Rebuilding forestry in New Zealand


Re-establishing the New Zealand Forestry Service is a noble move. As one of the larger primary industries in New Zealand, having a purpose built agency to maintain our forests in a sustainable manner is a no brainer. With a plan to plant 1 billion trees over the next several years, the likes of Carter Holt Harvey and other major companies with an interest in timber need to be on board.

Perhaps also the Forestry service can stop more events like the recent flood in Tolaga Bay, Gisborne where clear felling in a plantation left a slope overly exposed. The slope then failed disastrously during prolonged heavy rain and swept mud, floodwaters and timber debris through several properties. Could a forestry agency with oversight have foreseen the danger and taken steps to mitigate it? Quite possibly.

There are not only potential economic gains to be had, but also biological gains. Plantation forestry has been found to support a wide range of biodiversity on its floor. This has been found in the Kaingaroa Plantation on the volcanic plateau of the central North Island where pumiceous soils readily support pinus radiata.

In terms of climate change, whilst the pledge to plant 1 billion trees is very welcome, little has been revealed about how, when and where this is going to happen. Who is going to fund it; do the work; source the appropriate trees. So, I have come up with a solution:

  1. Give prisoners at Rangipo and other rural prisons something to do by getting them to plant the trees – in return this may contribute towards rewards such as extra visits; more R&R time inside the prison grounds and so forth
  2. Buy back land that is too damaged or unstable as a result of hydrothermal activity, or man made activity to be built or developed on and stabilize it with some sort of plantation
  3. Talk to Iwi about possibly allowing them to have buy-in into the forestry
  4. If economically permissible build a railway line to somewhere like Kawerau to get the logs onto rail and sent straight to the Port of Tauranga
  5. Examine whether restoration of native forest can lead to a minor scale logging operation, acknowledging the value of our Totara, Kauri, Rimu and Rata

At least one of these plantations should be a large carbon sink to soak up as much of New Zealand’s carbon based gas emission as possible. Whilst carbon emission trading schemes have constantly run into political or economic problems, perhaps that is more because the politicians and economists are not looking at the larger picture – politicians primary jobs are to represent their constituents and get the best deal possible for them (and of course get re-elected); economists as their titles suggest are better trained to look at the picture from the perspective of how it will affect a country’s economic performance.

Whilst one might say, that is where environmentalists step in, and it is, again, they are advocates. I guess one could say the same for the planners caught in the cross fire, but planners have to look at the overall picture and weigh up the differing arguments. In this case, is a National Policy Statement or other planning instrument on Forestry needed? I think so. No such instrument specific to forestry exists at the moment and having one would enable regional councils to give direction on how they envisage related.

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