The vi­sion un­folds

The Northland Age - - Opinion - Ana­hera Herbert-Graves

In 1975, partly to ful­fil the vi­sion he shared with the North­ern Fed­er­a­tion of Ma¯ori Trusts and In­cor­po­ra­tions [NORFED], Keith Hunt es­tab­lished North­ern Pulp Ltd [NPL], which then sup­ported a huge plant­ing pro­gramme on NORFED lands, from Te Ha­pua to Mitim­iti. This was fol­lowed in the mid-1980s with the build­ing of the NPL tri­board mill at the north­ern end of Kaitaia; by 1987 it was in pro­duc­tion.

In that same year, Pe¯tia Welsh, the ar­chi­tect of NORFED, asked my em­ploy­ers [Paren­garenga In­cor­po­ra­tion] to let me work with him, which they did. The first thing Pe¯tia made clear to me was that, be­cause the NORFED forests were not yet ready for pro­duc­tion, the JNL mill was to­tally de­pen­dent on tim­ber from the Aupo¯uri State for­est, which was then be­ing run by the For­est Ser­vice. The fates of the mill, Aupo¯uri for­est and the NORFED forests, he ex­plained, were in­trin­si­cally linked.

He also ex­plained that, while the plans of NORFED and NPL had un­folded well with the plant­ing of our forests and the com­mis­sion­ing of the mill, we were see­ing the end of what he called the “post-war era of pros­per­ity” and hard times lay ahead for us all. I had no idea what he meant but was soon to find out.

Char­ac­terised by govern­ment spend­ing to stim­u­late and main­tain eco­nomic growth, strong union pro­tec­tion of work­ers’ rights and ar­ti­fi­cially low costs of liv­ing, the post-war era had sur­vived the 1960s’ coun­ter­cul­ture and the 1970s’ oil shocks. But it was now be­ing hit by an eco­nomic ne­olib­er­al­ism in which the mar­ket had be­come God, and the ‘trickle-down’ the­ory held sway.

What had started in Bri­tain with Thatcherism emerged in New Zealand as Roger­nomics, named after then Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Roger Dou­glas. Un­der Pe¯tia’s tute­lage, I learned and un­der­stood that, while the poli­cies of Roger­nomics were staged, their im­pact was im­me­di­ate.

The first stage was cor­po­rati­sa­tion, in which state in­dus­tries were bro­ken up and re­placed by com­mer­cial cor­po­rates and non-com­mer­cial de­part­ments. In 1987 the For­est Ser­vice was re­placed by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, which took over man­age­ment of na­tive forests, and For­est Corp, which took over ex­otic for­est com­mer­cial log­ging op­er­a­tions. Overnight more than 130 lo­cal house­holds lost their main source of in­come.

The sec­ond stage was pri­vati­sa­tion. In 1990, all of For­est Corp’s log­ging op­er­a­tions and some of the lands were sold or leased as Crown For­est li­cences to pri­vate com­pa­nies. That in­cluded Aupo¯uri For­est, which was sold in De­cem­ber 1990 to a Ja­panese com­pany, now known as Juken New Zealand.

At the same time that the govern­ment was pre­par­ing to pri­va­tise its log­ging op­er­a­tions, news broke that the en­tire Equiti­corp Group, in­clud­ing the NPL mill, had been placed into statu­tory man­age­ment.

By 1991 the mill had also been sold to JNL, and the NORFED vi­sion was un­rav­el­ling.

Next week I will write more about NORFED’s re­sponse to the for­est and mill sales.

"What had started in Bri­tain with Thatcherism emerged in New Zealand as Roger­nomics, named after then Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Roger Dou­glas."

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