New Zealand High Commission Canberra, Australia
Australia and New Zealand Institutes of Forestry - International Forestry Conference
Ministry for Forestry Mr David Carter addressed the Australian and New Zealand Forestry Conference in New Zealand on 5 May. His speech is below.
I’m delighted that this joint Australian and New Zealand forestry conference is being held in New Zealand, and I’m equally pleased to see the emphasis on the broader Pacific region.
As you know, 2011 is the United Nations’ International Year of Forests, with the theme "Forests for People". This is clearly interwoven into your programme, as shown by your line-up of speakers – so my congratulations to the organisers.
In March I was privileged to host the launch of New Zealand’s Year of Forests celebrations at Parliament - joined by many of you I see here tonight.
It was particularly telling that the launch took place just two weeks after the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, our second largest city – and my hometown.
As a Cantabrian, I can assure you we’re made of stern stuff. But our community has been well and truly tested in recent months.
The rebuild of Christchurch is a daunting task, we all know that – but I believe it could present tremendous opportunities for our plantation forest industry.
Most of you here tonight know I am a huge advocate of your industry. It is planted forests that have made New Zealand self sufficient in timber supply and a major exporter of forest products.
Forestry is a significant contributor to the New Zealand economy, being the third-largest export earner with $4 billion revenue in the year to September 2010, and direct employment of around 20,000 people.
The benefits of timber as a light and environmentally-friendly building material are well known, so I’m confident the rebuild of Christchurch will present significant opportunities for timber reconstruction.
For the redevelopment of the city’s CBD, we must think outside the square. We must look seriously at low rise, timber-constructed commercial buildings.
I know I have my critics in the concrete and steel industries when I say this, but I am the Forestry Minister and I believe in promoting the attributes of timber.
New Zealand offers a timber supply with strong sustainability credentials. Over half of our plantation forests are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
And it is really good to hear that forestry stakeholders have recently agreed to a National Standard for Certification of Plantation Forest Management in New Zealand that is now with the FSC for approval.
This is great news. I congratulate the New Zealand forest industry for your leadership and persistence with this process.
Achieving sustainable management of forests across the world must be a priority for governments and industry.
Here in New Zealand, our Government is actively involved in a number of initiatives to reduce deforestation of indigenous forests.
One key concern is the legality and sustainability of timber imports, and there has been considerable pressure on successive governments for a strong stance on this issue.
The National-led Government is about less regulation, not more – and this is why we chose to encourage voluntary industry initiatives in 2009.
I am delighted to hear that the New Zealand Imported Tropical Timber Group has recently made a major voluntary commitment to stop importing or stocking timber from Indonesia without credible verification that it’s been legally sourced.
As this Group accounts for over 80 percent of imports and sales of tropical timber products in New Zealand, this is a great step in the right direction.
I want to take a moment now to acknowledge the efforts of foresters and the forestry industry across our wider Pacific region.
While Pacific Island countries share with Australia and New Zealand many of the challenges facing our forestry industries, the small size of these countries makes their task that much harder.
This is one reason why the New Zealand Government provides annual funding to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to help maintain a strong and strategic programme for Pacific countries, including in the areas of forest policy and capacity building.
This is funding well spent.
I want to close by saying New Zealand exemplifies the International Year of the Forests theme – Forests for People – very well. Our country has more than 6 million hectares of indigenous forests and 1.8 million hectares of planted forests.
(We have 4.4 million people, 4.5 million dairy cows and 32 million sheep).
Our forests play a very important role in our lives.
Whether from an environmental perspective, a cultural perspective or an economic perspective, I can’t state enough the benefits of forests and forest products to our respective countries.