Tree policies aim to boost forestry

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:00 21/03/2014

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Fewer trees are being grown in the Manawatu/Rangitikei say farm foresters as Labour announces a policy to boost the forestry industry.

Woodville-based Murray's Nursery owner Patrick Murray said he grew only pinus radiata if trees were ordered and the number required was decreasing.

He said in the height of tree planting in the 1990s he grew about nine million young pine trees for companies and individuals.

"But now, I have only 3.8 million and most of them are replacement plantings, not new areas. That's in spite of the good price logs are making."

Labour leader David Cunliffe this week announced a suite of policies aimed at boosting the forestry and timber sectors.

These included tax breaks for wood processors, a pro-wood procurement policy to encourage the use of wood in new government buildings, joint forestry ventures with iwi and further protection of indigenous forests.

Mr Cunliffe told the Manawatu Standard the aim was to increase the amount of timber being processed in New Zealand, which would mean more jobs in the provinces.

Saw mills had closed or downsized across the country in recent years, including in Feilding and Foxton, as more and more logs were sent overseas unprocessed.

"We want more of that added value here," he said.

Tax credits on new machinery and on research and development would help to make the New Zealand timber industry more competitive.

Mr Murray said less than a million of his trees are for new plantings and a further 1.5 million go out of the southern North Island region to places such as Gisborne. As a pine tree takes 28 years to mature, he said the uncertainty of returns was a major factor for young people and some older investors.

Mr Murray said it was all about the money, rather than helping the planet.

"The effect of the Kyoto plan was that we saw net deforestation in New Zealand as people rushed to cut down trees. They thought Kyoto would cost them. It was meant to do something to help the environment, instead we saw trees cut down."

He said future pine plantings would rely on foreign investment, unless the carbon sequestering price went up and that encouraged local planting.

Middle Districts Farm Forestry chairman Denis Hocking said there were "bonanza returns" for trees.

"On the present market, forest owners are getting very good returns from forestry blocks, comfortably ahead of the targets."

He said forestry was best suited for low productivity pastoral land and the returns were well ahead of those achieved with sheep or beef. Afforestation was also the best way of reducing erosion and its downstream impacts.

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Additional reporting Mathew Grocott

- Manawatu Standard

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