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President's Comment, May 2024

Neil Cullen, from New Zealand Tree Grower

A very successful conference was hosted last month by the Hawke’s Bay branch. Many thanks to Tim, Cathie, Sue and the team who put together a programme of meetings and field trips that covered all the bases. Conferences are an opportunity to renew friendships and build relationships and it was good to have representatives of affiliate organisations such as New Zealand Forest Owners Association, Beef and Lamb,Te Uru Rakau,Tane’s Tree Trust and Nga Pou a Tane.

Attendees were impressed by the accounts and evidence of recovery on display at the likes of Pan Pac’s Whirinaki mill and Plant Hawke’s Bay nursery. It is a credit to the whole community the way they are battling their way back from the destruction of cyclone Gabrielle which we all saw on our screens 15 months ago.

There has been considerable discussion on the Forest Growers’ Levy over the last couple of months as we look for improvements in representation, function and funding opportunities.The position paper prepared by Graham West and Howard Moore has been circulated to members and there was an opportunity for feedback in two zoom meetings in the first week of April. At the Council meeting at Napier, members voted to endorse the key points in that paper. Discussions with the NZ Forest Owners Association and the Forest Growers’ Levy Trust have also taken place, which has resulted in a joint working group being formed to make recommendations on possible reforms, to the Forest Growers’ Levy Board before the vote in October. In the meantime, a series of meetings will take place around the country, highlighting the work which the levy funds and the prospect of a higher rate for the levy which, if approved, would be in place from 2026.  As forest growers, these roadshows are your chance to be informed and provide feedback to those who administer the levy.The full schedule of meetings is listed on the NZFFA website on the events page.

Our contracted Chief Operating Officer Matt Highway has been busy producing an updated NZFFA strategy, developing a partnership, advertising and sponsorship programme, and working on the best options for an upgrade for our website.We are asking members to respond to a survey on what services they expect from the website to ensure that the planned improvements meet the site users’ needs. Enhancing our website is seen as a priority action for the NZFFA as it is an important means of communicating to a wide range of audiences.

This will take up to two years to complete and will require more feedback from members as we progress, through user-group forums.The final product will be in Matt’s words – a modern, professional, user-friendly website, that attracts and engages visitors, advertisers, and potential partners.

The alternative species field days have been well run and supported so far and we need to ensure this continues, with the remaining nine or 10 over the next two months.The schedule for these is also on the events page and I ask members in those areas to help publicise the field days and encourage potential participants to go along.

There was good attendance and interest at the Action Group meetings in Napier and a range of activities reported on.The Sequoia Action Group and Cypress Development Group have been the most industrious, and perhaps other groups could follow the example of Vaughan Kearns with his extensive cypress strategy.This lays out a vision and work priorities for cypress development for the next 20 years. If we are serious about building a future for alternative species this is what is needed.


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