New Zealand Tree Grower March 2021.
Meet Your New President - Graham West
Hello everyone, let me introduce myself and familiarise you with my background and what I want to do as president. I’m from a sheep and beef farm near Raetihi and I’m a fourth-generation farmer with two grandfathers who both broke in steep hill country bush blocks west of Raetihi, toward the Whanganui river. One was near the “Bridge to nowhere” in the Mangapurua valley and was forced to leave the farm after 18 years of hard work because the road was closed due to land slips. Their perseverance and contribution to our country gives me a sense of heritage that makes me determined to rejuvenate what previous farm foresters have created. I am one sixteenth Maori, Ngati Apakura, Tainui, and if you understand Maori you will recognise, they always take their ancestors with them.
I’m also the great grandson of an English immigrant who arrived in 1863 at the age of 18 and started his NZ experience serving in the Waikato Militia. So, I am as kiwi as you can get, deeply committed to improving NZ for future generations, hope to make a contribution in my semi-retirement.
I have mostly had a career in science with a Masters of Forestry Science from Canterbury and 48 years’ experience in research at Scion. I started with a team lead by Wink Sutton, Bob Fenton, John Tustin, and Leith Knowles, so its no wonder I enjoy debate and hold strong views. In those early days’ forestry was discussed with huge passion and only those who could provide facts and references could get a word in at smokos or field days. My research was particularly in forest management systems, economics, wood supply chain, and computer modelling.
The good thing about Scion is they provide plenty of personal development training and allow you to move sideways into new roles as your experience develops. I had senior roles as the Atlas (software) Business Unit Leader, Intensive Forest Systems Program Leader, and Principal Technologist. I enjoy learning about the broader forestry sector and I now run a forestry consultancy business that land use advice, project management, and forestry transactional services. At home I have a supportive wife and two children, a small farm with some blocks in forest.
Throughout my career I have been passionate about the role small scale forestry can play to enhance New Zealand’s economic and environmental performance. For the last three years I’ve been instrumental in the BOP Forest and Wood Action Group and associated initiatives to develop a forestry information and extension service to encourage afforestation. I have helped to establish the CNI Wood Council and currently on the Committee. As chairman of BOP Branch, I led the organisation of the May 2019 National Conference at Rotorua, and since that time have been a member of the National Executive.
Thank you very much to the Wellington Team that stood up and took on the Annual Conference this year, you are an example to us all. Outstanding. I strongly believe we can rejuvenate this organisation; I employ you to get involved, everyone can contribute something, it will take the team of 1300 to achieve it. An ounce of passion is worth a tonne of dynamite, you all have it, get out there and stir things along, you’ll have fun doing it!