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Leisure Value of Forests Builds on Economic Performance

MEDIA RELEASE
FRIDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2011

Leisure Value of Forests Builds on Economic Performance

A new forestry study has highlighted the importance of New Zealand’s plantation forests for recreational purposes.

Day by day, week by week, thousands of mountain bikers and walkers already make the most of the country’s forests for outdoor adventure. But this added value to our downtime has never been assessed in monetary terms.

Now, the recreational assets of Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua have been calculated at five times the forest’s annual timber revenue – for mountain biking alone.

This result is consistent with other similar studies in the developed world showing that non-market values are higher than tangible forests products such as logs, wood and pulp.

The findings come from a study by Crown Research Institute Scion based on a survey of 709 forest users. The study provides an economic measure of the community good that forests provide – free of charge - compared with the value of the forest for timber.

Researchers employed an economic valuation tool called ‘travel cost method’ to calculate the forest’s annual recreational value in simple terms by multiplying the estimated average value per visit by the number of visits each year.

The formula shows that Whakarewarewa Forest has a median recreational value of $5.2 million for walking and $10.2 million for mountain biking per year.

Jane Arnott, chief executive of NZ Wood, says New Zealand forests currently add $4.6 billion to export revenues, but just as importantly at the ground level, they provide superb facilities for recreational joys – often at no extra charge to the user.

“Without plantation forests and their helpful owners and managers many New Zealanders would have to go without their recreational hobby of choice, from mountain biking to horse riding or walking,” she said.

“Forests provide a sheltered, robust environment that’s ideal for year-round family adventure.

“And what’s really great about our plantation forests is that while the majority are owned offshore, and represent multi-million dollar pension funds, absolutely everyone can enjoy them,” Ms Arnott said.

In New Zealand, 26.2 million days are spent on recreation each year, with forest activities accounting for a major proportion.
Of those, mountain biking is growing fast.
According to Statistics NZ, there has been a 93 per cent increase in the number of bikes imported, compared with 10 years ago. And the number of cyclists grew by 81 per cent between 2000 and 2008.
New Zealand forests contain some of the ‘world’s most outstanding’ bike tracks, according to Bike New Zealand, and seen by the masses of riders heading for well-worn tracks every weekend at Auckland’s Woodhill Forest, Whakarewarewa Forest, or Eskdale Mountain Bike Park in Napier.
This trend is likely to continue with the total number of forest visitors expected to climb one per cent per year to 2014.

This research shows that forests are even more of an investment into the future with the potential to provide significant recreational value on top of their timber value.

The benefits of these resources can only continue to grow.

ENDS

Reference: Non-timber Values from Planted Forests: Recreation in Whakarewarewa Forest;
James A. Turner, Bhubaneswor Dhakal, Richard Yao, Tim Barnard and Colin Maunder
NZ JOURNAL OF FORESTRY, February 2011 Vol. 55 No. 4

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