An Open Letter to Shane Jones

Friday 17 Apr 2020

 
Dear Minister Jones,

Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Adrian. I am an employee in the forestry industry, a Future Forester, a graduate of Canterbury University and, albeit very small, a forest owner.

Since starting out in the forestry industry 4 years ago I have been lucky enough to experience your leadership first-hand and hear your passionate encouragement of the forest industry and forest owners within it. During this time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to speak at the beehive and describe the amazing opportunities for people involved with forestry. For me the forestry industry represents a world of incredible opportunities, amazing people and is an industry that I am extremely proud to be a part of.

Last year I was honoured to be invited to speak directly with His Royal Highness Prince Charles about our industry. During this meeting I gave explicit support for the opportunities you are providing farmers and landowners under the One Billion Trees Programme. I described how amazing it was to see these rural landowners committing to forestry with the support of the Government and our Minister Shane Jones leading at the helm.

Suffice to say I was shocked when I heard your interview with Heather Du Plessis-Allan earlier this week. Shocked at the comments uttered with such disregard for our country’s forest owners. In utter shock that you, the Minister of Forestry, our Government representative would speak in such derogatory terms about the forest owners. Forest owners that you have been actively encouraging to expand their investment in New Zealand. Investment that has directly led to job creation, economic growth and most important investment that is actively combating climate change.

I agree with you that there are immense benefits to New Zealand through ensuring consistent supply for our domestic processors. Stable supply for our sawmills stimulates job creation, provides opportunities for kiwi companies and has multiple benefits for our economy. Forest Owners Association President Phil Taylor hit the nail on the head when describing these amazing opportunities and I cannot reiterate the importance of this comment enough. ”Shane Jones is talking about creating new jobs. We’d love to see those, but not if we fail to protect current ones.”

The suggestions you made in this interview were brilliant from a political perspective. To suggest that you want to look after kiwis’ interests by potentially imposing regulations to our “international forest investor” forest owners sounds great. A headline that is easily digested and is adequately palatable for the average kiwi. However, in my opinion these suggestions are not putting New Zealand first. In fact, I’d describe these comments as putting Shane Jones first…. New Zealand second.

To suggest that impositions that impact a forest owner’s profitability would only be detrimental to international forest investors is utterly ridiculous. Its common knowledge that 40 percent of the currently harvestable trees are owned by small scale owners. Small scale owners such as mum and dad investors, farmers, lifestyle properties, hunting blocks, or in my case a group of 10 friends who purchased a small forest for building mountain bike tracks in. Any negative impacts would be equally be felt by these small-scale forest owners.

Farm Forestry Association President Hamish Levack echoes these concerns. He correctly suggests that if the government introduced compulsory acquisition at low prices for instance, that most farm foresters would choose to not harvest at a loss and would shut up their woodlots. The impact on these farmers would be a direct loss of income through their incapacity to harvest. These are the same farmers that have been feeding our country, the same farmers who have been supporting New Zealand as essential workers during the level 4 lockdown and the same farmers who you have been promoting should invest and grow more forestry through the One Billion Trees programme.

The same sentiment goes for the 40 percent of the New Zealand forest estate which is growing commercial forests on land owned by iwi. Any regulatory outcome that negatively impacts New Zealand forest owners will in turn be negatively impacting Maori and our country’s farmers. This outcome is most certainly not putting New Zealand’s interests first.

During my time in the industry I have been willingly positioned on both sides of this fence; both managing log supply for a domestic processor and working for a management company that represents small scale forest owners. In my opinion the solution we should be aiming for is not of segregation of the industry. This strategy will not bring forth the desired outcomes for anyone. It is more important now than ever for forest owners, domestic processors, and exporters to work together for the betterment of New Zealand.

Shane, I urge you to look for a solution to support the forestry industry as a whole. A solution that supports all parts of the sector as opposed to using the threat of a regulatory stick for certain participants. A solution that facilitates growth for the New Zealand economy and supports job creation and opportunities for all parts of the industry I adore. A solution that continues to support the growth of our country’s forest area. A solution that does indeed put New Zealand first.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Loo

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