Forest grower levy changes oversight and coordination of research
The introduction of a forest grower levy from 1 January 2014 has ushered in a new organisational arrangement for forest growing research and development. A Forest Grower Research and Development (R&D) Committee will oversee the further development of the industry’s Science and Innovation Plan, priority setting, and the monitoring of growers’ investment and members’ fees into research programmes and projects. The Forest Grower Levy Trust Board is serviced through a secretariat of the New Zealand Forest Owners’ Association (FOA), and the R&D Committee provides oversight and advice on priorities to FOA and the Levy Trust Board. Further detail about these new structures and their scope and purpose is available from Forest Voice (www.forestvoice.org.nz).
The new structures will enable better coordination of all forest growing research, for example forest biosecurity research is now under the purview of the R&D Committee. Like all structural change these new entities will take time to fully bed in, but with levy collection under way, the transition is progressing well.
A consequence of the change is that Future Forests Research Limited (FFR) will cease operations from 31 March 2014. FFR was established in 2008 and over the past six years has done a fantastic job in profiling forest industry R&D, technology transfer, and engagement with members about their research needs. Scion is delighted that FFR CEO Russell Dale has been appointed manager of R&D for the FOA. Russell works closely with the Forest Grower R&D Committee. His knowledge of the industry and the science system is extremely valuable in ensuring a smooth transition to the new arrangements.
Scion’s new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) programmes – Growing Confidence in Forestry and Addressing Phytophthora Challenges (outlined in our September 2013 edition of Scion Connections), are tightly integrated with industry needs. We are looking forward to seeing lifts in forest productivity, measurement and surveillance, and tree health as outcomes of this research. Alternative species research – Douglas-fir, eucalypts, cypresses and redwoods – is continuing under the management of the R&D Committee, with levy and Scion core funding investment, and with links to the Dryland Forest Initiative (www.nzdfi.org.nz). The Primary Growth Partnership Steepland Harvesting Programme, which continues to be funded by member contributions rather the levy, will remain within a separate company but will be overseen by the manager of the Forest Grower R&D Committee.
The Radiata Pine Breeding Company, which continues as a stand-alone company (www.rpbc.co.nz), is initiating an exciting new five year research programme in genomic selection. This programme includes the sequencing of the radiata genome and applying genomic techniques to substantially improve the rate of genetic improvement in our forests. Areas of interest include increased tree growth and uniformity, and disease resistance. This research, with RPBC’s existing programme and industry linkages, and core funded work at Scion on genomics and genetic modification, will reassert New Zealand radiata pine breeding being at the forefront of international tree breeding efforts.
The value of investing in research and innovation is indisputable. If the New Zealand forest industry is to remain globally competitive and a land use of choice, it is essential that our R&D is sustained at world’s best practice. At Scion, we are well prepared to meet this challenge and look forward to working with all of the new appointees to the Forest Levy Trust Board and Forest Grower R&D Committee.
Dr Warren Parker