Comment: NZ logging industry heading for a massive shake-up

By: Patrick Cox, Photography by: Patrick Cox

Deals on Wheels writer Pat Cox says the logging industry is heading for a massive shake up


For more than seven years, my articles have covered personal profiles, logging contractors, political intervention, the billion trees programme, and a host of other topics that have sometimes caused a little controversy, judging by the responses received. But never in the last seven years has New Zealand had to face such a crippling year.

Industry regulation


We all might feel secure in our own financial bubble and work environment. The logging industry might feel that they are not adversely affected; trees are still growing, logs are still leaving our ports as never before, but, behind the scenes, a political scrap is brewing, with the threat of regulating the logging industry. You have to ask the question: how many loggers actually understand or know what’s going on behind the trees that they don’t know about?

Loggers have upskilled over the years with new technology, safety, and mechanised machines, but have they kept up with the political undercurrent within the industry? It’s important that those at the tree face get up to speed and ask questions to those holding the balance of power as to what they are up to and how will this affect the future of the logging industry?

Log mongers

Last month we covered the Forest Amendment Bill introduced by forestry minister Shane Jones. He now calls log exporters "log mongers", which I see as a rather derogatory name for professional logging companies. The New Zealand institute of Economic Research commissioned by the Forest Owners Association have opposed the bill.

Outdated Free Trade agreements

What’s becoming absolutely crystal clear is the logging industry, as predicted, is heading for a massive shake up. Laws passed under the Free Trade Agreement in 1983 don’t stack up in today’s world.

A new report has accused the Forestry Bill going through Parliament of increasing costs for the forestry business and reducing the value of the New Zealand economy. It also warned that the bill could conflict with trading agreements that New Zealand had signed with other countries.

With world economics changing dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic and president Trump taking China to task, do our 37-year-old free trade agreements stack up?
Government intervention is not the answer to the problem and there’s a real opportunity for a change in the way we do business.

The Real Estate industry was regulated in 2008 and real estate companies should have looked at ways of bringing new life into the troubled industry. Although, in reality, nothing happened, and it was business as usual, with smart lawyers looking at ways to work within the new laws. All it did was give power to the public, but nothing really changed.

The reality is COVID-19 has dramatically changed the landscape. The three billion shovel-ready fund, the billion tree programme, and carbon-neutral plans are certainly on the back burner and were never going to work. This will be a relief to those who thought likewise.

ETS a con


The backlash has now started with sheep and beef farmers fighting back with a new ad ‘Death of the Landscape’ opposing the Emissions Trading Scheme. New Zealand sheep and beef farms have 2.8 million hectares of their land planted in 50 shades of green, and the farmers do not receive carbon credits for their effort in reducing carbon.

On the other hand, the Emissions Trading Scheme has turned carbon into currency; people receive credits for planting trees, which they can then sell to companies to offset their emissions. This whole ETS is just a big con made up of money. To date, 70,000 hectares of sheep and beef has been sold or is in the process of being prepared for sale.

Both forestry and agriculture are the top export earners for New Zealand. Surely, if we can find a better return for our wood products and protect our farms, this has to be a win-win?
As I see it, the answer is simple. Imagine walking into your superstore to buy furniture and they give you a raw log and send you home to make you own. We prefer to buy it as a finished product.

Forestry not the answer

Thirty years ago, Wairoa, a small town in New Zealand, had large volumes of beef and sheep farms that were converted to pine forest. The cost of this was a huge loss of labour to the Wairoa district and towns such as Kaikohe in the Far North are suffering a similar fate. Should further Wairoa arable farmland be converted to pine forestry, the last remaining workforce will disappear.

The irony now is that Wairoa is surrounded by forestry and most of the logging workforce is based in Gisborne and Napier. Should the conversations continue, in 30 years, these small towns will not exist; the workforce will have long gone. Planting forestry does not create consistent ongoing work and has a decimating effect on local communities.

We need our forestry and farming industry, so how do we protect them? I say we should stop all foreign ownership and keep our forests New Zealand-owned. Profits need to stay on our shores. Money being spent this year on keeping our economy alive has been borrowed and sooner or later, we will have to pay the piper.

Wilding pine oil

Wilding pines have found some value with a couple of entrepreneurial companies extracting essential oils, but once again, we export it to the US as a raw product. However, the opportunity to make money from pest trees should be exploited across the country and should receive government funding. The money directed at DOC for wilding pine control could be diverted to extraction of essential oils and also reduce the numbers of wilding pines across the country.

Mobile chippers on all logging sites

Once again, the East Coast north of Gisborne is covered in forestry slash. Why does our pristine coastline have to bear the brunt of bad logging practices that have plagued the industry forever? 

In these environmentally sensitive times, mobile chippers should become standard on all logging sites. With the Government splashing so much money around, a good starting point would be to clean up the mess that logging creates before thinking of just planting trees to suit the ETS. All that logging waste is just sitting there and releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. Where is the balance?  

Find heavy machinery for sale in NZ

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook