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President's comment

Hamish Levack, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2021.

The absence of forestry presentations at last November’s Primary Industries New Zealand Summit conference at Te Papa reflects the lack of importance that New Zealand attributes to our sector. Jacinda Adern spoke about the government’s driving principle of accelerating the economic recovery from Covid-19, although no specific mention was made of forestry’s potential role in achieving this. Ray Smith talked about MPI’s Te Taiao framework which he defined as ‘pathways which will enable us as farmers, growers, fishers and food and fibre businesses to achieve the regeneration and well-being of our land, water, climate and living beings, including our people in rural, urban and coastal communities’. One assumes that forestry had to be coded as fibre here in case it gave offence to folk, such as Judith Collins, who are upset by pine trees.

He emphasized ‘He waka eke noa’, Maori for ‘we are all in the same boat together’, which has been taken as the name for a ‘primary sector partnership initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions’. It is funded through the Ministry for the Environment and led by a steering group of nine primary sector representatives, although weirdly, none of them are familiar with forestry, the best way to transition to a low carbon
economy. The dark clouds of global shock, uncertainty, fragmenting trade agreements, and increasing protectionism were mentioned by Vangelis Vitalis, the Deputy Secretary Trade and Economics at MFAT.

Enough of that. What about some upbeat information?

Ray Smith also spoke about the government’s determination to meet its target of zero carbon by 2050, which implies the price of New Zealand Units will keep going up for quite a while. Te Uru Rakau has a new leader called Henry Weston, who has shown a close interest in the NZFFA. His message was that we do not do enough to talk up our good work.

In late October, forestry sector leaders were invited to meet in Wellington to listen to presentations by Jason Wilson, and other Te Uru Rakau representatives, about compiling a Forest Industry Transformation Plan aimed at processing more wood domestically. It outlined ‘several internationally competitive investment opportunities, using New Zealand’s plantation forestry biomass to help move the country to carbon
zero, and build on the forest industry’s strengths and create higher value’. Regulations are being introduced to ensure that more wood is used in the built environment.

Much was made of the potential of technology which will allow forestry to substitute biocrude oil, liquid biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials for products currently manufactured from fossil fuel. However, a number of hurdles have to be overcome if this plan is to be more than aspirational. Apart from ensuring that markets exist, the Resource Management Act and the National Exotic Forest Description need
reform. Extension forest services need re-establishment, and the government needs to ensure that a lot more afforestation takes place in the right regions, which may mean that the government will have to do much more planting itself.

Our new Minister of Forestry, Stuart Nash, wants all this to happen and will campaign on our behalf. Having worked in our sector and aquired a post-graduate forestry qualification he understands us. At our NZFFA awards dinner last November he affirmed that small-scale forest growers have an important role to play in the increased wood supply, the diversification of species and sustainable land use. He also advocates converting Te Uru Rakau into a full New Zealand Forest Service which will provide regional facilities, supports forest owners, and works in partnership with the private forest sector toward the implementation of sound long term regional and national forestry development plans. 

Let us hope he can get Cabinet to agree with him.


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