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.