Government report highlights forestry potential

8 Sep 2003

New Zealand's traditional export industries will achieve their growth potential, but only if the government adopts the right policies, say forest owners.

"The MAF report on the Contribution of Land Based Primary Industries to New Zealand's' Economic Growth is an overdue but timely reminder of the continuing overwhelming importance of the primary sector to New Zealand's economic and job growth," said NZFOA executive director Rob McLagan.

"In spite of all the hype surrounding 'new wave' industries, the primary industries remain the country's best hope to lift New Zealand back to the top half of the OECD.

"A small percentage increase in the export earnings from agriculture and forestry will provide far more export dollars than a large increase in other sectors.

"Forestry wants to do its part and realise its goal of becoming New Zealand's top export earner and a new-technology sunrise industry."

Mr McLagan said the report serves as a reality check. It demonstrates clearly that the primary sector provides the best basis for growth in innovative and new biotechnology industries.

"But it is also useful in drawing attention to the policy areas which need to be addressed if New Zealand is to take full advantage of the potential for substantial growth in our traditional exports," he said.

"The report highlights a number of important issues holding back growth in the forest sector. These include a shortage of labour and skills, inadequate roading infrastructure and the negative aspects of the Resource Management Act.

"A close analysis of the report, however, shows that New Zealand is fortunate to have 1.8 million hectares of trees already available to turn into fibre-based products to satisfy expanding market opportunities," he said.

"The New Zealand forest sector needs to be seen as a massive factory producing vast quantities of high quality, renewable and environmentally sustainable raw fibre which can be converted into a vast range of consumer products.

"Forestry was once production-driven. Now it is moving quickly, though as the report observes, not quickly enough, to provide innovative solutions to global customer needs.

"The domestic structural issues noted in the report are capable of being overcome by sensible policy actions in New Zealand.

"As the report notes, in our favour we have the Wood Processing Strategy, a unique partnership between the government and industry. This also provides an important forum for resolving the policy issues which stand in the way of the industry realising its huge potential."