no excuse, and in this case it can scarcely be pled in mitigation.

  10. John Shears 10

    Actually ‘Thick as Two Short Planks’ or in the Ministers case is it rather more like four?

  11. dukeofurl 11

    Imagine that. Oravida Kauri now known as Ruakaka Kauri has all these logs in its yards that now cant be exported ?

    What are they do do ?. Sue the government as they ‘understood’ the laws of geometry were to be changed so that what was the diameter is now the circumference.

    This way the kauri logs will be air freighted to China at the governments expense !

    • maui 11.1

      I hear Parliament is as we speak sitting under urgency… Something about some new legislation by Ms Collins 😉

      • dukeofurl 11.1.1

        Ms Collins , formerly known as Cinderella for her previous job as a Farmers shoe sales lady, knows all about fitting large feet into small glass slippers and knows the easiest way to make a tree trunk into a stump.

  12. Skinny 12

    I just read this post it gave me a good laugh, very witty their cobbah TRP.

    We are thinking of coming to the rescue of the fourth estate, threatening legal action means jack to people I know who stand on mana, and the media will be delighted to exact some utu on bully boy Tung by giving wide media coverage of action.

  13. Scintilla 13

    How about swamp kauri be offered to NZ artists first? We have wonderful carvers and sculptors who would be utterly delighted to get their amazing hands on swamp kauri. Isn’t it taonga? Isn’t it meant to be treated with respect? Where is the Arts Council’s voice on this? Artists aren’t allowed to take whale teeth/bones from beached whales for creative works, yet giant kauri logs can somehow be claimed, excavated and sold by companies with what rights exactly?

  14. This does sound like smith was “Buried under a peat swamp by an unexplained act of nature at the end of the last Ice Age…”

    I don’t like people who tell lots of lies – what’s with that? Anyway this was interesting…

    “A trademark of swamp kauri is deep, shimmering streaks of iridescence, called “white bait”, found in some of the wilder grain patterns. This particular grain is named after schools of New Zealand whitebait fish that emit a similar pattern when swimming in one direction.”

    • Scintilla 14.1

      Hey MM, enough with the “deep, shimmering streaks of iridescence” already!

      Imagining a sinuous reclining figure with an iridescent streak swimming over its flank … and they’re making tabletops. Pardon me, I’m just off outside to scream.

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