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Critical Stage in Forestry Research

Three big Government funding contracts totalling $5.8M come to an end on 30 September of this year. These contracts, supported by $1.0M of funding from Future Forest Research (FFR) membership fees, have supported the FFR programmes in Radiata Management, Diverse Species and Environment since the formation of FFR in 2007. In addition Scion has another large contract supporting genetics research that concludes at the same time. There is therefore approximately $7.0M of Government research funding support for our forest growing sector at risk this year. It is unusual to have such a large amount of funding coming up for renewal at the same time.

It is critical for our industry that we do not lose this funding to our competing primary sectors such as dairying, horticulture or beef and lamb. The 2013 MBIE funding process that will determine how $38M of Government funding for the entire Biological Industries sector will be allocated is well underway with funding bids due for completion by the end of March. This funding will be for up to six years so the outcome of the bid process is extremely important for our sector.

These bids are focusing on the priorities set out in the NZ Forest Owners Association Science and Innovation Plan. These are to:

  • improve productivity and consistency of wood quality,
  • ensure sustainability and licence to operate for market access, and
  • improve the efficiency and safety in the forest to mill/port supply chain.

Evidence of industry support, with cash contributions being the preferred indicator, is essential to secure Government support.

Within the scope of FFR's activities we are working closely with Scion to develop bids to MBIE for $6.5M and are currently seeking FFR Member support of $1.8M through a significant increase in FFR membership fees. As the outcome of the proposed Forest Growing Levy referendum will not be known by the time bids are submitted, and even if approved will not be in place by the time new funding contracts commence, interim FFR membership fees are proposed to bridge the gap.

At the same time we are developing a proposal to further extend the current Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) Steep Slope Harvesting Programme to ensure an efficient and internationally competitive supply chain. If successful this will be a $600,000 extension ($300,000 industry matched 1:1 by PGP) to the current PGP programme for a three year period.

So it is a big year for the sector and the outcomes will have a very material impact on the sector's Research & Development infrastructure for much of the next decade.