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26 March 2014 | Will Green
The opposition Labour Party in New Zealand has proposed a policy requiring government construction projects to include a “build-in-wood” option at the request for proposals stage of the procurement process.
The "pro-wood" proposal, included in a report called Forestry and Wood Products Economic Upgrade, is designed to boost the forestry industry and add value to exports.
The report said: “If we are to create well-paid, resilient jobs we need to build modern, resilient industries. We cannot simply continue to rely on increasing the volume of raw exports. Over-reliance on undifferentiated commodities is not a sustainable medium or long-term economic plan for New Zealand if we are to maintain or improve our current living standards.”
The report said “all government-funded project proposals for new buildings up to four storeys high shall require a build-in-wood option at the initial concept/request-for-proposals stage” and that “where a build-in-wood option was as cost-effective as alternative options, a procuring department that chose not to select the build-in-wood option would be required to document the reasons for this decision”.
However, the Cement & Concrete Association of New Zealand said the policy would “create an inappropriate commercial advantage for one construction sector over another”.
CEO Rob Gaimster said: “Government should not be picking winners when it comes to the selection of construction materials, which should stand or fall on their own technical, cost, aesthetic and sustainability credentials.”
The National Party-led government described the policy as “classic 1970s government-knows-best interventionism”.
Economic development minister Steven Joyce said: “Why should the forestry industry receive preferential treatment over the high-tech manufacturing industry, ICT, the services industries, the construction industry or the farming industry?”