Forest research developments to benefit economy and environment

1 November 2006

Forest growing and harvesting research in New Zealand is about to reach a new level with research organisations and businesses partnering together to steer the future direction of innovation in this vital sector.

The New Zealand forest industry is working with Crown Research Institute, Scion, to develop the new entity, Future Forests Research Ltd (FFR).

The entity will take the form of a management company with a Board and a full-time Chief Executive.

For the past 18 years, forestry research in New Zealand has been undertaken through five research industry co-operative groups in five key areas.

A key role of the new entity will be to cohesively develop and manage the research themes.

“Research on forests will not only improve the economics and international competitiveness of forestry and related sectors, it will also help address many of New Zealand’s environmental goals such as clean water, land stability, carbon sequestration and biodiversity,” says Scion Chief Executive, Tom Richardson.

“The development of FFR will give research providers the direction and stability to provide the industry, and New Zealand, with the innovation it needs.

“If our industry is to remain competitive globally, it must become more effective in producing goods and services and find new markets. Innovation is essential to develop both new and more efficient production methods and new products. This is where Scion’s research-led innovation can play a key role in taking the industry forward and making a greater contribution to New Zealand,” says Dr Richardson.

The largest provider of services to FFR is expected to be Ensis, the unincorporated joint venture between Scion and Australia’s CSIRO.

“As one of the world’s largest integrated providers of research in forestry, it is vital that Ensis has close alignment with the New Zealand forest industries. The proposed FFR model will go a long way towards achieving that, while also providing the mechanism for Scion, the forest industry and key stakeholders such as landowners, regional and central government to work together to deliver benefit for New Zealand,” says Dr Richardson.

FFR Establishment Board Chairman, Peter Clark from the New Zealand Forest Owners Association, says there is still strong support for the co-operative research model, but the structure needs fine-tuning to better meet the needs of industry and the greater sector and also government investment agencies like the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST).

“We need a model that meets the needs of all stakeholders – research providers, the forestry industry, regional and central government, environmental agencies and FRST. The new Board will provide a clear strategic direction for R&D that will assist the industry to stay ahead of the competition. At the same time we must meet FRST’s objectives around industry engagement and deliver more to both taxpayers and the industry for its investment,” says Mr Clark.

“An Establishment Board made up of representatives from the New Zealand Forest Owners Association, Scion, Ensis, the existing Pan Co-op Board, the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, industry members and Environment Bay of Plenty are now finalising the FFR structure to deliver this.”

Dr Richardson says in the next FRST investment round, the industry is seeking around $4 million investment from government to expand forest research, particularly around the environmental aspects of plantation forestry.

“With environmental elements identified as issues of national importance, it is clear that we need a more thorough understanding of the role that managed forests play in addressing these issues,” he says.