A New Zealand minister has denied that a change in the law has prohibited export of indigenous species timber products.

Under the new rules, indigenous people (Maori) who manage forest allocated to them under New Zealand’s South Island Landless Natives Act (SILNA ) are banned from exporting indigenous timber chips and logs, as other forest owners have been since 1993.

But Pete Hodgson, the minister co-ordinating SILNA policy, said that the law change provides for SILNA forest owners to come under the country’s Forest Act sustainability regime. If they do this they will still be allowed to export sustainably produced sawn beech or rimu, finished or manufactured products and “personal effects”. Timber from indigenous planted forests is exempt from export controls and the new law also speeds up all export business by removing the need for a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry approval on each shipment.

SILNA forest owners can also choose to stay out of the Forest Act sustainability regime. “If they do, provided they comply with the environmental bottom line of the Resource Management Act, they can still mill their forests for the domestic timber market,” said Mr Hodgson.