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Ministers Ignore Forestry as a Career

OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTERS OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND EDUCATION

Dear Ministers Parata and Guy,

MINISTERS IGNORE FORESTRY AS A CAREER

I am saddened by your 9th May media release EPIC challenge promotes careers in primary industries, in which you omit any mention of forestry. Forests and forestry are major contributors to New Zealand’s environment, economy and society. The cleanest water in New Zealand is flowing through healthy forests, which also do much to protect our fragile hill country soils from erosion, forests are home to many of our iconic bird and plant species. Forests provide major recreational opportunities whether it be mountain biking, horse riding, tramping, hunting or just looking at the scenery. The forest industry delivers wood for our houses, paper for our newspapers and is our third largest export earner.

The public image of forestry is probably the highly visible log trucks and the safety aspect of harvesting trees. These jobs are of vital importance to forestry and require skilled, experienced and safety conscious workers. But forestry requires many other skills and offers huge opportunities to school leavers.

I have been privileged to have spent the last 50 years as a forestry professional, the last six as President of the professional body, the NZ Institute of Forestry, an association that has been active since its founding in 1927 and does much to promote the wide range of activities that make up forestry. It is disappointing, in the month that I step down from that position, to find that we have still not persuaded Ministers and officials of the significance of forests and forestry to New Zealand and of the breadth of opportunities they offer to school leavers.

I use aspects of my own career as an example. At primary school I entered a project on the manufacture of multi-wall paper bags at the then NZ Forest Products plant at Kinleith a competition with. The company still manufactures about 1 million such bags each year and the bags and other packaging made from wood fibre is used for the export of milk powder, many of our horticulture products and other exports. The value of this packaging (possibly as much as 8-9% of the selling price) does not show up as a forest product export because it is included in the statistics for the product inside the packaging.

As a school leaver I became forester trainee in the since disestablished government department known as the NZ Forest Service. Over the next few years I qualified with a degree in science (botany, zoology, chemistry and geology). I also gained field experience including a survey in the Hokitika catchment assessing vegetation condition as part of animal control operations. I worked in nurseries, planted, pruned and felled trees. I watched logs from the forest I was in being peeled to make veneers and plywood in an Auckland factory, I saw logs being turned into sawn timber to be used in houses for New Zealanders and I saw wood pulp being made into the newsprint that provided the daily newspapers for thousands of New Zealanders.

For a forestry degree I had to study such diverse topics as forest botany, economics, meteorology, surveying, engineering (road and bridge design), soil science, ecology, forest measurement and more.

My career has included general forest management, research, (when I also gained a post graduate degree in an aspect of measuring and predicting forest growth), establishing a computer network (primitive by today’s standards, but quite advanced at the time), valuing and selling forests, Treaty of Waitangi settlements; but always a forestry career

Management of forests, both conservation and commercial, forestry operations, forest processing, research, education, government policy and regulations, and related tasks offer many and varied opportunities and require a broad range of skills and experience. We need forest management skills, recreation, tourism, forest protection, watershed management, tree breeding and genetics, microbiology, biosecurity, chemistry, soil science, economics, valuation, meteorology, fire management, entomology and more. On the processing side there are new developments in bioplastics, bioenergy and engineered wood. We need engineers to develop and test equipment to harvest trees more efficiently and safely. There are opportunities in new and developing technologies.

One of the biggest threats to humanity that the world is facing is climate change. Forests play a significant role in extracting and storing atmospheric carbon, which continues to be stored in the forest products used for our buildings, our paper and other products. Forest bioenergy reduces our dependence on fossil fuels

My plea to you as Ministers and to your officials is to appreciate and promote the importance of forests and forestry to the New Zealand environment, economy and society and to encourage school pupils and leavers to understand the diverse, exciting and challenging career opportunities that they provide.

I have certainly never regretted the career choice I made more than 50 years ago, but I am disappointed that you have chosen to ignore the many thousands of New Zealanders who have dedicated their carees to the management and use of forests for the benefit of their fellow New Zealanders

Andrew McEwen

Registered Forester

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