20 Feb 2018

Tree goal will require better govt communication - consultant

4:09 pm on 20 February 2018

The government needs to change its approach to forestry and communicate better with farmers if it wants to reach its target of planting one billion trees in 10 years, a consultant says.

Tree felling

Photo: 123RF

To reach this goal the government is aiming to plant 50,000ha of trees a year.

One of its initiatives is to find unproductive farmland suitable for commercial planting of radiata pines.

Bay of Plenty forestry consultant Graham West said while government incentives to plant trees would help, a new broad-scale initiative that raised the profile of the opportunity timber and carbon presented was urgently needed.

Mr West said he supported the government's plan but the approach was not working.

"In this age where there's a lot of information clutter they really need to engage in an extensive information programme in order to reach a large number of particularly dry stock farmers, but also urban investors, to build a pipeline of awareness."

He said the government needed to work harder to reach more people.

"Even though the log prices are high I don't think there is a significant level of interest amongst the farming community.

"I'm in farm forest and forestry in the Bay of Plenty doing a lot around initiatives for afforestation - and really not getting a lot of traction at the moment. The reason is that there is a lot of information going out to farmers, but very little of it is around forestry."

Mr West said the target group was 25,000 drystock farmers in New Zealand, who owning 9.5 million hectares.

The pressure was on to get farmers planting trees because seedlings needed to be ordered, he said.

"The seedlings for this winter coming are all booked, and some of those by the Crown."

Tree nurseries only grow what they think they can sell, he said.

"They generally need forward orders, and those orders close off about October-November so for the following winter of 2019 we've only got about nine months before those orders need to be in.

"Quite a lot of effort needs to go in quite quickly to ramp up the interest, to get people ordering trees for planting, and then they can be grown in the nursery.

"Without that timeline being adhered to then you simply can't increase the rate of planting."

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