CEO Robyn Haugh is delighted to hear strong support for native trees from the Minister for Forestry: but believes a shift in the way we see native forests will bring even greater benefits for New Zealand.
‘Right tree, right place’ is an adage for a reason. It effectively communicates the need for tree planting to be a considered, ecologically based process, rather than a token gesture.
The use of this adage in Minister Nash’s recent communications is heartening: and as he notes, this kind of strategic approach to planting is crucial to ensure the sector’s sustainability.
The Minister is also correct in placing the mandate to ensure that tree planting is carried out in an ecologically responsible way with the Government.
Does each landowner, each New Zealander, have a responsibility to our native forests? Absolutely.
But likewise, Government incentivisation of the right forestry options for landowners is critical in ensuring that individuals are equipped to make the right decisions for New Zealand.
It’s a bold statement from Nash that “land planted under the permanent forest category should be planted in native trees only,” and one that we—of course—wholeheartedly agree with.
The Minister identifies several of the benefits of native forests: lifespan, and less likelihood of the issues associated with monocultures, such as fire risk.
However, he doesn’t even scratch the surface on the myriad other benefits of native trees: for our biodiversity, ecosystems, communities, tourism, culture, and many more.
As Aimers, Bergin and Horgan point out in their excellent research, recognising the numerous non-timber values of native forests as quantifiable assets would aid the incentivisation of native tree planting that the Government is working to achieve.
A change in the dichotomous mindset the Minister presents (that of usable, productive exotic plantations versus conserved, protected native forests) would also be useful in furthering this conversation.
The Minister suggests that land suited for production forestry should be planted in radiata, Douglas fir or redwood. But what about our native species in this context, too?
Covenanted and protected native forests will always have a place (for example, for schemes like ours, whereby native trees are donated with the understanding that they will be permanently planted).
But likewise, our ecologists and scientists are producing fascinating pathways into native forests as productive, living entities.
In an Aotearoa New Zealand that truly values its native forests, both protected and productive native forests would be present.
This has the potential to, as Prime Minister Ardern mentioned today, match environmental challenges with economic opportunities.
Our ecologists tell us this is a very real vision: take, for example, the fascinating Tōtara Industry Pilot underway in Northland, working to value tōtara as it once was by Māori in both environmental and commercial senses.
Picture the whenua thriving, with our stunning protected native forests and recreational reserves standing alongside sustainably managed productive native forests.
This would allow products such as beautiful native timbers, sources of rongoā such as mānuka and kawakawa, and the scores of other beneficial outputs of our native rākau to be economically and culturally celebrated.
This is the Aotearoa I’d like to be a part of: and the one that we owe to future generations.