21 March 2017
A report on the plantation forest industry has highlighted its value to national and regional economies, as well as forestry's beneficial effect on New Zealand's ecology. The NZIER Report was commissioned by the New Zealand Forest Owners Association and Farm Forestry Association.
The Report has found the forestry and logging sector is worth $1.4 billion to the national GDP, making a substantially larger contribution to GDP than either the sheepmeat or beef sectors. Forestry is hugely important for many provincial economies, such as Gisborne - Tairawhiti, where it contributes nearly 5.5 per cent of the region's GDP.
The Chair of the Forest Owners Association Peter Clark says the public has underestimated the forest sector's role and importance.
"Knowledge of our sector has generally gone under the radar. This report will redress some of the lack of understanding. Our sector is growing faster than horticulture.""For the first time since 1882 if old records are accurate, the value of our forest product exports is now exceeding the total value of red meat exports. That represents a sea change in our primary export mix."
"The Report details that our production has gone from 10 million cubic metres of timber in 1989, to 28.7 million cubic metres last year," Peter Clark says.
MPI forecasts New Zealand forest product export returns to reach $6.15 billion by 2020, from the current $5.14 billion in 2016, with increasing returns from sawn timber, wood panels, pulp and paper all contributing.
But NZIER says the fact that the very significant environmental contribution of forestry is not usually factored into its economic value, is a constraint on the industry. NZIER suggests that the lack of a ministry or department dedicated to forestry is a constraint on the industry. NZIER also recommends the establishment of a satellite account to reflect the growing importance of this sector. Satellite accounts extend existing information on industries to include social and environmental values.
"..a satellite account either connected to the tourism satellite account or as a stand-alone satellite account would assist in reflecting forestry's wider benefit to New Zealand", NZIER says. The Report cites a Bay of Plenty 2014 study into ecosystems services (for example; carbon storage, erosion control, water quality, biodiversity and recreation) which, if generalised across New Zealand, would provide $9.6 billion of ecological and social value from plantation forestry to New Zealand every year.
"At the moment" Peter Clark says "everyone, including NZIER, is making assumptions based on some studies in some regions. We really do need much better information on the national environmental and social benefits of forestry, even if there's reasonably good information on carbon capture for instance."
"The government's Biodiversity Action Plan 2016 - 2020 set 2017 as the target date to 'investigate the need and potential to produce New Zealand environmental-economic accounts'," Peter Clark says. "So in implementing this undertaking, we'd love to see the government put the environmental ruler across our forest sector."
The FOA, along with the NZ Farm Forestry Association, is launching the NZIER Report in Rotorua tonight (Tue 21st March eds). The 21st of March is the International Day of Forests. Peter Clark says the International Day of Forests is a useful prompt to remind New Zealanders of the role forests play globally.
"Forests are a renewable resource. Not only is timber a prime source of construction material worldwide, but forests produce more renewable energy than any of solar, hydroelectric or wind power.
For further information, contact Peter Clark, ph 021 726 197.