Opening Taranaki Conference

  • David Carter
Associate Minister of Forestry

New Zealand Farm Forestry Association

Good evening president John Prebble and chief executive Ket Bradshaw, other invited speakers, both New Zealanders and overseas visitors, who have travelled from far and wide, and to the members who have journeyed to New Plymouth to attend this, the 1999 New Zealand Farm Forestry Association Conference.

It is with real pleasure that I am in New Plymouth tonight to open your conference.

As a farmer with 80 hectares of trees, I have always had a particular interest in the forestry sector.

Now as the Associate Minister of Food and Fibre, responsible for forestry, I have enjoyed getting to know the forestry industry better over the last few months.

I have journeyed around a diverse number of operations from our State Owned Enterprise, Timberlands on the West Coast, to an innovative, small-scale sustainable forest in Canterbury, ... to major forests and foreign- owned ventures in Nelson.

From what I have seen on these visits, the forestry industry is very much alive and well, despite the significant challenges thrown up by Asia's financial crisis.

The past 18 months have been difficult for the forestry sector - as well as those contractors and service industries reliant on the sector.

The drop in demand has reduced your ability to use forest assets to offset the effect of the overall decline in agricultural commodity prices.

It's fair to say that the past 18 months have been a wake-up call for farmers, foresters and farm-foresters.

Dependence on commodity prices is a rollercoaster-ride strategy as we have discovered.

But despite recent international turbulence, there have been some excellent results in forestry.

I am confident that the long term prospects for forestry remain very positive. My optimism is based upon an expected increasing demand for timber products driven by population growth, increasing per capital consumption, and possible moves away from energy-intensive building products such as steel, towards renewable products such as wood.

At the same time, the international supply of timber is becoming constricted due mainly to environmental concerns over the decrease of our natural forests.

Recent statistics demonstrate clearly that forestry is now a major contributor to export earnings.

And the future forecasts for the industry are also positive.

By the year 2002, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimates forestry exports will have increased to $3.61 billion a year.

The New Zealand Forest Industries Council has also set high targets for your industry.

In their "Vision 2025" strategy for the forestry sector, the Council has growth targets of forestry contributing more than 14 percent to New Zealand's GDP, and a staggering $14 billion in exports.

That's barely 25 years away.

These foresters are in no doubt that they want to be New Zealand's leading export earners, and I have nothing but faith in their ability to get there.

If you look at our meat and wool earnings currently, there have been quite significant shifts in the relationship between these key players, and where forestry fits into the scene.

Most notable in the agricultural sector has been the replacement by dairy over meat as New Zealand's leading contributor to exports.

As late as 1992 meat exports were in fact greater than dairy.

Since than there has been a dramatic change with dairy contributing $4.15 billion in exports in 1997, compared to meat at $2.75 billion in the same year.

You can see clearly that forestry is not far behind, and it is not idle speculation to imagine that one day the forestry industry may overtake dairy and meat in the export earnings bracket.

The efforts of organisations like Wood New Zealand reinforce your marketing goals, and your industry provides an excellent example of the success primary producers can have without relying on a monopoly producer board.

So to the farm forester - what will your role be in the future of the forestry industry? The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, I am told, is the only organisation for small private forest owners in New Zealand.

As a large area of New Zealand's private forests is owned by your members and reasonably large wood flows are forecast from this estate in the future, you are becoming increasingly important players in the forestry sector.

Small forest owners have dominated the boom in new forest plantings since 1993, and you have the most diverse and intensively managed forests in New Zealand.

More significantly, you are leaders in the development of ecologically and economically sustainable land use in New Zealand.

Much of our hill country needs more tree planting.

Whether to combat erosion, improve local soils and eco-systems or to provide economic sustainability, planting trees has significantly improved the quality of our hill country.

But more work still is needed.

Many of the farming properties that provide the best examples of well integrated land use are owned by members of your organisation.

These properties employ trees for soil conservation, shelter, amenity values and bird habitats, as well as for wood production. They balance their allocation of planted areas with pastoral or other farming land uses.

It's fair to say your members are prime examples of one of the Government's policy objectives, which is to promote sustainable land -use.

Your conference programme over the next few days highlights your keen interest in sustainable land-use issues.

Keep it up. You are leaders in this field and the issues you raise here are issues that should concern each and every one of us making a living off the land in New Zealand.

So, in conclusion I'd like to wish you well in your programme over the next four days.

Thank you once again for inviting me here today. I'd now like to officially declare the 1999 New Zealand Farm Forestry Association conference open.

Thank you.

It now gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of this year's MAF Award for Sustainable Farm Forestry.

This couple outshone the competition this year in the farm forestry field with their innovation and sustainable land use practices in the forestry sector.

The couple I am describing have used their trees to help achieve well-integrated and robust land use.

They have willingly communicated the knowledge they have gained with others, their environmental practices are top-class and they have good tree management and sound long term planning objectives.

It is my pleasure to be describing the farm management practices of Nick and Pat Seymour from Whangara, north of Gisborne.

Nick Seymour took over the management of the 810 hectare family farm, Wensleydale Station, in the mid 1960s.

In the mid-1970s, production forestry plantings began on the farm, and a shift into agro-forestry wider spaced plantings was made in the mid-1980s.

Wensleydale now has ten radiata woodlots and agro-forestry areas planted between 1976 and 1992, that total around 30 hectares.

In addition, combined soil conservation and production planting under the East Coast Scheme began in 1992.

This forest area covers 140 hectares of the most erosion-prone land on Wensleydale, and the area has now been retired from farming.

Conservation areas for native bush have also been set aside on Wensleydale, including 30 hectares of puriri and kohekohe. These areas have been registered under the Queen Elizabeth 2 National Trust scheme.

Nick and Pat Seymour have made good use of professional advice and conservation assistance.

They have developed an outstanding example of well-balanced farm forestry land use, with both economic and ecological benefits.

As well as their farm achievements, the couple have tirelessly contributed to their community, helping run the local branch of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, supporting the East Coast Forestry Scheme and the East Coast Conservation Board, amongst a myriad of other commitments.

The Seymours are very worthy recipients of the 1999 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Award for Innovation in Sustainable Farm Forestry and it gives me great pleasure to hand over this magnificent plaque and a $2000 cheque to the winning couple tonight.

Congratulations Nick and Pat Seymour. You are fine examples for the rest of your industry.