A new era for forestry
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 . . . "