More trees optimistic but achievable

26 October 2017

Forest owners say they are looking forward to working with the new Minister of Forests Shane Jones to meet what forest owners call a huge challenge to double the annual forest planting rate.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Clark says the new government’s target of an additional 50,000 hectares of planting a year is ‘optimistic but achievable’.

“For most of the 1990s, the new planting rate was more than 50,000 hectares a year. In 1994 it was 100,000 hectares beyond keeping up with replanting.”

“We’ve been talking with Shane Jones about what can and can’t be achieved and he is in no doubt about some of the difficulties of getting more plantings going after more than a decade of no growth.”

“In particular we do need to build the labour force to do the planting.  At the moment we are struggling to plant enough trees to maintain the present area.  We hope that Shane Jones being Minister of Regional Development will help in that respect.”

Peter Clark says the idea of a separate Forest Service sounds like a good idea. 

“We don’t know what functions it will have, so we have to wait for that.  But with forestry under the Ministry of Primary Industries we weren’t getting the attention an industry should get when it earns six billion dollars a year in exports.”

“The forest sector won’t be completely disconnected from MPI though.  As well as agriculture, Damien O’Connor has a biosecurity portfolio, and that is a huge priority right across the primary sector,” Peter Clark says.

“There are a number of pests and diseases which we don’t have, but which would have a huge impact right across agriculture and forestry if they ever got into New Zealand.”

Peter Clark says James Shaw taking on the role of the Minister of Climate Change is significant.

“As Green Party leader, his influence will keep the government focus on doing something practical about climate change.  The only practical solution is planting more trees.  That’s the only currently available technology to significantly pull down our level of carbon emissions.”

Peter Clark believes the just announced partial introduction of agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme will also give a boost to forest planting on farms.

“The initial major planting will be on Crown and Māori land.  But if the government gives farmers an option of growing trees to absorb carbon and offset the greenhouse gas emissions from their stock, then I’m sure we’ll see farmers planting out woodlots with a view to getting a return on eventually harvesting those trees.”

Peter Clark  021 726 197