Time to get real about forestry
Last year I commented on the high returns from current harvesting, however I don’t believe this is being translated into significant interest in new planting, certainly not at the rate of the governments aspirational target of 50,000ha per year. The Crown Forestry action is clearly around doing deals to secure land for leasing and other deal makers, like Toitu Te Waonui, and various forestry consultants, are doing the same, good on them.
But this doesn’t really raise the general awareness of the forestry business opportunity for land owners and investors. The challenge is how to create a pipe line of prospects who are considering land use change. The target group must be the approximately 25,000 drystock farmers in New Zealand, owning 9.5m hectares. The timeline is also important, seedlings for next winter are already booked, but the deadline for orders to secure plants for the following winter (2019) needs to be placed with nurseries by Oct-Nov 2018.
So, there are only 9 months to ramp up the planting rate for 2019, and about 18 months to increase that in 2020, then comes the election. A government based, salaried extension officer service, is unlikely to scale up to meet these targets. While government incentives to plant trees will help, a new broad scale initiative that raises the profile of the opportunity with timber and carbon is urgently needed. This is perhaps more than extension in the traditional sense, this time round forestry advice needs to be professional and focused around economics and business opportunities. Many forests in the past were poorly sited and will not make much money.
There are 88 registered NZ forestry consultants, most available to provide professional extension, but need funding. There are about the same number of top level successful farm foresters, they have given years of free advice, but need support to meet this challenge. There are existing agricultural networks (e.g. Beef & Lamb NZ extension service and field days) that can be collaborated with. We don’t have to reinvent this, let’s join the dots, we need a little more of the kiwi attitude of “let’s just get on and do it with what we have”.
Graham West is a registered forestry consultant and farm forester (read Graham’s profile)
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