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Jacinda Ardern slammed for “shocking” gift to Joe Biden

Jacinda Ardern slammed for “shocking” gift to Joe Biden

A gift the New Zealand Prime Minister gave to US President Joe Biden has been criticised by environmentalists who say she showed a “lack of care” in her “appalling” gift choice.

Ms Ardern gave Mr Biden a swamp kauri bowl, made from glazed timber harvested from kauri trees commonly found in wetlands and culturally significant sites in the country’s North Island.

Fiona Furrell, the chair of the Northland Environmental Protection Society criticised the “faux pas”, saying Ms Ardern shouldn’t have given a gift that promoted the exchange of indigenous plants and a process that harms the ecosystem.

“To us, swamp kauri, of all things for a gift to America, is really not on. It's shocking after all the work we've gone through to try and protect these wetlands that produce the swamp kauri,” chair Fiona Furrell told RNZ.

The milling of kauri timber often damages or destroys the peat swamps where they are buried, often for up to 60,000 years, which prompted the Supreme Court of New Zealand to restrict what was considered a legal export of the timber in 2018.

According to the ruling, swamp kauri items must be a product in itself, in its final or kitset form, and ready to be used or installed into a larger structure.

However, Ms Ardern’s office confirmed the gifted kauri bowl was bought from Nelson Parker, who was investigated for exporting wood products to China and was found to have likely broken the Forest Act for exporting a large kauri log arrangement and calling it art.

A pamphlet of swamp kauri products from Nelson Parker, including bowls. Image: RNZ

Mr Parker wasn’t prosecuted because the manufacturer was originally told the kauri was compliant, even though little work had been done to change it from being raw wood.

Ms Furrell said the Kiwi PM should have done more “investigating” before choosing such a polarising gift.

“Any use of swamp kauri that is featured by our government, therefore puts our wetlands at risk, because people will want more swamp kauri now,” Furrell said.

“He [Biden] could make the decision himself. Perhaps it could be returned to New Zealand.”

Mr Parker has defended Ms Ardern’s decision, claiming that anyone who questioned her gift choice was a “parasite”.

“To think that people, somebody, can out of the goodness of their heart give a gift to somebody and then somebody comes in behind and says, 'Well that's wrong, it's illegal, it's immoral' or whatever they say. To me that shows you the quality of the people actually,” he said.

“To be quite blunt, these people, they're probably listed as zero in my opinion, as far as I'm concerned.

“I can pretty well describe these people to you, they probably don't do anything. They're parasites. As far as I'm concerned, if they want to meddle in what we do, well, then it's not a wise thing to do.”

Image: @jacindaardern (Instagram)

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