Ex­ports of swamp kauri just got harder

The Dominion Post - - News - John An­thony john.an­thony@stuff.co.nz

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.

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