Forest owners thank Sutton

11 Jul 2006

Forest owners have thanked cabinet minister Jim Sutton for his efforts on the industry’s behalf during his time in office.

Prime minister Helen Clark yesterday announced Mr Sutton's retirement from politics from 1 August and his appointment as chair of Landcorp and as a trade ambassador for New Zealand.

NZFOA president Peter Berg says Mr Sutton battled to get fairer trade rules for New Zealand primary products. He had also shown strong leadership in his roles as minister of primary industry and minister of biosecurity.

"Forestry is one of New Zealand's largest export industries, directly employing some 25,000 people. However, the development of the industry is being hindered in many markets by tariffs which escalate as more value is added to the raw material," he says.

"Raw logs and sawn timber attract low or zero tariffs. Tariffs on wood panels, designer furniture, kitset homes and paper products are as high as 40 per cent.

"Mr Sutton saw the potential to create much more wealth from forest products in New Zealand and the negotiation of better access for radiata into China was one of his big successes.

"Hopefully the energy he invested into the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations and a potential ASEAN-CER free trade deal will be similarly rewarded."

Mr Berg says Mr Sutton was minister of biosecurity during the painted apple moth control programme. This required the spraying of urban electorates, a policy which showed a high degree of political courage.

"I have no doubt that this was due largely to Mr Sutton's strong advocacy of New Zealand's best interests in cabinet. It resulted in the elimination of a pest which had the potential to cause significant damage to New Zealand's plantation and conservation forests, as well as to trees in private gardens and city parks."

Mr Berg says Mr Sutton also rose to the challenge when the forest industry and government reached an impasse over Kyoto.

"He responded positively to the industry’s suggestion that the Kyoto dispute should be parked to one side, so we could work together on other aspects of industry development. Out of that emerged the Forest Industry Development Agenda, with significant government funding for market development, research and biosecurity."

He says the association is pleased that Mr Sutton's experience and networks in the trade arena have not been lost with his retirement from politics.

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For more information, please ring Peter Berg, Mobile 021 421 291