Alf is a bit bemused about this kauri carry-on.
Here’s how he sees it: enterprising people are doing Northland a favour by ridding its swamps of kauri.
But Dover Samuels, one of the region’s prominent citizens, is hollering for a halt to the clean-up, which – for good measure – is earning good export dollars.
These logs have been lying in the swamps for many, many years.
Now that someone is making a buck from them, Dover recognises them as a treasure and the export of them as “plunder”.
Obviously he disapproves of this treasure being turned into cash (although maybe he would be tempted to change his mind if he was given a slice of the action).
Radio NZ reported his complaint here:
A Northland Maori leader is calling for a moratorium on the mining of swamp kauri and a review of the laws that regulate it.
Dover Samuels said iwi from Te Hapua to Kaipara were fed up with what they saw as the plundering of a national treasure.
The one-time Minister of Maori Affairs, now head of Northland Regional Council’s Maori Advisory Committee, said it was time to halt the trade while a rethink of the whole industry was carried out.
This committee is one of those advisory arrangements set up to enable indigenous persons to flex their political muscle without having to stand for election.
It is a comparatively recent example of the co-governance genre being adopted by councils around the country with a strong impulse to weaken their democratic structures in favour of race-based alternatives.
After the first meeting Dover said the committee’s formation is part of the regional council’s wish to promote Maori (whanau, hapu and iwi) participation and engagement in its processes and decision-making.
Councillor Samuels says initially it had been proposed the committee’s membership would comprise two representatives from each of the invited iwi/hapu, himself and three of his regional council colleagues; council chairman Bill Shepherd, Dennis Bowman and Paul Dimery.
“It’s still very much early days, but I’m personally really pleased to see the level of interest expressed already.”
“Maoridom is poised to become an increasingly major contributor to the Northland economy as a result of treaty settlement processes and council wishes to work with Maori to advance the economic aspirations of whanau and hapu.”
Alf is wondering if a commitment to advance the economic aspirations of whanau and hapu means it does not promote the economic aspirations of others in the region.
Surely not, although Dover plainly wants to nobble whoever is making a bob from clearing the swamps of their kauri.
According to the Radio NZ report:
Mr Samuels said the advisory Committee had been consulting iwi in recent months about policy affecting their interests and the consistent message was that they wanted the industry controlled, in part because of the damage it’s doing to wetlands and lakes.
“Many of the whanau and hapu where these taonga lie are very concerned about the exploitation of what they say, and what they see as a New Zealand taonga, said Mr Samuels. “Not just Maori, but New Zealand, taonga.”
Alf is pleased to report that his good mate Nathan Guy, our Minister for Primary Industries, has defended the regulation of the swamp kauri industry, saying his ministry staff have kept a close watch on what is going out of the country.
The ministry website says swamp kauri can be exported as manufactured or finished products, but not as logs.
But some companies have exported logs legally by carving the surface and exporting them as finished products, with MPI approval.
Mr Guy said the trade was good for the country.
“They are finished products,” he said.
“I have seen some photos where some fantastic-looking swamp logs have been carved and they’re going to be an amazing feature for our country in an international country that they’re destined for.
“We manage it very, very closely.”
Alas, some sourpuss people are grumping about what constitutes a carving.
Fiona Furrell, who heads the Northland Environmental Protection Society, scoffs at the idea that the carvings represent New Zealand.
“The first one we saw an MPI photo of, we call it the Casper log, because it looks more like Casper the friendly ghost than any sort of Maori or authentic carving.
“It’s just this big log with weird markings and paint all over it and what looks like a big smiley face. “
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and what’s wrong with a smiley face?
It would be bureaucratic nonsense to have some officials determine that this bit of art can be exported but this one can’t.
What can be exported surely should be decided by the importer at the other end of the deal.
Fair to say, Dover disagrees.
Mr Samuels said tangata whenua were not impressed with MPI’s rationale for sanctioning the logs as carvings.
“I mean, how naive can you be when you say you’ve applied some sort of artificial tiki to the log, or an artificial carving to the log, and say that passes the requirements of the legislation? I mean, that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Oh – but let’s not forget another grouch:
Ms Furrell said if Mr Guy thought the swamp kauri trade was good for the country he should head north and inspect environmental damage caused by the mining.
“Drained lakes, drained wetlands, completely destroyed natural environment that is protected.”
She will appreciate we have done her a favour when climate change has lifted the temperature enough to provide a nice habitat for mosquitoes carrying nasty diseases.
Without those mucky swamps to settle in, they will have to settle elsewhere.
The health of Northlanders will have been done a service.