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“Wood First” Policy: A Carbon Neutral Future?

A new New Zealand Government “wood-first” policy could encourage the use of wood as a primary construction material in new government buildings of up to four levels.

Wood-first advocates indicate that such a policy could attract over $500m in investment, and great significant jobs in the sector – in addition to the carbon sequestration benefits attributed to solid wood.

Pro-wood policies have been implemented in Canada, Japan, France and Finland and are being pushed for by the forestry industry in Australia.

Labour’s forestry spokesman Shane Jones has indicated support for a wood-first policy. The Labour party’s policy includes a “pro-wood” policy for new government buildings, tax breaks for investment in new processing plant, special loans for tree planting, and forestry joint ventures with iwi.

Some of the Labour Party policies include:

  • Tax deferrals in the form of accelerated depreciation to encourage industry to invest in new technology and plant.
  • A pro-wood government procurement policy for government-funded buildings up to four storeys high to boost the domestic market.
  • Suspensory loans to encourage new forest planting.
  • Forestry taskforces for long-term unemployed.
  • Introduce legacy forest status to protect our indigenous forest

Associate Minister for Primary Industries Jo Goodhew says at present a preference for wood above other materials is not on the current Government’s agenda.

Wooden it be a great?

“I am open to hearing ideas, but at this stage I am not convinced that a policy directive from the Government to require a timber option for all tenders on buildings is the most appropriate way to encourage the use of timber,” she said.

Red Stag Timber owner Martin Verry said the industry was hopeful of a U-turn as wood gained greater acceptance on environmental grounds.

“We are anticipating a change of view on this because it’s starting to become more prevalent internationally.”

Verry said a wood-first policy would inject investment into a range of new and existing processing plants that were not viable because of New Zealand’s small domestic market and boom-bust cycle.

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