Official website of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association

President's Comment

Neil Cullen, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2018.

As predicted in my column in November’s Tree Grower, the new government is taking a much more active role in the forest industry. They see a key role for forestry in boosting regional development, creating quality jobs, meeting climate change targets, providing opportunities for Maori land use, and supporting sustainable land use.

With Minister for Forestry, Hon. Shane Jones inside Cabinet, his focus on enacting the target of planting a billion trees over ten years is resulting in developments. Initially this is coming through Crown Forestry which has been allocated funds to secure land for new planting and contract the necessary increase in nursery production of seedlings. Further action will be required to provide the right incentives and advice for land owners to commit to changing their land use to forestry. Depending on location, land class and preference this need not be production forestry but could include native planting and revegetation or conservation planting with exotics.

The Minister is setting up a Ministerial Advisory Group of industry representatives to provide expert and practical advice on which policies will produce the results this government is seeking. Small-scale growers will be represented there and we will also be meeting the Minister separately to explain how the NZFFA is able to provide both advice and examples across the country of how forestry is a profitable and rewarding land use.

With the sustained period of buoyant log prices, harvesting small scale forests planted in the late 1980s and 1990s has increased markedly and record quantities of logs have been exported in 2017. Some forest owners have taken the opportunity to cash in on their asset by selling or harvesting at a young age with all logs being exported. This has resulted in concerns from local processors that their future supply of logs is being jeopardised.

All forest owners have the right to manage and sell their forests to their best advantage, but independent advice should be sought to ensure that the price offered is the best available and that local industry has the chance to compete for those logs. The high prices are, of course, providing some great rewards to our members who are harvesting, with reports of sellers located close to mills and ports netting over $100 a tonne on average. Members are encouraged to provide details of their returns to Allan Laurie via the Tree Grower Editor so they can be published in table format. Anonymity is assured and the details required are in last May’s Tree Grower. This information is of use in providing a picture of how forestry rates as a land use option.

One of the projects funded this year by the Forest Growers Levy Trust Board is one proposed by Graham West. It will provide information which assists small-scale growers at the time of harvest to engage a harvesting management contractor and achieve the best possible outcome.

With a government taking a more ‘hands on’ approach to forestry, not all their actions will please all parts of the industry. A current proposal to include cutting rights for forests over 50 hectares in the Overseas Investment Act could deter foreign investment, as the process can be expensive and time consuming. The NZFFA will be making a submission to try and ensure that members selling opportunities are not unnecessarily restricted.

All members have registration forms for the conference in Nelson from 6 to 9 May and people can also register online via our website. This is a great opportunity to visit and sample the autumn splendour of this region. The local branch is working hard to provide a memorable experience at a very reasonable price.

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