Why Is Timber Pricey in NZ? Luxon Cuts Building Import Red Tape

NZ to open floodgates to Australian, European and North American building imports amid a push to address a housing crunch.

Thu 18 Apr 24


New Zealand will dismantle barriers to overseas imports and open its ports to more overseas products, with the NZ Prime Minister now pulling all the stops to address a 41% surge in building materials since 2019.

“We anticipate heightened competition across all product areas,” according to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, who added that it was “50% more expensive to build a stand-alone house here than in Australia”.

According to PM Luxon, New Zealand will first open its doors to Australian products before looking abroad, including North America, where “great houses are being built in other countries around the world that have equal if not better standards than New Zealand.”

Chris Penk, NZ’s Building and Construction Minister, said the new reforms will be rolled out before the close of 2024, adding that “the building consent authorities will have to approve the building project overall.”

Minister Penk said, “New Zealand should not be afraid of importing those international products,” before suggesting that the government is now looking to reduce red tape by eliminating the need for councils to act as building consent authorities.

The Government has announced a major shakeup to New Zealand’s construction rules and building material standards, aiming to lower the cost of building new homes – footage courtesy of @1NewsNZ.

It comes after Luxon pledged, as part of National’s 2023 election manifesto, to “Break the Barriers to Building and Construction,” claiming that regulations governing construction materials “are too rigid” and lead to a breakdown in the supply chain.

In addition, it claimed that building materials and product systems that meet international standards at least equivalent to New Zealand “should be approved for use,” blaming the current rules for a lack of competition driving higher prices.

Crucially, “this includes American, European, British and Australian standards,” with the MBIE (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) to fast-track all imported building materials for approval.

Wood Central understands that the policy could lead to the approval of more standards that meet ISO requirements or equivalent as part of the government’s push to keep material costs down and stimulate growth.

According to an anonymous source connected to the timber industry, timber framing has been up to 80% more expensive in New Zealand than Australia due to a lack of competitiveness. Meanwhile, plywood costs are consistently 25% higher in New Zealand than in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

The new reforms follow a pledge made by the National during the 2023 NZ election. (Source: Wood Central Twitter)

New Zealand Building Industry Federation chief executive Julien Leys welcomed the change but said the execution of how overseas accreditation industries were recognised would be critical.

“We will eventually have much more product available to homeowners and builders in New Zealand, but it will take time before we see that translated into lower costs,” Mr Leys said.

PM Luxon and Minister Penk announced the new policy after visiting the EasyBuild Homes factory, dubbed the “Ikea of the New Zealand building industry.”

According to co-founder Michael Foz, Easybuild flat-packs the materials needed to construct a home—frame, wall panels, windows, and all—into a container crate so a pair of semi-skilled labourers can quickly construct it.

“The only things you don’t get are your floor coverings, electrical wiring, and plumbing, which goes behind the wall,” Fox said. “We’re like the Toyota Corolla of the housing industry, so we’re producing lots of similar houses that can be customised to make them unique.”

“What New Zealand needs to understand is that we need a two-tier building industry. One where you can buy houses at a price point that is efficient, economical, and can be produced quickly—and then if you want a bespoke house, you can have one, but then you pay a premium for that.”

The push comes after PM Luxon rolled out a new “action plan” that includes 36 goals to be achieved by 30 June 2024 to boost productivity – including a draft plan for public consultation to ease restrictions on building materials from overseas.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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