Exports of swamp kauri just got harder
Swamp kauri must not leave the country unless it has been processed into a product, a court has ruled.
A Supreme Court ruling, made public yesterday, found that, to be lawfully exported, a swamp kauri item must be a product in itself and in its final or kitset form and it must be ready either to be used or to be installed into a larger structure.
Swamp kauri timber, also known as ancient kauri, is milled from kauri trees that have been buried and preserved in peat swamps for between 800 and 60,000 years.
Most swamp kauri is found in Northland but some has been found as far south as Waikato.
The Ministry for Primary Industries says on its website that swamp kauri exports are subject to strict rules and a breach could result in a fine of up to $200,000 on conviction.
Yesterday’s ruling overturns a 2017 High Court ruling that said swamp kauri products should be dealt with case by case.
In 2015 the appellant, Northland Environmental Protection Society (NEPS), claimed swamp kauri was being illegally exported.
NEPS was primarily concerned about alleged exports of slabs of swamp kauri, said to be table tops, and of lightly carved swamp kauri logs, said to be temple poles. At issue was whether such items fell within the definition of finished or manufactured indigenous timber product as outlined in the Forests Act 1949. If such items did fall within the ‘‘finished or manufactured’’ definition, lawfully exported.
NEPS chairwoman Fiona Furrell said she was elated at yesterday’s ruling. The victory marked the end of a nine-year battle costing thousands of dollars and taking countless hours of work. The group’s lawyers had worked pro bono.
As a result of the ruling, loggers would be less attracted to the prospect of milling swamp kauri because of the added time and money required getting it to export standards. This would result in a reduction in the destruction of wetlands, Furrell said.
And the ruling did not just apply to kauri – all native timber would need to meet a more stringent criteria before export, she said.
NEPS also maintained that swamp kauri was a protected New Zealand object as defined in the Protected Objects Act 1975, which would put restrictions around export swamp kauri. However, this appeal was dismissed.
The High Court had held the view that the ‘‘finished or manufactured’’ definition required a practical approach with a case-by-case assessment of a product’s appearance and intended use at the time of export. It had found that, using this approach, a table top without fixed legs could meet the ‘‘finished or manufactured’’ definition.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal in respect of the Forests Act.
The wording and purpose of the Forests Act made it clear that the definition of finished or manufactured indigenous timber product contained is intended to ensure that value is added to indigenous timber before it is exported, the court ruled. they can be
Sailability Wellington Trust chief executive Don Manning, left, and sailing coach Darrell Smith at the trust’s new wharf being built outside the Titahi Bay Boating Club.