Timber quarantine

Timber quarantine

The quarantining of imported timber has a separate history from the rest of plant quarantine. Termites were a growing problem from the early 20th century. The Department of Agriculture monitored seeds and living trees but it had no control over the power poles, sawn timber and railway sleepers flooding the country from Australia and elsewhere. Many items were badly infested. The growing forestry industry called for better protection but the government resisted stronger measures for fear of jeopardising trade, keeping the job with Customs.

In 1948 the New Zealand Forest Service formed a Timber Inspection Service tasked with checking imported timber for signs of termites or other pests. The inspectors checked poles, planks and even prefabricated houses imported from Europe, and by the late 1950s the Australian authorities were checking their timber before despatching it. The New Zealand Forest Service monitored imported timber until it was merged with MAF in 1998. 


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