The proposal to set up a forestry co-operative to market New Zealand forest products is welcome, but not if it is foreign controlled and its prime concern is to simply export more unprocessed logs, the Green Party said today.
"The bulk of forests are already foreign owned, and this initiative is intent on wrapping up the rats and mice of New Zealand's remaining 14,000 small forests," Green Party forestry spokesperson Steffan Browning said today.
United Forestry Group Ltd (UFG), said its wants to be the 'Fonterra for forests' and sign up forest owners with holdings of less than 1000 hectares to market logs through one body. One of UFG's directors is former National Party President and MP, lawyer Geoff Thompson.
UFG is owned by a holding company called Superpen, which is half owned by Chinese company SC Rakau Ltd and half owned by Timber Audits and Technology Pty Ltd of Australia. SC Rakau is fully owned by Hongkong Topway Trading Ltd of Hong Kong,.
"National is driving New Zealand to be a low value commodity producer with ownership in foreign hands, and this is just another step in that direction. Already the vast majority of the logs leaving New Zealand are foreign owned as are all our major wood processors," Mr Browning said.
"UFG is owned by Chinese and Australian interests. It is a company, not a co-operative, and it plans to sell the logs to one market - China. Not even Fonterra follows such a risky practice of selling into just one market.
"The co-operative approach is welcome, but the position of small holders will be further undermined by selling to a foreign company whose prime interest is to lock the sale of unprocessed logs into one market. That is dangerous.
"This is not a smart way to run our economy. Rather than sending increasing volumes of low value-added raw logs overseas, we should be processing the logs into finished products such as structural timber.
"Structural timber has the ability to lower carbon emissions and to add value to our log exports. This way we create jobs and wealth, not by exporting commodities."