Unleashing the power of forestry

Julian Elder

Right now is an interesting time for New Zealand and Scion with two forces propelling new thinking. The global trend to a bioeconomy and circular economy approach is increasingly being led by consumer pull, which we are seeing in New Zealand also with actions such as the recent ‘Ban Plastic Bags’ petition. Such consumer demand coincides with our new government’s strong focus on forestry.

In my previous editorial “A billion trees” (Scion Connections, December 2017) I talked about the huge and transformational opportunities from trees as a renewable resource in rejuvenating and invigorating our sector and our regional communities.

For decades we at Scion have known that trees are remarkable, renewable resources. Planted as forests they can be at the heart of a low-carbon, bio-based future New Zealand. Now is the time for such a step change.

Scion can and will embrace this momentum to deliver on our core purpose to “drive innovation and growth for the benefit of New Zealand”. We have very recently adopted the mission statement:

Enhancing New Zealand’s prosperity, well-being and environment though trees
Kia piki te ora, te taiao me te whai rawa o Aotearoa mā te ngāherehere

We see truly legacy-creating opportunities through planting the right trees in the right places for the right purposes.

The future we envisage has Scion operating in a low-carbon bioeconomy that we have helped develop and shape. We will bring a fundamental underlying strength to the entire forest industry, and the value chain we help create is more critical now than ever before.

So why does forestry make such a compelling proposition?

  • Forestry has a critical role to play in mitigating New Zealand’s climate change obligations. Carbon capture is one of the many benefits well-managed forests bring to growers (who can trade carbon credits) and society in general. Increased use of forest products also contributes to our carbon sinks.
  • Forestry and forest-based industries are taking a significant and growing global position in the move from linear economies to circular economies where renewable bio-sources, such as trees, replace petrochemicals to provide a renewable and sustainable way of living. 
  • Forestry offers social and economic regional renewal through new business models, integrated and optimal land use, value chain optimisation and the opportunities for new enterprises stemming from a bioeconomy approach.
  • Growing the right one billion trees in the right place for the right purposes offers a true legacy opportunity for New Zealand. (Simply put, this means planting the right cultivar to meet downstream market demand products.)
  • Forest, wood and bioproducts science (including gene editing) is developing around the world at a high pace, and New Zealand needs to be abreast of that to both protect its future and to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

So, how is Scion placed to respond to global trends (such as consumer demand for sustainable outcomes) and challenges (such as heightened biosecurity exposure through increased border traffic and climate change)?

As a New Zealand Crown Research Institute with a proven legacy of science impact, we will continue to provide the key science and research capability to grow this nation’s future as well as respond to threats.

Scion is already highly aligned with the Government’s priorities, including:

  • Planting a billion trees in 10 years – the right tree in the right place for the right purpose.
  • Regional economic development though planting, growing, harvesting, local processing of exotic and indigenous species, recreation, tourism, increasing people’s well-being and creating vibrant communities.
  • Commitment to the COP 21 Paris Climate Agreement, where forestry is a key mitigant to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Environment, especially water quality and land erosion concerns.
  • Housing, where house building can be changed to house manufacturing.
  • Heritage, with a strong focus on biodiversity and bio-protection.
  • A strong economy (for all New Zealanders), realising the very large potential that forestry and related manufacturing brings.

Together with our iwi and industry partners we aspire to truly unleash the power of forestry to enhance New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social wellbeing well into the future.

J Elder signature

Dr Julian Elder
Chief Executive

For further information contact
Dr Julian Elder 

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