Global timber prices rising amid NZ shortage

A timber industry group is warning current supply woes are just the beginning as global prices for logs have been rising too.

There are concerns as previously some international buyers have gone to extreme lengths to get their hands on Kiwi logs.

The quarter-acre dream was once a simple one. 

Architect Joe Lyth, like so many others, just wants to get his family into a healthy, warm, first home.

"It breaks my heart sometimes, so we live in a little two-bed house at the moment, with single glazing, we've got two little girls and a third one on the way. My girls have coughs every single winter, sometimes in the summer."

Lyth has scraped his pennies together to start building this home, but the finish date has blown out by over two months. In that time there has been a 14 percent increase in the prices of some timber products. 

"It's been a journey," he told Newshub.

The Wood Processors and Manufacturers' Association's Jon Tanner said the increase is because New Zealand is shipping an extraordinary amount of logs overseas.

"NZ wood processors pay the price that is being set at the wharf, so we're paying the same prices as the people who are importing."

Of all the logs New Zealand cuts down, more than half of them end up at the port to be shipped overseas. China is our biggest buyer, purchasing the large majority - 85 percent of those raw log exports. 

Newshub understands that before COVID-19, Chinese buyers went to extreme lengths to get their hands on timber. 

"You know, looking around the country for small plots, aerial spotting with planes and then sending in cars to pay for those things," Tanner said.

It's something that could happen again, as countries like Russia halt their exports.

Tanner said he's been warning the Government about the impact of foreign buyers on prices here.

"What we're saying, is let's make sure the market for those logs is free and fair so that domestic processors can compete on the same footing as overseas processors." 

The situation is getting more urgent by the day, Tanner said, and builders like Anthony Kane are already feeling those prices hikes.

"We've had two this year and I think we're about to have a third by June," Kane said.

Emptied log trains and empty dreams of New Zealanders trying to get into their first homes.