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Clarky's Comment - August, National Forest Policy

On the 10th August a gathering of over 100 of New Zealand’s most experienced forestry professionals met in Wellington to discuss the need, and potential content, of a National Forest Policy for New Zealand. The overwhelming view was that a policy statement with some explanatory material sitting behind it was needed to help guide both government legislation / regulation and private sector decisions impacting on our national forest estate well into the future. PF Olsen supports the work going into the development of a draft policy, and like others, looks forward to having input into its final form. Key framework parameters discussed were that:

  1. The policy must be adopted as a non-partisan policy of all major political parties to have enduring value.
  2. The policy should have a 50 – 100 year look forward timeframe and therefore must be “high level”.
  3. The policy should be simple and easily understood and embraced by the NZ public, and well publicised to achieve that widespread buy-in.
  4. The underlying purpose of the policy is to ensure that the opportunity for forests to contribute positively to NZ society under a changing world are realised to the fullest extent possible.

While forecasting what the world may look like for our children and our children’s children is an imprecise business, we can see some undeniable trends.

  • Climate Change is here to stay for the next century, with an increase of 4 degrees C more likely than 2.
  • Our Clean Green image is under threat. This impacts both tourism and the marketing of our main food exports unless actively addressed.

  • There are great opportunities for value add, employment and GDP contribution from forests.

The idea is that a forest policy would help guide legislation and regulations impacting on land use, and support the extension, retention, protection and best use of existing or new forests, both exotic and native. This in turn can impact positively on each of these trends, and provide increased economic and environmental resilience to new threats or opportunities.

My initial reaction was that with enhancements to the Resource Management Act, the new National Environmental Standard (NES) for Plantation Forestry and the National Policy Statement on Freshwater that we would not need a National Forest Policy. But as the debate developed during the day it became increasingly evident that these alone are unlikely to deliver the full benefits forests can offer. With a National Forestry Policy we have the opportunity to better align private land use, forest management and investment decisions with what is optimal for society well into the future.