A new era for forestry

The Northland Age - - Opinion - Hon Shane Jones MP

Af­ter my time as

Pa­cific Eco­nomic Am­bas­sador, and all the in­ter­na­tional travel that such a role de­manded, it came as some­thing of a re­lief to find my­self with a largely do­mes­ti­cal­ly­fo­cused set of port­fo­lios upon re­ceiv­ing my war­rants last year.

These days I am more likely to find my­self in Strat­ford than Suva when trav­el­ling for work, but while my po­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion is now strongly re­gional, there’s also a strong eco­nomic theme to my role in the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment. As a small coun­try, our econ­omy is for­ever in­ter­twined with the for­tunes of the rest of the world — which means that those of us given the re­spon­si­bil­ity for main­tain­ing New Zealand’s eco­nomic pros­per­ity can never turn our backs on coun­tries off­shore.

One of the most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments I have made as Forestry Min­is­ter is the new Prim­rose Path for di­rect for­eign in­vest­ment in forestry within the newly amended Over­seas In­vest­ment Act, which will come into ef­fect late this month. This will en­sure we at­tract the sort of high-qual­ity in­vest­ment that is needed if we are to meet the One Bil­lion Trees tar­get and al­low the in­dus­try to reach its full po­ten­tial.

It was with that in mind that I made my way to Ja­pan and China just over two weeks ago. Nearly half of our to­tal forestry ex­ports go to China, and Ja­pan is one of the largest in­vestors in our forestry in­dus­try, with Ja­panese-owned man­u­fac­tur­ers re­spon­si­ble for around 40 per cent of the to­tal wood pro­cessed in New Zealand in 2017. Su­mit­omo, which owns con­sid­er­able forestry as­sets in North­land, may be fa­mil­iar to some read­ers.

I had the priv­i­lege of en­gag­ing with forestry rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors of each coun­try, deep­en­ing the ties of eco­nomic co-op­er­a­tion that suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have built up.

This sort of en­gage­ment is im­por­tant, be­cause we have en­tered a pe­riod of what I hope will be con­sid­er­able change as to how the forestry in­dus­try works in New Zealand, and it is es­sen­tial that we take the in­dus­try with us on this jour­ney.

I am happy to re­port there was gen­eral agree­ment that the high wa­ter mark of mass raw log ex­ports had been reached, and the ex­pec­ta­tion now was that as much pro­cess­ing as pos­si­ble would be done on­shore. This, of course, ben­e­fits our econ­omy and our peo­ple. I’m also con­fi­dent that I was able to con­vey a sense of cer­tainty around the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tions and se­cure con­tin­ued in­vest­ment from these two im­por­tant part­ners. The forestry in­dus­try in New Zealand knows the Gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous about im­prov­ing its for­tunes, and plant­ing one bil­lion trees — and knows it has as much to gain from this vi­sion as our peo­ple do.

"The forestry in­dus­try in New Zealand knows the Gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous about im­prov­ing its for­tunes . . . "

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