Winston’s wool ploy an ‘unrealistic conversation’ – PM says

“The industry may find that the government is not such a good customer, that it wants large volumes at low prices as that's how government works,” Bill English says.

The Prime Minister has slammed NZ First’s plans to use real New Zealand wool, instead of synthetic materials, in any future government office or Housing NZ property, saying it’s an “unrealistic conversation.”

Speaking to reporters at his weekly post-cabinet press conference, Bill English says NZ First has “no idea whether [the plan] is commercially viable on the government’s terms.

“The industry may find the government is not such a good customer, that it wants large volumes at low prices as that’s how government works.”

This follows comments by NZ First leader Winston Peters accusing the government of “turning its back on wool.”

“The government claims it will build 34,000 houses in Auckland over the next 10 years alone and what should be a bonanza for wool won’t be, with National.”

He says his party will swing government procurement in behind wool and natural fibres both as floor coverings and as a material of choice for insulation.

He blames “donkey-like leadership” and “crony contracts that favour the few” for the historical drop in the value of New Zealand’s wool exports.

But Mr English says there would probably be a number of industries that would want a boost from any kind of political guarantee that their product will be purchased.

“New Zealand hasn’t operated that way for a long time and we’re not going to start now.”

In 1997, wool made up $1 billion of exports, which would be worth $1.5 billion in today’s dollars – but instead that value has dropped to $531 million in the year to May, Mr Peters says.

In fact, New Zealand just finished its worst wool season since the global financial crisis.

Mr Peters’ comments, which comes as he continues his “regions tour,” appears to be a clear bid for votes from more rural parts of the country.    

The NZ First leader's calls have been, perhaps unsurprisingly, backed by Federated Farmers and wool producing group Wools of New Zealand.

Mr English says the NZ First party will just “sort of say whatever they want to say …. Now they are going to sponsor a particular industry.”

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