No re­stric­tions for swamp kauri ex­ports

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - AMANDA SAX­TON

A High Court jus­tice has ruled against stop­ping ex­port of New Zealand’s an­cient swamp kauri, say­ing any ex­tra re­stric­tions would ‘‘cre­ate an op­pres­sive regime’’. The North­land En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety had gone to the High Court at Auck­land, seek­ing to tighten laws about the tim­ber leav­ing our shores.

The so­ci­ety dis­puted that swamp kauri ta­ble-tops with­out legs, or logs with ‘‘light sur­face carv­ing’’, could law­fully be ex­ported un­der the For­est Act.

It also ac­cused the Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries of let­ting the wrong type of kauri slip out of the coun­try, and tried to de­fine an­cient swamp kauri as a ‘‘pro­tected New Zealand ob­ject’’.

Ex­ca­vated an­cient swamp kauri can be up to 15 me­tres long and two me­tres wide.

As trees, the kauri grew for about 2000 years be­fore fall­ing into peat swamps some 50,000 years ago.

These days the pre­served wood, dug up in North­land, fetches be­tween $1500 and $6000 per cu­bic me­tre on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

De­mand for an­cient kauri soared af­ter 2010, and has re­mained steady since 2013.

The prod­uct’s ex­port is reg­u­lated un­der the Forests Act, which pro­hibits na­tive tim­ber from leav­ing the coun­try un­less as a ‘‘fin­ished or man­u­fac­tured’’ prod­uct. The so­ci­ety claimed that carv­ings on kauri ‘‘tem­ple poles’’ ex­ported to China in 2015 were too lightly etched and crude to make a fin­ished prod­uct.

A sil­ver fern, tiki and pukeko-like bird along with the words ‘New Zealand Kauri’ were carved into the logs, which were dis­played in a tem­ple ‘‘to pro­mote New Zealand cul­ture to the peo­ple of China’’.

On March 1 High Court Jus­tice Kit Too­good ac­knowl­edged that while the ap­peal of the ’’some­what naive, al­most child­ish em­bel­lish­ments may lie in the eye of the be­holder’’, they were no less au­then­ti­cally fin­ished than cheap sou­venirs found in Ro­torua or Auck­land’s Queen St.

Jus­tice Too­good said ‘‘com­po­nents’’ of an item were al­lowed to be ex­ported un­der the For­est Act and com­pared the case to a wooden toi­let seat be­ing ex­ported with a cis­tern.

On the subject of whether the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries had been lax in what an­cient swamp kauri it let leave the coun­try, Jus­tice Too­good noted that MPI had ‘‘pro­gres­sively im­proved its pro­ce­dures’’ since late 2011.

The Auck­land High Court on March 1 ruled that swamp kauri was not subject to the Pro­tected Ob­jects Act.

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