The Forest Owners Association says the priority put on new forest plantings by New Zealand First entering the coalition presents an enormous challenge to the new government and industry alike.
Forest Owners president Peter Clark says issues such as diminishing log supply in Northland and road infrastructure stress in Poverty Bay and elsewhere need to be addressed by government and industry working together.
“We need to find solutions which will benefit all parts of the forest and processing chain, as well as local communities.
“I’m concerned about the recent rhetoric of the evils of neo-liberalism, when most of these issues can be resolved around the table by the players with central and local government support and encouragement.
“We’ve lost valuable years when there should have been more trees planted out to provide another income option for pastoral agriculture on marginal land and to increase wood supply for sawmillers.
“We’ve also had plenty of notice that trees are the only immediate lever the government has available to significantly offset industry and agriculture carbon emissions.
“The Ministry for the Environment Report painted a gloomy picture of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emission status. Getting back to more trees being planted than harvested is vital.
“So it’s a breath of fresh air, almost literally, to get a government expressing a priority on afforestation.”
Peter Clark say both Maori land owners and farmers will play a key role in meeting afforestation targets.
“Federated Farmers has issued a statement supporting more trees for carbon absorption and wanting to get recognised for making this contribution right down to a small-scale woodlot. This is important, as is making sure farmers are well advised on silviculture so they can grow good trees and maximise the profits they will make at harvest time.”
Nurseries gear up
Peter says it will not be easy to get planting up to the levels the new government is thinking of.
“The nurseries will take time to gear up production and there is a chronic shortage of seasonal labour, especially in planting, in our sector already.
“The government has to make some critical decisions as to how to support the forest expansion they are promising. They could make a good start by getting some trees in on Crown land.”