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MAF releases annual snapshot of plantation forests

18 April 2006

MAF releases annual snapshot of plantation forests

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s just released annual forest description report shows for the first time there has been a slight drop in the country’s planted forest area.

The National Exotic Forest Description (NEFD) database report is produced in partnership with the New Zealand Forest Owners’ Association and the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association.

This forest industry/Government partnership has been in place since the 1980s and has been extremely effective in ensuring a national forest database has been maintained during a period of unprecedented forest ownership changes.

Its information is compiled from a survey of forest owners and consultants who own or manage planted production forests. For the first time, the report records a small decrease in New Zealand’s planted forest area. The report shows radiata pine is the dominant species, making up 89 percent of the planted forest area, with Douglas-fir the next most common species, making up six percent. The balance comprises other softwood and hardwood species.

Also a first, the report this year includes information on cypress and eucalyptus species.

MAF Principal Adviser, Paul Lane says this year’s NEFD quantifies a relatively new trend of not replanting all forest after harvesting. At the time of the report survey, some seven thousand hectares of harvested forest land was not going to be replanted in the year to March 2005. Most of this ‘deforestation’ occurred in the Central North Island and Canterbury, mostly converted to pasture.

“New Zealand has always had a relatively dynamic landscape, so changes in land use are not unusual,” says Paul Lane. However, historically little plantation forest land has been converted to pasture. The 7,000 ha of deforestation represents about 18 percent of the forest area harvested in the year ended March 2005.

Harvest volumes declined from a high of 23 million cubic metres in the year ended March 2003 to 18.3 million cubic metres (year ended March 2005).

However Mr Lane says with the recent fall in the New Zealand dollar it is expected that forest harvesting will begin to rise again.

“While this is not yet reflected in the statistics, industry sources and media reports indicate the increased harvesting has already begun,” Mr Lane says.

MAF forecasts indicate harvesting could increase up to a sustainable yield of around 27 million cubic metres by 2010. The rate of increase will be driven by economic and international market conditions, but may be somewhat constrained by labour availability and a lack of capital investment in forestry infrastructure and wood processing capacity.

ENDS

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