Te Uru Rākau expansion vital for forest development

Friday 24 May 2019

In response to the pre-Budget announcement reported on last week, Forest industry leaders say the announcement by Forestry Minister Shane Jones of additional regional resources for Te Uru Rākau is potentially of great benefit to regional New Zealand.

Farm Forestry Association President, Neil Cullen, says Shane Jones’ announcement goes beyond the Billion Trees Programme and aligns with the forest industry’s recently released roadmap for 2020 to 2050. He says there has been an urgent need for the government to put more resources into working with hill country farmers.

“At the moment, there are farm leaders who say they feel their communities are threatened by forestry. They are expressing these views because there is not enough available information to explain to these farmers how a well-planned and managed farm forest planting can be a highly profitable complement to running livestock,” Neil Cullen says.

“Our Association is keen to work more with Te Uru Rākau to improve buy-in from local communities.” Neil Cullen says it is now becoming obvious to everyone that all reports on climate change point to a need for extensive afforestation to meet New Zealand’s international commitments.

“Land use change on this scale will mean that government should implement measures to minimise social and economic disruption. Te Uru Rākau regional extension officers will be able to encourage and advise farmers to plant the right species in the right parts of their farms and help ensure that farmers can grow their log resource to maximise their forestry profits,” Neil Cullen says.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Weir says more government involvement in recruitment into the industry is very welcome to deal with critical gaps in silviculture, logging and log cartage. “Forest owners are investing heavily in promoting forest education courses, recruitment and training. But in the short term, there are things which only government can do to help, including as working with Pacific Island governments to get the increased planting done over the next two winters. The Minister has announced a laudable aim of a sustainable domestic workforce – but the need is now.”

“Without enough labour, the Billion Tree programme will drive up costs for those replanting after harvest, and New Zealand’s very ambitious Zero Carbon 2050 target will not be met.” Peter Weir is emphatic that a strong domestic processing sector is critical to complement our very healthy log export markets. “It is unwise for any exporter to rely on one product and access to one market” Peter Weir says.

“About half our exports are further processed, with sawn lumber going to Australia while medium density fibreboard, laminated veneer lumber and wood pulp goes to a variety of countries.” Forest growers lament the very recent closure of New Zealand’s only cross laminated timber plant in Nelson, but Peter Weir says its Australian owners stated that did not have the necessary scale to compete. “This demonstrates that our wood processing sector needs to be more able, and have greater confidence, to invest in large scale modern timber processing.”

“It is great that the government is building a showcase Te Uru Rākau office in Rotorua made out of timber. We hope that will include cross laminated timber and laminated veneer lumber to demonstrate the amazing qualities of modern engineered wood as a building material in larger scale construction.”

Source: NZFFA, NZFOA

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