Forestry in Marlborough is a relatively small player in the national scheme of things, but in terms of Marlborough’s economy, probably ranks in the top two or three.
Areas in plantation are scattered across the province, with about 20 -25% being in the Marlborough Sounds.
The Marlborough Forest Industry Association (MFIA) represents the varied interests of forest growers, sawmillers, downstream businesses such as transport operators and servicing industries. Vern Harris is the executive officer of the association.
He had been in the New Zealand Forest Service for 25years, then worked overseas when it was disbanded and the forests sold by the 1984 Labour Government.
Returning to NZ, he joined a local consultancy firm and became executive officer of the Marlborough Forest Industry Association in 2015. In the 90s, the name was changed to represent the wider forest industry interests in the region.
“Our largest owner is Nelson Forests,” he says, “They own some 70,000 hectares across Nelson and Marlborough. Then there are smaller owners having 10 to 30ha, so you could say there is a tension there, but we handle that reasonably well. We are conscious that having the larger owners enables us to look after the smaller ones.”
Shakespeare Bay, just west of Picton Harbour, is a deep water port. Logs cut from the Sounds are barged to Havelock and trucked to the port, or barged directly to Picton .
Logs for export to other parts of the world or other parts of New Zealand, are shipped from the port. Marlborough has two large sawmills , two smaller ones and a number of portables.
The annual cut is approximately one and a half million cubic metres per year, split about 50/50 for domestic use or export Mechanisation has changed the harvesting side of forestry, particularly by reducing the number of men on the hill, thereby reducing the manpower involved in the more dangerous aspects of the operation such as felling and breaking-out.
Publicity of forestry accidents does not help recruitment, especially of school leavers, Vern says, but organisations like his point out that the range of jobs available in the industry and associated businesses are often no more dangerous than many others.
“At the moment we are developing initiatives for recruitment. You could, conceivably, work in forestry, and never touch a tree. We don’t want to do too much in isolation – co-ordination on a national basis will see that we don’t replicate what someone else has done.”
Co-ordination of environmental outcomes came into force on May 1st through the Government’s National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry. Developed by the Ministry for Primary Industries and representatives of the forestry industry, it standardises resource consents.
“There were unintended consequences of the Resource Management Act. There were often battles over applications. Some bigger companies have forests in different jurisdictions, which had different requirements. Now there will be consistency in planning from North Cape to the Bluff. In general, the industry is supportive.”
The Government’s ‘billion trees’ to be planted is supported in principle.
“We are not sure how they are going to get that many trees in the ground.We believe the Government to be light on forestry qualified staff. We understand about half of that billion is replanting after harvesting.
There needs to be discussion of the type of trees to be planted. If it’s planting for timber, the land may already be in primary production so could be a big ask in some areas..
If it’s for carbon management, it may not produce timber. There are probably more positives than negatives, but locally, we don’t yet know what their approach is.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Stuart Drummond Transport
- Bryant Earthworks Ltd