Speech: Opening of the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission

  • Jo Goodhew
Primary Industries

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Rotorua Mayor Hon Steve Chadwick, FAO Assistant Director-General Mr Konuma, FAO Director of the Forest Economics Policy and Products Ms Eva Muller, Scion CEO Warren Parker and chair Mr. Su Chunyu.

Distinguished delegates and guests, industry and iwi leaders, local dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you overseas guests to New Zealand, and all of you to you all here to Rotorua, the heart of New Zealand’s forestry and wood products sector. 

A more appropriate location for this meeting would be hard to imagine.

This vibrant region of New Zealand is home to a third of the commercial planted forests in New Zealand – and around two thirds of our forestry processing capacity. 

New Zealand forestry has another enduring association with the city of Rotorua.

It was here that the Forest Research Institute was established, in 1947, to coordinate all scientific research for the then State Forest Service.

The Rotorua-based Forest Research Institute, which is now known as Scion, has gone on to become an internationally recognised leader in plantation forestry science.

It is a particular honour for New Zealand to be invited to host this 25th ‘Silver Anniversary’ session of the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission.

The commission has gone on to become the largest inter-governmental body dealing with forestry issues and challenges in this part of the world. 

Since its establishment in1950, the APFC has almost trebled its membership, from 12 countries to 33.

It has been a while since the APFC last convened in Rotorua – the seventh session was held here back in 1964.

After a gap of almost 50 years, New Zealand is delighted to welcome the Commission back to our shores.

Here in 2013, our forestry sector is ready to share with APFC member countries its proven expertise in managing and researching planted forests.

We welcome the opportunity to contribute our specialist knowledge in such areas as the effects of logging bans in native forests, forestry administration at the national level, and development of planted forests. 

The APFC also provides a lasting and valued link to New Zealand’s broader work with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

The programme for this 25th gathering looks both interesting and comprehensive.

I was particularly interested to note that the subject of integrating gender perspectives into national forest policywas addressed at one of your eight pre-session workshops.

Speaking in my other capacity as New Zealand’s Minister of Women’s’ Affairs, I am especially pleased to see these important and timely issues being raised in a forum like this.

The session on the Sustainable Forest Management toolbox also looks useful – and is another area where New Zealand can provide a wealth of knowledge.

There are strong links here with the overarching session theme: Forests for Prosperity.

New Zealand’s forestry sector enjoys a long and distinguished history, dating back to the mid 19th century era of European settlement.

Forestry continues to be an important contributor to the 21st century export economy.

The sector is a key player in our flourishing primary industries.

As our third largest exporter, forestry provides $4.3 billion in annual exports.

In the year to June, the sector experienced record log exports, chiefly due to strong demand from China.

Making up three per cent of GDP, forestry directly provides 18,000 valuable jobs, particularly in rural and provincial areas.

As a Government, we believe that number could - and should – continue to grow.

In recent years, we have set out a goal of increasing the value of exports from all sectors to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025.

This ambitious goal is an important part of current activity to build a more productive and competitive economy. 

This Government is working to provide the appropriate environment for its primary industries.

We’re doing this in a range of ways, such as negotiating and securing free trade agreements.

Our role also includes reducing barriers to export markets, providing funding for research and innovation, and recognising and encouraging sustainable practices. 

At the same time we are strongly aware of our food production systems, our quality produce.

We are committed to resource management and maintaining and improving our critical biosecurity system, and our natural environment.

Our overall aim is to minimise risks to the primary sector.

We also want to ensure that our primary industries can generate income for New Zealand while mindful that good stewardship of the environment is also critical.

Increasingly, today’s forestry sector is being challenged to increase the value of its exports.

As a country, New Zealand has highly competitive and efficient primary production systems.

The bulk of our exports, however, are raw biological products, or ingredients.

Log exports are an obvious example.

As far as volume is concerned, New Zealand is well positioned to keep increasing export returns from log exports.

Wood availability is increasing with the annual wood harvest having recently passed 27 million cubic metres per annum.

That figure is expected to rise over the next decade to some 35 million cubic metres.

There are many opportunities to increase the value of exports, especially through greater wood processing.

The industry-wide body that represents the forestry and wood processing sectors agrees.

This influential body is the Wood Council of New Zealand, or Woodco for short.

In 2012, Woodco launched an action plan for the New Zealand forest and wood processing industry.

Included in the plan is a goal of more than doubling the value of forestry exports by 2022.

Importantly, it also lays out a range of useful and practical pathways for ensuring the sector reaches its 2022 goal. 

It underlines the vital role, both of increased local processing and a higher proportion of value-add products.

While it looks out over the decade ahead, the Woodco plan emphasises that work needs to start now.

It urges the forestry sector to focus on four areas:

  1. Expanding high-value wood processing and manufacture,
  2. Developing new products and creating new markets,
  3. Connecting with the needs of consumers,
  4. And, commercialising research.

The Woodco plan places considerable emphasis on collaborative effort.

It argues that success will only be achieved if the industry pulls together, right across the value chain. 

The industry is urged to engage with outside partners - to get new ideas flowing and to bring in new perspectives.

As part of this activity, Woodco explored the opportunities and challenges of profitably processing more logs locally.

Using a modelling tool known as WoodScape, a total of 39 existing and emerging wood processing technologies were analysed.

This also looked at the impacts of scale, input costs and exchange rates.

The aim was to give industry a clearer understanding of the opportunities and investment risks associated with each of these technologies.

The WoodScape model is available through Scion for use by wood processors, potential investors and others.

We are confident this activity will result in more site-specific analysis to complement the generic results of the current study.

The Woodscape model provides for the ongoing analysis of emerging technologies.

Existing sawmills now have the opportunity use the model to analyses options for adopting new processes or technologies.

Woodscape has also set out the potential for regional wood-processing options such as co-locating, or clustering, processing plants.

Overall, thanks to this valuable strategic activity, the industry now has a far better understanding of the practical economics of wood processing.

I believe we are already seeing more informed discussion and debate about the future shape, direction and priorities of the industry.

As I said, high-value wood processing and manufacturing, and new product development are important aspects of the Woodco plan. 

Engineered timber products like laminated veneer lumber and cross-laminated timber have potential to add enormous value to New Zealand’s forest resource. 

The WoodScape analysis showed that engineered timber products showed solid returns on investment above 10 per cent and had potential to add value to logs for forest owners.

Engineered timber products have a lot to offer.

Environmental sustainability, uniform strength, light weight, and the ability to perform well in seismically-active areas are among them. 

One of my long term goals as Associate Minister for Primary Industries is to encourage the use of engineered timber in multi-storey commercial and residential buildings. 

To make this happen, we need to start thinking about how best to create market demand, while at the same time ensuring security of supply.

Before increasing exports, however, New Zealand must first build a viable industry at home.

There are many great local examples of buildings constructed from engineered timber products.

The new Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology building is a good example.

What we have here is a world-beating example of the use of seismically-resilient construction technology. 

Severe earthquakes across the country in recent years make this particularly topical.

The major rebuild of Christchurch is seeing some innovative examples of engineered timber, but more are needed.

As a Government, we are prepared to look at new ways to help promote greater use of these emerging and innovative technologies.

We actively encourage our forestry sector to invest and add value to their products and forests.

Unless they do, we see a real risk that its competitiveness relative to other land uses will decline.

Today I have touched on Government’s long and active involvement in the development of New Zealand’s forestry sector.

Over that time, government has also been a significant investor in forest research and development.

Improving productivity, safety and environmental sustainability have always underpinned this investment.

In recent years, we have seen a series of major Government initiatives as part of a wider sustainability agenda for improving water and soil management.

The Hill Country Erosion programme is working to increase protection of highly erodible land.

It is a good example of continuing Government commitment to sustainable land management.

The programme aims to build the technical capacity of regional councils and to provide targeted funding for catchment initiatives.

It is based on the idea of encouraging communities to adopt a total catchment management perspective towards sustainable land management.

It is a practical illustration of a collaborative process (between central Government, local Government and land owners), using forestry as a mitigation tool for erosion.

I would like to take a moment to mention our stunning indigenous forests. 

These forests, largely in the public conservation estate, cover a significant part of New Zealand’s land area and we are deeply conscious of their unique biodiversity and their place in our natural heritage. 

Our planted exotic forests are now the basis of our commercial forestry industry.

This has enabled indigenous forests to be conserved, while also allowing a limited, sustained and carefully regulated supply of valuable indigenous timber from some private forests.

Nevertheless, we have an important on-going task to manage introduced animal pests to maintain the condition of these forests, and in particular, the habitat for our precious native bird species.

We have had some successes, using New Zealand-developed techniques in pest control work, to bring bird species back from the brink of extinction.

Indeed, exotic and indigenous forests both require our ongoing vigilance in controlling introduced pests, and maintaining their key role as healthy forests in the New Zealand landscape.

Before concluding, I want to briefly mention the issue of illegally logged timber.

My government supports efforts to combat this highly undesirable trade.

We believe that illegal logging is harmful to both the environment and local communities.

It also lowers the global timber price and has a negative impact on legitimate industry by taking up market share. 

New Zealand co-operates with a number of different countries and attends various international meetings that focus on combating illegal logging.

Government policy on illegal logging imports, as agreed in 2009, is to encourage voluntary action by the private sector.

We also have a government procurement policy that requires timber and timber products purchased to be certified for legality.

In conclusion, the New Zealand forestry sector, like those in other countries, faces a number of challenges in the coming years.

To achieve its potential, the sector needs to work hard at adding value to the raw product.

If it meets this challenge, I see a host of opportunities – and the potential for great success. 

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.