The Northland Environmental Protection Society has called for an independent inquiry by the Auditor General into the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Customs.
This follows the announcement by MPI Minister Nathan Guy of new operational changes to improve the transparency, clarity and enforcement of rules around swamp kauri.
Chairperson of the Northland Environmental Protection Society, Fiona Furrell says the announcement is an admission that the authorities have failed on many counts and is poorly thought out.
Furrell says, “The Minister could have used the opportunity to be a real star and clamp down on fake finished products and insist on stronger protection of rare native species and wetlands. Instead he announced that rough sawn slabs can still be exported as tabletops. If this is the lame and incorrect way the Minister interprets what a finished product is, then we need a law change to be explicit. That means ending the export of fake ‘temple poles’, dodgy ‘Maori carvings’, ‘slabs’ and ‘stump logs’ as finished products.”
A number of changes will be introduced which will see MPI inspect all finished products for export approval and to ensure it is legal. Operators must now notify the council of any and all extraction activities, and this information will be shared with MPI.
MPI will also visit all extraction sites as part of its milling statement approval process.
The Environmental Protection Society says Northland has the weakest regional wetland protection rules in the country and the Northland Regional Council has been rubber-stamping wetlands for destruction that would otherwise be protected in other parts of New Zealand.
Dean Baigent-Mercer a Far North Conservation Advocate for Forest & Bird says, “Action from the NRC is again lacking and looks to continue to allow threatened mud fish, rare geckos, endangered plants and critically endangered native wetland birds to be wiped out.”
The Minister of MPI says the measures are being enacted quickly and effectively and will be closely monitored and says he will consider further changes if the desired outcome of greater transparency is not reached.
However, the Northland Environmental Protection Society believes none of this addresses the problem of swamp kauri turning up overseas that has not been notified.
Full inspection of all exports is needed so that illegally smuggled swamp kauri cannot occur.