A call to arms for young forester’s

Friday 4 May 2018

 
As a young and naïve forester, it came as a shock (and a delighted shock to my mother) to be invited to Queensland to sit down with the Prince of Wales to discuss forestry issues around the globe.

By no means am I a devoted royalist eagerly awaiting the Queen’s speech each year, but to have Prince Charles invite IFA and NZIF representatives to a roundtable discussion on forestry, there may have been a slight hint of royalism in the air. Initially, my thoughts were of a simple meet and greet; shake his hand, say a few carefully constructed words, and then he’ll head off on his next royal visit. Fortunately, the reality was quite the contrast.

After the initial handshake, twelve of us sat down to a chaired discussion run by IFA president Rob de Fegely. Every single person at that table got a minimum of two minutes to share their thoughts to His Royal Highness and engage in any following discussion. To be given that opportunity to share my personal beliefs on forestry to not only the Prince but to Australian government officials and forestry representatives was an empowering moment for a young forester wanting to influence change and promote forests globally.

To me, the benefit of this opportunity lies in the prestige behind the Prince’s name, to have received an award backed by his status, and to showcase that a young forester has the chance to meet the prince, is hugely powerful for use as promotion towards young New Zealanders. It lets them know that forestry is viewed on a global scale as an internationally important solution to worldwide issues.

This visit has cemented my resolve to promote forestry to a wider audience. More specifically to promote forestry to the young people of NZ. The young generation are looking for a career in which they can find a sense of purpose, forestry has given me a sense of purpose and I would like to think I am not an anomaly among the young.

As a forester you are a guardian of the land, you have the ability to impact landscape-level changes that effect NZ society as whole. You are a generalist, even if you specialise, with a broad understanding of the forestry machine from tree breeding and soil science, to heavy machinery and engineering principles, right through to drivers of global economics and market forces.

I dare to speculate that most kiwi parents would not consider forestry as a number one career choice for their beloved offspring. I would postulate that most kiwi parents wouldn’t expect a young forester to be given opportunities like attending international visits from Royalty, exposure to global networks, and immense and diverse career opportunities. I genuinely feel that the general public (yes that was me not that long ago) has very little idea what forestry is and how the products that end up in their houses, on their desks, and in their fireplaces were created and actually got to them as the end user. It is my desire to change this public perception.

The world we live in and the issues we face can be counteracted by proper and world-class forestry practices that promote sustainable forest management. What we will hopefully see is a shift away from the ‘us’ (foresters) and ‘them’ (all other primary producers) model. A truly sustainable future has land-uses integrated rather than butting heads, working collaboratively to find solutions that work for everyone.

I currently see New Zealand balanced at the tipping point of a potentially historic precipice: on one side we have a future where there is nationwide support for forestry practices, forestry is seen as a desired industry to work in, NZ is world-class in forest technologies and forest growing, we are implementing best environmental practice, and farmers are integrating forests on their lands for carbon, riparian, and soil management.

On the other side of the precipice I see a future industry constrained by regulation with negative public opinion forcing government to take environmental responsibility away from foresters, with labour shortages constraining all aspects of the industry, with wood not being a preferred building material for low to mid-rise construction, and with farmers’ opinion of trees simply as a barrier to good grass growth.

My personal challenge is to use this visit to promote forestry to the Future Foresters of NZ, to the young people looking for an environmental and dynamic career, to anyone who has even a hint of a desire to be involved in the future decisions that will shape New Zealand’s landscape. I believe all foresters are environmentalists because we work with the land, with that comes immense responsibility, and without which we are powerless.

My challenge to anyone reading this is to encourage the Future Foresters of New Zealand (launching 9th July at the NZIF conference) and to help promote our industry through best practice and collaboration. I ask for all of your help in making sure this visit is more than just a framed picture of a young naïve forester next to Prince Charles sitting on my mother’s mantelpiece.

Photo: L to R; Jesse Mahoney, Senior Policy Officer, International Forest Policy, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources – Australian awardee of the Prince of Wales Award for Sustainable forestry, Prince Charles, Alfred Duval, Regional Forester, Port Blakely Ltd

Alfred Duval, Regional Forester, Port Blakely Ltd

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