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Forest Owners highlight biosecurity risks

Forest Owners highlight biosecurity risks as good reason to keep forestry under MPI

The Forest Owners Association believes the government appears to have got the balance right in creating a separate Forestry New Zealand, but keeping it as part of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Clark says the need to have a large response capacity to counter a pest or disease incursion, is by itself a good justification for keeping forestry under the government’s wider primary industry umbrella.

“In just the past couple of years there’s been two types of eucalypt beetle, as well as myrtle rust, turning up from Australia. None of them appear at this stage to be a disaster for the plantation forest industry, but one day we’ll get a really bad pest or disease which turns up here that needs the whole resource of government to eliminate or control it. That resource is MPI.”

Peter Clark says market access is another critical part of maintaining the prosperity of all our primary export industries.

“MPI has expanded its presence into key trade diplomatic posts in the past few years. We need to have their specialist primary industry expertise on the ground in the markets to keep our forest product exports going, especially around highly technical phytosanitary rules and product specifications.”

MPI has addressed many forestry issues in the past few years, even without a dedicated forest section within it, according to Peter Clark.

“They certainly have been active. In particular, in finalising a National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry. They have done the big jobs of administering and reviewing the forestry aspects of the Emissions Trading Scheme, biosecurity surveillance and responses and assistance. MPI’s support was vital to ensure New Zealand pine was included in the Chinese Building Code review.”

Peter Clark says on the other hand, the announcement of the creation of a new Forestry New Zealand is a vital response to the increasing importance of the plantation forest sector to the national economy and the new Minister, Shane Jones’ aim to see a billion trees planted over ten years.

“To go with Forestry New Zealand, we now have a high profile and specific Forestry Minister. Before we only had an associate ministerial ranking in the primary industries portfolio, who sometimes was not even in the cabinet. This new status is certainly an improvement,” Peter Clark says.

“I know there could be a lot of devil in the detail of where the responsibilities are going to be divided between Forestry New Zealand and MPI and what it means when the government describes Forestry New Zealand as a ‘portfolio-based business unit’. But I anticipate we’ll be able to work through these details in association with the Minister.”

“We certainly anticipate the unfortunate drift of forest industry expertise out of MPI over the past few years will be reversed. We see a strong focus on appropriate forestry staffing within the Ministry and FNZ, some clear objectives and core purpose which we feel was lacking previously.”

“Strengthening a government presence in Rotorua also makes sense given that our CRI, Scion, is located there, and the important forestry training school at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology is there too. There are many forestry management and support companies in Rotorua, as well as Red Stag, the country’s largest sawmill. We also shouldn’t forget that Rotorua Lakes Council is the only local body in New Zealand to support the industry by adopting a wood-preference use policy.”

“FOA members look forward to working closely with Forestry New Zealand to help realise forestry’s potential for national GDP contribution, exports, employment and environmental outcomes, including helping New Zealand meet our Paris Agreement on Climate Change commitments. And all at the least cost to the taxpayer.”

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