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New forest player aims to give all growers a say

19 December 2012

New forest player aims to give all growers a say

Forest owners will vote in March on a plan that aims to give all commercial forest and woodlot owners a say in the future of their industry.

The Forest Voice referendum is being conducted by a new organisation, the Forest Growers Levy Trust, an incorporated society. It has the backing of the two established players in the sector, the Forest Owners Association and the Farm Forestry Association.

Trust chair Geoff Thompson says the plan aims to create a fairer, more cohesive and more profitable sector. The referendum will be held from 1-22 March 2013.

“Each owner of a qualified forest gets one vote that will be counted two ways, per head and by area of forest. A dual majority is needed for the referendum to succeed,” he says.

“If it is successful, all qualified growers can become members of the Trust. This will give them the right to have a say in industry forums and to vote for members of the Trust Board. They will also get plugged into industry information streams.

“Getting more forest owners involved in the sector is crucial for a whole host of reasons. There is a big increase in production coming forward that needs to be managed. Also we need many more forest owners to be involved in biosecurity in order to effectively protect our assets.”

The referendum is being conducted under the Commodity Levies Act. If it is successful, most products sold from a plantation will be levied at a rate of up to 30c/tonne on the volume harvested. The funds raised will be administered by the Trust and used to fund activities for the benefit of all forest owners.

The members of the Trust board are well-known in the sector: Geoff Thompson, Peter Berg, Hamish Levack, Paul Nicholls, Charles Schell and Steve Wilton.

Mr Thompson says that to vote in the referendum, forest growers must first register, even if they belong to an industry organisation. This is to ensure all growers, whether or not they have been involved in sector organisations in the past, have a fair say in shaping the industry’s future.

A qualified grower is the owner, or the representative of the owner, of a plantation forest or woodlot four hectares or more in area and 10 or more years old.

“The Trust wants everyone who is likely to be commercially harvesting logs in the six-year life of the levy to have the right to vote. Those who won’t be harvesting won’t be voting. The age restriction is an practical cut-off – trees younger than 10 years old won’t be commercially harvested in the next six years.”

Full details of the referendum proposal will be published on the Forest Voice website which will go live shortly. The Trust will also be continuing to consult with sector groups, including representatives of Maori forestry enterprises that are playing an increasingly important role in the sector.

The Trust will be undertaking an intense publicity campaign in the lead-up to the referendum. Registration for voting will open in early February. Voting will begin on 1 March.


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