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Forest Bonanza Depends On Political Savvy

New Zealand Forest Owners’ Association
New Zealand Forest Industries Council
New Zealand Farm Forestry Association

28 June 2002

Political parties have been asked to think about the needs of one of the country’s biggest growth industries before making election promises.

In a pre-election briefing paper, the forest industry says forest product sales are expected to increase in the next 20 years from $5 billion to $20 billion a year, while direct and associated employment will almost treble to 310,000.

“No other primary or industrial sector has the potential to deliver such strong growth and contribute as much to our country’s social, environmental and economic development,” says industry spokesperson and Forest Industries Council chair Devon McLean, at the conclusion of an industry strategy workshop held in Auckland today.

“To unleash this potential, future governments will have to think carefully about the future needs of the forest products industries when they make policy decisions in a host of seemingly unrelated areas – such as climate change, industrial relations, energy, roading, international environment agreements, science and trade policy.”

He says the industry has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the present Labour-Alliance Government via the Wood Processing Strategy and hopes this will be further enhanced with future administrations.

“However, the strategy can’t exist in isolation – so we are asking all political parties to be mindful, before making promises, of the possible ramifications for what is already New Zealand’s third-largest export earner.”

For example, on the vexed issue of the Kyoto Protocol, Mr McLean says future governments will need to ensure that their policies do nothing to harm the industry which will be providing the country with most of its carbon credits.

“There’s also a risk that a future government will appropriate the carbon locked up in private forests – estimated to be worth between $1.5 and $2 billion - to enable the country to meet its Kyoto obligations, even though the carbon is located within the private property of the forest owner.

“If this occurs, the value of the asset must be channelled back into the industry in a way which supports the realisation of future wood processing opportunities by securing international investment capital. Otherwise, the forest industry in New Zealand will be at a disadvantage with regard to its overseas competitors.

“Anything that reduces our ability to compete will limit our ability to provide jobs and contribute to the wealth and regional development of the country.”

He suggests that suitable re-investment of carbon credits could include better roading, assistance with overseas market development, investment in processing, the development of a bio-energy market in New Zealand and more funding for skills, innovation and technology development.

The briefing document for political parties has been jointly released by the NZ Forest Industries Council, NZ Forest Owners Association and NZ Farm Forestry Association.

[ends]

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