"It hasn't quite bitten yet" - NZ forestry Industry braces for impact

By Mare Haimona-Riki

A recent decrease in the international demand for raw timber is taking a toll on the NZ forestry industry, which may take up to six months to recover- resulting in a significant decrease in employment at the ground level. 

'A' grade log prices have gone from US$138/140 per tonne early in the year to US$110 per tonne- and could sink as low as US$100 to US$105 per tonne.

It's big news for New Zealand industry as logs are our third biggest export- earning an average of $5bil annually and with over 20,000 employees nationwide.

“It hasn’t fully bitten yet,” says Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust chair Pita Tipene, who acknowledges that the ‘bite’ is likely to arrive in the months to come and will be felt predominantly by those at the ground level of the process- namely the harvesters and truck drivers.

The irony of the current journey taken by New Zealand timber exports is not lost on Tipene.

“We send our logs off to China, who then make furniture out of it and then we buy the furniture from them,” he says. 

Ngāti Hine Forestry has been devising various plans to keep the logs in the country longer so that the effects of price drops from our international partners are not felt as much as they are now.

This could be done by utilising the small mills that are already in operation in Moerewa and Kerikeri.

“We want to retain the logs in our country, so it's in our hands ... having a furniture company here in Moerewa for example,” says Tipene. 

For now, the industry is riding it out and hoping for the best.