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Maintaining New Zealand's Forestry Research Capability

Future Forests Research (FFR) is approaching its 5th anniversary on 1 October this year. It was on this date 5 years ago that the industry research cooperatives were merged into a new company structure and new forest growing and environmental research programmes, supported by both Government and industry members commenced. Like any new start up the early emphasis was on establishing the company, securing funding, developing new research programmes and setting up new processes to manage the interface between industry and science providers. With this now running well the focus has moved to how best to transfer the research results to end users and developing strategies to ensure forest growing research is supported beyond the current funding agreements.

FFR's main government funding contracts from the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) for forest growing and environment research expire in mid 2013 when $5.8million of MSI funding comes to an end. Research into steep land harvesting, weeds and FSC compliant herbicides is funded separately and this funding extends until 2016 under the Primary Growth Partnership for steep land harvesting and 2014/15 for weeds research.

Any further funding for forest growing research beyond the middle of 2013 will need to come from the contestable funding pool of MSI for funding research in the biological industries. It is worth noting that this funding is open to all biological industries including dairy, horticulture, meat and wool, wine and beverages. There is no "sector allocation" so forestry must compete with these sectors for funding. The other key point is that government is a significant contributor to our industry's research and maintaining the current leverage of approximately 5:1 will not be easy. Government priorities are to support research that delivers economic growth to NZ – export earnings, jobs, GDP growth and to the environment. It must also see a close alignment with sector growth strategies.

The message for the industry is very clear - if we want to maintain our forest growing research capability, we (i.e. industry and science) must develop an extremely compelling and well supported proposition that is aligned with industry and government priorities.