Hamish Levack, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2020.
We sympathise with Australian forest owners. Global warming has super-charged their rural fires to the point that some Australians even think that it is too risky to plant trees again. New Zealand will not get as hot as Australia, so let us try and compensate for our neighbour as well as meeting our targets.
Forestry’s potential as an expanding carbon sink will ameliorate climate change substantially, and will also play a major role in helping New Zealand transition to a low carbon future. Beyond carbon sequestration, major economic, technological and lifestyle changes will be needed to permanently lower carbon emissions. Wood’s potential for this transition is immense. Exciting, new, commercially-viable opportunities for wood
utilisation beckon. They include solid and liquid biofuels, biodegradable wood-based plastics and textiles for use in everything from car parts to clothing, bio-chemicals, and carbon nano-fibres capable of carrying electric currents. Renewable forest resources will replace fossil-based, non-recyclable commodities.
The government has reversed the neglect of the forestry sector with the reestablished Forest Service and the Billion Trees programme, but it is wavering somewhat. The non-representation of forestry on the newly launched Climate Change Commission is an example. The appointed Commissioners, which include strong agricultural representation, had to be approved by all the political parties, none of which wanted to aggravate the ‘50 Shades of Green’ protestors by appearing to be too proforestry. Todd Muller, the opposition spokesman for forestry and climate change, told members of the NZFFA that his caucus was unwilling to champion the need to reform the delayed deductibility of expenditure on the purchase of forests ‘at this stage’, because ‘the timing was inappropriate’. MBIE’s withdrawal of substantial funding from forest research in 2019 may have been influenced by similar sentiments.
We sympathise with the rural feelings of insecurity at a time of probable land use change but the nervousness needs to be countered. The rural unease is largely illogical because economic studies show that most hill country properties are unable to compete with forestry in the long term, and show that the export returns per hectare per year from forestry are twice that of the average of all types of farms. Furthermore, most hill
country farmers have had substantial tax free increases in their land value because of anticipated changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.
However, because of the lack of good initial advice, some woodlots are currently unlikely to be worth harvesting although many of them could still become profitable. The Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group has been focusing on the need for a better alignment between small-scale forest owners and wood processors, and has endorsed our association’s long-time advocacy to address the barriers to forest aggregation to improve
domestic wood supply, price management, and cost reduction initiatives.
During 2019’s last quarter the NZFFA Council met to develop our strategic plan. Since the last Tree Grower was published, the Executive have made submissions on MPI’s ‘Better ETS for forestry’, MFE’s ‘Reform of the ETS’s rules for auctioning’, MFE’s ‘Essential Freshwater work programme’, MFE’s ‘Proposals for a New Zealand biodiversity strategy’, MPI’s ‘Agricultural Emissions paper’, The Tertiary Education Commission’s ‘Reform of vocational education and industry training needs’ and FENZ’s ‘Fire and emergency planning’.
The Collingwood Eucalyptus Action Group weekend last October was a great success, and the new Oak Action Group was launched in January. Our members have also attended numerous meetings aimed at securing funds from the Forest Growers Levy Board and Te Uru Rakau for various forestry good projects, the reform of building code NZS 3602, and the efforts to reform of the ‘cost of timber’ tax regulations.
Collectively this amounts to an immense amount of voluntary work. Thank you to everyone.