Shonky log exporters in Jones’ sights
FORESTRY MINISTER SHANE JONES HAS SUGGESTED THE introduction of a licencing system for log traders to regulate the export trade.
Mr Jones told the ForestWood 2018 conference in Wellington last month that “if it’s good enough for real estate practitioners……and immigrations agents to be licenced why isn’t it good enough for a log trader to be licenced”?
He says that most of the problems associated with lack of log supply to sawmills in Northland “do not come from the big end of town, who realise that the industry needs sustainability and they support that”.
However, Mr Jones says he knows some people involved in the trade “do not give a s__t about what I say or think, but this is our business and we need to protect it”.
Mr Jones says that in order for the industry to be successful in New Zealand it needs to be confident that it has access to raw material supply. Just leaving it to market forces is not the answer as the “market is not that simplistic” and he claims that the market internationally has a lot of state support, which is a significant influencer.
He went on to deliver a message for overseas owners of forests in New Zealand, saying that his government does welcome investment in the sector and he went into bat for them to amend the changes made to the inclusion of forestry in the Overseas Investment Office rules “to protect the ability of foreign investors to come to New Zealand and invest in our forest sector”.
But he adds that they need “to ensure they leave enough raw material for New Zealand processors and manufacturers to be able to grow. If they do not do that they will not have a rosy future under our government. We do have an expectation that foreign investment will benefit New Zealand.”
He also gave more details about how he envisages the ‘billion tree’ planting project taking shape in the coming years and says that while his goal is to see the exotic estate double in size, native trees will also form an important part of the plan from both a cultural and social viewpoint.
“Yes, I know that native trees take longer to sequester carbon, but it represents an important part of our people’s culture,” Mr Jones says, adding that the recently announced funding of the Minginui native tree nursery is part of that process.
But he does stress that he is “an industry man” and wants to ensure that forestry maximises the opportunities that will be provided under the ‘billion tree’ programme, saying: “I want to advance this industry.”
He recognises there are roadblocks to achieving the planting of one billion trees within the stated ten-year timescale and among the most significant is attracting enough labour to physically put trees in the ground and then to have enough loggers to harvest those trees in the future.
Asked by a member of the audience if reinstating the old Woodsman Schools around the country to train more foresters for the expanded industry was on the agenda, Mr Jones says they are “part of the plan”.
He agrees the Woodsman Schools were a good idea and many of his cousins were trained there during the old Forest Service days and he says bringing them back is part of a strategy to “create a generation of young men and women” with the skills that forestry will need in the future.
Furthermore, the government will be offering scholarships to encourage and reward those who want to come into forestry, “and I will say to my iwi people if you meet me half way we will contribute and you contribute” to put more young Maori into paid employment.
Another challenge acknowledged by Mr Jones is enticing enough landowners to come forward and be part of the ‘billion tree’ planting programme.
“My team is going to be talking with a number of landowners around New Zealand who are growing sheep, beef and other types of animals to free up some of their land to work with us to put into forestry,” he says.
“I accept a key part is the government’s attitude towards carbon and the value of carbon and the efficiency of the carbon trading scheme. Every time I meet with our Climate Change Minister I promise you those matters are at the top our agenda.”
Mr Jones says the ‘billion tree’ strategy arose out of the new government’s concerns about climate change and the need for trees to soak up carbon, so this remains an important tool to meeting the country’s climate change oligations.
Forestry Minister, Shane Jones, outlines his visions for the industry at the ForestWood 2018 conference.