Dealing with Ancientwood about Swamp Kauri

The issue of exporting Swap Kauri logs has reared it’s ugly head recently. This is an issue that the Northland Greens have been banging on about in recent years but without much traction. So what’s changed?

With the election of Winston Peters as Northland’s MP all eyes seem to be looking north. All of a sudden the media is interested, and not before time. With sales of slabs being advertised on the internet it is becoming harder for MPI to justify their interpretation of the Forests Act 1949, especially what is meant by ‘finished product’.

One company that came to my attention was Ancientwood Ltd based in the USA. I emailed Ancientwood as follows:

I think you guys need to start questioning your suppliers. They are exporting Kauri illegally from New Zealand. Is this something you really want to be involved in?

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201758894/auditor-general-asked-to-investigate-kauri-exports

I received this response the following day:

Hello Paul-

Thank you for contacting us regarding the recovery of Ancient Kauri logs in the Northland of New Zealand.

Ancientwood Ltd. has been importing Ancient Kauri stump slabs and finished table tops from New Zealand for over ten years. During that time we have followed all applicable laws, both in New Zealand and in the US.

At our first meeting in Awanui we were made aware of the Forests Act of 1949, which governs these exports. Every shipment that has left the country has been inspected by agents of the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and approved for export.

The finished products we make benefit from coming from the stump-section of the tree, so we actually prefer to work in this area of the tree.

Our suppliers are local residents of the Northland of New Zealand with over 30 years in the business. We are proud to be aligned with them, and they have shown us on many occasions (on site, in New Zealand) their respect for the areas these logs come from by their attention to detail in putting the land back into the same condition it was in before the Ancient Kauri was recovered.

We have a strong respect and commitment to our relationship with New Zealand, its people and it’s environment. We have developed great friendships over the years, and we look forward to many years of working together.

We are keenly aware there are others that are not taking the same approach as ourselves. We are as interested as you are in seeing this irresponsible harvesting of Ancient Kauri logs halted, and those responsible prosecuted if, in fact, it is proven that they have broken any laws.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Sincerely,

Bob Teisberg

I must say I was impressed. When read in conjunction with Ancientwood Ltd’s interview on Radio New Zealand yesterday it was clear Ancientwood Ltd was doing as much as they could to operate within the law. It is not often that business comments with such candour and this was a great example of damage control. This morning I responded to Ancientwood Ltd as follows:

Kia Ora Robert

Thank you for your email. I must say I was impressed with the openness you showed during your interview on Radio New Zealand yesterday (our time). I wish more businesses acted with the same level of transparency.

I am inclined to agree with your comments that you have attempted to ensure that your Kauri is sourced legally. In this respect you have no argument from me. My argument is not with you, nor your supplier, but with (as you have intimated) cowboy operators.

As an aside I also believe that that our governments interpretation of the law has been far too liberal and needs to be tightened. They have been embarrassed by the situation. My guess is that once the cowboys have been dealt with public pressure will be brought to bear on tightening regulations. This may have some effect on your business in future, but those are the risks you take.

Again, thank you for your candour and I wish you well in the future. Kauri is such a great timber to work with and looks fantastic in it’s finished form. I just want to see NZ getting maximum value out of our resource and ensure that it is mined in a sustainable manner.

E noho rā

Clearly this is an issue that is going to be ongoing. As I have suggested my guess is firstly the cowboys should be dealt with, then the regulations tightened. Because it is not only about operating legally, it is also about operating ethically, something the exporters perhaps need to take into consideration. Watch this space.

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