FOREST GROWERS RESEARCH CONFERENCE
Today’s research is helping to shape the forestry industry of tomorrow and this year’s FGR conference in Tauranga showcased some very interesting studies.
A PLEA HAS GONE OUT FOR THE THOUSANDS OF SMALL plantation forest growers around New Zealand to support the levy that raises funds to help deliver much-needed research, support and promotion for the industry.
The levy, which currently stands at 27 cents per tonne of wood at harvest, was introduced in 2014 by a large majority and needs to go back to the growers next year to enable it to continue.
Large corporate forest owners and active members of the Farm Forestry Association have keenly supported the levy since it was introduced, but the trust that oversees how the money is raised and spent says it is important to maintain and build that support.
Geoff Thompson, Chairperson of the Forest Growers Levy Trust, says around 84% of growers who voted in the first ballot for the introduction of the levy supported it. But the numbers who voted was not large, with many growers of small forests not bothering to cast their vote. An estimated 16,000 small plantations are thought to be growing in New Zealand, many of them on farms and comprising less than 20 hectares. But the actual number is not known and many were probably unaware of the levy when it was introduced.
Since then, the Farm Forestry Association has been actively seeking out people who are growing plantation trees on their properties and it now says it has identified more than 14,000.
The next vote is scheduled to take place in April 2019 and the Trust has already begun a campaign to promote the importance of maintaining the levy and encouraging tree growers to get behind it.
A series of workshops is being held around the country over the next few weeks and a website has been set up to explain how the levy is collected and what the Trust spends the money on (www.fglt.org.nz).
Research takes the largest share expenditure and Mr Thompson told the 2018 Forest Growers Research conference in Tauranga last month that around half of the $42.6 million raised since the levy began goes to a variety of science projects, ranging from programmes to grow better trees, to projects that support improved environmental outcomes.
Biosecurity takes the next largest chunk of cash, as foresters work to help prevent the incursion of future diseases and manage those that already infect our forests, such as Red Needle Cast.
The conference was also told that without support from the levy, the Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC) would not have been established to help improve safe work practices – around 9.6% of the budget goes to health, safety and training.
Another significant spend is on promotions, which are seen as important in taking a positive view of forestry to the public and other target audiences. This includes production and broadcasting of the Forest Call series of programmes on FACE TV.
“Whatever we spend has to benefit all forests – small and large,” says Mr Thompson, adding that it is vitally important to get support from a wide majority of tree growers for the levy to continue.
Among areas targeted for increased expenditure, provided the levy continues, is training and education, which is seen as vital for attracting new blood into the industry, as well as improving safety.
David Rhodes, CEO of the Levy Trust, told the conference that research has shown a “broad groundswell” of support for the levy to continue, but warned the industry not to be complacent and says it needs to earn that support.
He outlined changes and improvements being considered that will ensure the levy benefits as many forest growers as possible in the future, including establishing a body within the trust to better look after the needs of medium-sized forest owners, as well as those at either end of the scale.