Forestry future assured

FORECAST TABLE: This MPI Wood Availability Forecast from 2014 suggests that the Tairawhiti harvest would increase to 3.8 million tonnes and remain there until 2035. Then it would drop to around 2.5m tonne per year which Eastland Wood Council says is about what has been harvested for the past few years. Graph supplied

THE region’s wood harvest will peak at around 3.8 million tonnes through to 2035, then fall to around 2.5m tonnes for several years, but the industry will continue to be a significant contributor and employer in the region, says Eastland Wood Council.

EWC has responded to a letter running on today’s opinion page (page 13) that suggests for “the best part of a decade there will be no trees to harvest”.

“The forestry industry is a major contributor to the regional economy,” said EWC chief executive Kim Holland.

“A significant number of our population and community are directly and indirectly employed in the wider forest industry — from contractors through to those in support services.”

A “one in four households figure” mentioned in the letter was often quoted around the economic impact of the forest industry.

“It has come from the Eastland Wood Council/Waikato University Study completed in 2013.

“It is timely to update this and provide accurate figures on the economic impact and value of the forestry industry to the region, including the number of people directly and indirectly employed,” Ms Holland said.

“For this reason, the Eastland Wood Council, in conjunction with Activate Tairawhiti, is undertaking a survey and report into the labour and skill needs in the East Coast forestry region.

“This will ensure that we have a clear picture of our current and projected skill and labour needs, based on projected harvesting and reforestation programmes.”

The industry was still in a growth phase and operational activity was currently being constrained by the shortage of labour and skill supply, she said.

“Even with our skills and training programmes, The Generation Programme and Manaia Safe Forestry School, contractors, earthworks and transport employers are struggling to keep up with the work required.

“The forestry industry is looking to recruit across all levels of the sector, including engineering, forest management and health and safety, through to on-the-ground operations.”

EWC offers two scholarships a year for tertiary training and study in the forest sector to encourage those studying towards a career in the industry.

“With Shane Jones’ Billion Trees Programme there is scope for further employment with regard to silviculture, planting and thinning (regardless of species). With the majority of forests maturing and ready for harvest, there will also be replanting and reforestation programmes.”

Eastland Community Trust has also put considerable investment into supporting a Centre of Excellence for Wood Processing.

“So there is further capability and room for possible expansion of the value-add to the sector regionally,” Ms Holland said.

“The East Coast age class profile is quite ‘lumpy’, with a large spike in plantings in the 1990s. This, combined with good markets, is resulting in the current scale-up of harvesting operations.

“One assumption is that all forests are harvested at around the same age of approximately 28 years,” she said.

“If this was the case, we would see harvest climb to levels of five to seven million tonnes per year for several years. This isn’t going to happen. We don’t have the crews, trucks, processing and port capacity to do this.

“The more likely scenario is that the harvest level will lift but will remain at that level for much longer.

“There is unlikely to be a sudden plummet in harvest levels, and trees planted under the 1 Billion Tree Programme could be reaching maturity in the latter part of the dip.

“The short answer is that the forest industry will continue to be a significant employer and contributor to the regional economy for some time to come.”

THE region’s wood harvest will peak at around 3.8 million tonnes through to 2035, then fall to around 2.5m tonnes for several years, but the industry will continue to be a significant contributor and employer in the region, says Eastland Wood Council.

EWC has responded to a letter running on today’s opinion page (page 13) that suggests for “the best part of a decade there will be no trees to harvest”.

“The forestry industry is a major contributor to the regional economy,” said EWC chief executive Kim Holland.

“A significant number of our population and community are directly and indirectly employed in the wider forest industry — from contractors through to those in support services.”

A “one in four households figure” mentioned in the letter was often quoted around the economic impact of the forest industry.

“It has come from the Eastland Wood Council/Waikato University Study completed in 2013.

“It is timely to update this and provide accurate figures on the economic impact and value of the forestry industry to the region, including the number of people directly and indirectly employed,” Ms Holland said.

“For this reason, the Eastland Wood Council, in conjunction with Activate Tairawhiti, is undertaking a survey and report into the labour and skill needs in the East Coast forestry region.

“This will ensure that we have a clear picture of our current and projected skill and labour needs, based on projected harvesting and reforestation programmes.”

The industry was still in a growth phase and operational activity was currently being constrained by the shortage of labour and skill supply, she said.

“Even with our skills and training programmes, The Generation Programme and Manaia Safe Forestry School, contractors, earthworks and transport employers are struggling to keep up with the work required.

“The forestry industry is looking to recruit across all levels of the sector, including engineering, forest management and health and safety, through to on-the-ground operations.”

EWC offers two scholarships a year for tertiary training and study in the forest sector to encourage those studying towards a career in the industry.

“With Shane Jones’ Billion Trees Programme there is scope for further employment with regard to silviculture, planting and thinning (regardless of species). With the majority of forests maturing and ready for harvest, there will also be replanting and reforestation programmes.”

Eastland Community Trust has also put considerable investment into supporting a Centre of Excellence for Wood Processing.

“So there is further capability and room for possible expansion of the value-add to the sector regionally,” Ms Holland said.

“The East Coast age class profile is quite ‘lumpy’, with a large spike in plantings in the 1990s. This, combined with good markets, is resulting in the current scale-up of harvesting operations.

“One assumption is that all forests are harvested at around the same age of approximately 28 years,” she said.

“If this was the case, we would see harvest climb to levels of five to seven million tonnes per year for several years. This isn’t going to happen. We don’t have the crews, trucks, processing and port capacity to do this.

“The more likely scenario is that the harvest level will lift but will remain at that level for much longer.

“There is unlikely to be a sudden plummet in harvest levels, and trees planted under the 1 Billion Tree Programme could be reaching maturity in the latter part of the dip.

“The short answer is that the forest industry will continue to be a significant employer and contributor to the regional economy for some time to come.”

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