Swamp kauri heads overseas

BLACK GOLD: Only about two per cent of Northland’s swamp kauri comes out of the  Kauri Coast.
BLACK GOLD: Only about two per cent of Northland’s swamp kauri comes out of the Kauri Coast.

The practice of extracting the ancient wood from peat swamps has made national headlines, with talk of illegal digging and multimillion-dollar exports to China.

But kauri craftsman Nelson Parker estimates just 2 per cent of the ancient timber coming out of Northland is coming from the Kauri Coast.

"It's been going on around this area since the '80s," he says.

"We are even going back to areas we have already been to, as the market changes, to get stuff we have left behind.

"But there is not that much around, so most of it comes from the Far North."

The former axeman, who runs Nelson's Kaihu Kauri in Dargaville, says the influence of overseas investors has definitely stimulated the overall Northland market.

"It's good and bad for us," he says.

"We have never been so busy, but we have never had so much competition either.

"The price has been going up, bSwamp jauri heads overseasut the costs are rising too."

The impact of overseas money, Chinese in particular, has been noticed, with one customer buying 28 tables from Parker's kauri gallery.

Within a year that same buyer was back with his own company, ready to extract the logs to make its own tables.

Parker says there should be more regulation to ensure New Zealanders benefit most from what is a finite resource.

"Currently it is, like they say, ‘whoever has the gold makes the rules'.

"People are grabbing what they can with whatever resources they have," he says.

There are strict rules around the extraction of swamp kauri if it may disturb protected wetlands and resource consent is often required.

It is illegal to extract kauri from indigenous forest protected by The Forests Act.

Northland Regional Council consents and monitoring senior programme manager Colin Dahl is responsible for following up any disturbance of indigenous wetlands and agrees extractions are not so prolific locally.

"Kauri log extraction from peat land, including wetlands, has been undertaken for some years in the Kaipara district," he says.

"However, log extraction operations have not been as intensive as those in the Far North in recent years to date.

"The council will take appropriate enforcement action if/where unauthorised land disturbance is found," Dahl says.

Dargaville News