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 Helping owners of small-scale forests know more about the forest growers' levy

Glenn Tims and Bruce Bulloch, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2017.

The NZFFA receives some funding from the Forest Growers Levy Trust to communicate with all small- scale forest owners on matters to do with the levy. I am sure that most of you know the levy, introduced at the beginning of 2014, is 27 cents a tonne on all harvested wood. It is important to get information directly to a wider audience of small-scale forest owners about −

  • How the levy is collected
  • How much the levy is
  • What the levy is used for
  • What forest owners would like to see the levy used for in the future.

Of the estimated 14,600 owners of small forests only just under 2,000 of these are NZFFA members. Many, if not most, of the owners who are not NZFFA members will probably know little or nothing about the levy until they harvest and see the 27 cents deducted from their returns on log sales.

Fortunately, the NZFFA has a solution in the form of a database of the 14,600 owners of small-scale forests. This database has been developed over the past five years, starting with financial help from a Sustainable Farming Fund grant and then funded by the NZFFA.

It was decided that an effective way to communicate with owners was to write to them, as we had their postal address, send an information pack about the levy and invite them to regional information sessions.We would also ask them for their current email address so that we could send more regular communication which would not cost as much. Maintaining this is partly paid for by levy funds.

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Roadshows begin

In 2015 the three-year programme of information sessions or roadshows began.The aim was to cover as much of the country as possible with roadshows over three years.The invitations were sent out to approximately 1,000 owners for each roadshow, although the number varied, aiming for those who had forests within about 150 km of each venue.The first roadshows in 2015 were in Whangarei, New Plymouth, Christchurch and Dunedin.They were followed in 2016 by roadshows in Hokitika, Hastings, Gisborne, Feilding, Nelson and Blenheim.

At each roadshow, presentations from various speakers outlined how the levy was collected and what it was being spent on.There were some local speakers who presented topics we hoped were of value to the attendees such as health and safety in forestry, as well as research projects funded by the levy.We also gave the small-scale growers an opportunity to present feedback on how they might like levy funds to be spent in the future.

A typical roadshow

At a typical roadshow there were five speakers.The main topic, of course, was the levy on harvested wood and how it is administered.The presenter was usually David Rhodes or another member of the Levy Secretariat. Health and safety featured at most roadshows because it is important to the forestry industry, because the Forest Industry Safety Council is funded by the levy and because many forest owners are concerned about what their obligations are under the new legislation. Fiona Ewing, Director of the Forest Industries Safety Council, was our main presenter at earlier roadshows. At later events presenters were local Worksafe inspectors who have the practical responsibility for administering the legislation in the field.The table on the next page outlines the programmes and speakers at all the events.

We endeavoured to involve the local Wood Council wherever we could as they represent forestry interests banding together for the benefit of the industry in their area.A substantial portion of the levy funds go to support research and Russell Dale of the Levy Secretariat was often a presenter.

Other topics included the Emissions Trading Scheme, local forest consultancy or nursery operations, district council forestry concerns, forest fire research and forest fire from an affected owner’s perspective. In New Plymouth we combined the roadshow with a regional meeting of theWood Processors and Manufacturers Association. 

We hope to be able to finish our coverage of the country with roadshows during 2017 year. Regions we have not serviced so far are Auckland,Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Southland, South Otago,Wairarapa and Wellington.As the programme draws to a close we will evaluate the effectiveness of what we have been doing.

How many owners did we contact

As mentioned earlier, one of the main aims of this project was to directly contact owners of small-scale forests and give them more information about the levy. Over the first two years we have sent out over 7,000 letters, invitations and information packs and invited all 7,000 to the meetings. The number agreeing to attend the meetings was smaller than we would have liked. Just under 450 people attended but a similar number replied that they could not attend but gave email addresses asking us to keep in touch.

The process has meant that over 7,000 forest owners have been directly contacted and sent information about the levy.This is direct contact with about half of the estimated total.We have also been able to confirm that the database of forest owners is accurate as there were very few information packs being returned because the ownership had changed or the owners moved with no forwarding address. As with all such databases, it needs regular updating and this is being carried out to help improve communications about the levy to owners of small forests. 

Roadshow venue Presenters Topics Attendees
2015
Whangarei 4 November Peter Davies-Colley, Mid North Branch – Chair
David Rhodes, Levy Secretariat
Russell Dale, Levy Secretariat
Dean Satchell, NZFFA President
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager Mark Montgomery, Worksafe 

The levy and its administration
Levy-funded research
Marketing alternative Species
Why join the NZFFA?
Health and safety and the new Act
70
New Plymouth 5 November
Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association
Hamish Levack, NZFFA Executive – Chair
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager Russell Dale, Levy Secretariat
Fiona Ewing, Forest Industry Safety Council
Kelly Coghlan, Tree Awareness Ltd

Why join the NZFFA?
The levy and research
Forest Industry Safety Council
Continuity of wood supply
75
Christchurch 10 November Patrick Milne, NZFFA Executive – Chair Glen Mackie, Levy Secretariat
Richard Parker, Scion
Ian Jackson, Levy Trust Board Member
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Nick Ledgard, scientist and NZFFA member

The levy
Forest fire research
Health and safety
Why join the NZFFA?
The right tree in the right place
24
Dunedin 3 December Neil Cullen, NZFFA Vice President – Chair
Grant Dodson, Chair Southern Wood Council
Ian Jackson, Levy Trust Board Member
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Fiona Ewing, Forest Industry Safety Council
Denis Albert, Ministry for Primary Industries

The levy
Representing small-scale grower
Why join the NZFFA?
Forest Industry Safety Council
Forestry-related projects
50
2016
Hokitika 20 April David Rhodes, Levy Secretariat
Russell Dale, Levy Secretariat
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Dean Boston, Pacific Plywood 
The levy
The levy research
Why join the NZFFA?
Timber to plywood
25
Havelock North 20 June Rob Wilson, Hawkes Bay Branch – Chair
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Russell Dale, Levy Secretariat
Doug Ducker, Pan Pac CEO
Des Craig. Worksafe
Chris Perley, ThoughtScape

Why join the NZFFA?
The levy research
Pan Pac background operations
Health and safety and the new Act
Environmental and economic benefits
35
Gisborne 21 June Nick Seymour, Gisborne Branch – Chair
Russell Dale, Levy Secretariat
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Prue Younger, CEO Eastland Wood Council Chirs Berry, PF Olsen Ltd
Des Craig, Worksafe

The levy research
Why join the NZFFA?
Wood Council role
Harvesting management
Health and safety and the new Act
20
Feilding 23 September Geoff Thompson, Levy Trust Chair
John Turkington, John Turkington Ltd
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager Hawea Kingi, Worksafe
Hamish Levack, NZFFA Executive
Pat Harwinkels, Ministry for Primary Industry
The levy
Local harvesting and marketing Why join the NZFFA?
Health and safety and the new Act Carbon trading
Forestry-related projects
70
Nelson 5 October Don Wallace, NZFFA Executive – Chair
David Rhodes, Levy Secretariat
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Roger May, NZFFA member
Eric Appleton, Appleton’s Nursery
Doug McLeod, Worksafe 

The levy
Why join the NZFFA?
Emissions Trading Scheme
Forestry nursery operations
Health and safety and the new Act
50
Blenheim 6 October Don Wallace, NZFFA Executive – Chair
Glenn Tims, NZFFA Association Manager
Ket Bradshaw, NZFFA Member
Roger May, NZFFA member
Doug McLeod, Worksafe
The levy
Why join the NZFFA?
Forest fire owner’s experience Emissions Trading Scheme
Health and safety and the new Act
20

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Portrait of  forest growers' levy information session

This is an edited version of a report by Denis Hocking about the Feilding event, first published in the Middle Districts Branch newsletter.

It was a good turnout of 70 at the Forest Growers’ Levy Trust presentation in the St Johns Hall, Feilding in September last year. Invitations had been sent to all land owners with forests in the greater Manawatu region and those attending included a lot of unfamiliar faces and non- NZFFA members. Invitations had been backed up with a press release and limited advertising in local newspapers.

How the levy works

Geoff Thompson, the Forest Growers’ Levy Trust Chairman, was the first speaker. He emphasised that the levy of 27 cents for every tonne of wood harvested, had to be used for whole industry good and the process is controlled under the Primary Industry Levy Trust legislation.At the 2013 referendum for a levy there had been 85 per cent support, but the Levy Trust Board has to ensure that owners of large and small forests see value in the arrangement for the next referendum in 2019.

The Trust Board is made up of four representatives of forest owners of over 1,000 hectares who pay the majority of the levy, two representatives of owners of small forests of less than 1,000 hectares, and one independent member, currently Chairman Geoff Thompson who happens to also be a small forest owner. Supporting the Board is a secretariat which is contracted to the Forest Owners Association.

The levy is collected by Levy Services Ltd which sits at arm’s length from the Levy Trust Board to protect commercially sensitive information. Committees covering research; health, safety and training; biosecurity; promotion; fire: transport and environment advise the board on the development of an annual work programme.The NZFFA is represented on these committees and integrated into the process in a way it did not happen previously.

Year Levy income Levy expenditure
2014 $8 million $5.7 million
2015 $8 million $6.6 million
2016 $8.2 million (estimate) $9.3 million (estimate)

Research takes 60 per cent of expenditure, biosecurity 18 per cent, health, safety and training 12.5 per cent, with the remaining amount covering transport, environment, promotion and administration.The NZFFA gets 1.7 per cent towards its communication contract.

The main research area relates to radiata pine productivity with steep land harvesting another major focus.The latter has made good progress with remote controlled harvesting now a technical reality.The Specialty Wood Product Partnership, with its focus on alternative species, is another area of interest for farm foresters. It is claiming $1.4 million a year of levy money for a period of seven years, matched by government funding, with other funds from Scion and industry.

The Forestry Industry Safety Council is another significant development and it was noted that deaths in the industry have dropped significantly, although another fatality had been reported the previous day. Forestry remains a dangerous industry and there is no room for complacency.

Local harvesting

John Turkington was the second speaker with a generally positive and upbeat presentation. John’s company, John Turkington Ltd, harvests around 700,000 tonnes of logs a year and his confidence in the industry is demonstrated by over 1,000 hectares of forests he and his family own. He discussed the rail hubs he had developed with KiwiRail and other partners at Palmerston North,Whanganui and Masterton. A total of 40 rail wagons of logs moving daily, mainly to Wellington wharves but some to Napier, means fewer trucks in urban areas and less downtime for trucks stuck in traffic or queues. Cartage costs to the wharves are reduced by two to three dollars a tonne.

Looking locally, building consents are rising but are still below 2004 levels.The wall of wood, the worry that all the plantings of the mid 1990s would arrive at once, is disappearing as many of these stands are being harvested early. John said that generally harvesting contract jobs are getting bigger and lasting longer.The biggest worry is shortage of manpower.

Health and safety

Hawea Kingi, a health and safety inspector from WorkSafe, spoke on the implications and requirements of the new Health and Safety at Work Act. He emphasised how devastating death or serious injury can be to colleagues, family and the whole industry. He illustrated cases he had been involved in, and how he worked to get acceptance of the need for safer practices.Among the requirements of the new Act are −

  • Protecting workers and others regarding health, safety and welfare 
  • A functional workplace with representation, consultation, co-ordination and co-operation
  • Promoting provisions for training, information, advice and education
  • Securing compliance and accountability, sorting out who checks if the landowner is ignorant
  • A framework to raise the importance of health and safety.

One point to note is that this Health and Safety Act covers only workplaces. The dangers of visiting a forest for non-work related reasons are not covered. There is a legal requirement for people conducting businesses or undertakings to understand their responsibilities.

A paper trail, such as demonstrating a woodlot owner had discussed health and safety with the contractor and consultant and ensured appropriate policies were in place, would be very helpful in the unlikely event of court proceedings.

Hawea said they had had trouble with farmlots, a step down from woodlots. If deals were done directly with log buyers or contractors, there might be sub-standard gear and practices with no lines of responsibility. He showed some cases that clearly illustrated the problem. Typical safety problems to consider include −

  • Oversize and dangerous trees
  • Competency of contractors
  • Uncertified mobile plant, usually skidders and excavators, without proper protective structures
  • Evidence demonstrating safety procedures are being carried out
  • Communicating new hazards
  • Emergency procedures worked out in advance
  • Accessing the work area
  • Incident reporting
  • Dealing safely with power lines
  • Access roads where bridges may have to be certified. • Regularly check agreed plans and be prepared to consult outside expertise.
MPI and new planting

Pat Harwinkels from the Ministry for Primary Industries was the final speaker. He pointed out that new planting has been declining over the last decade. MPI handles several programmes relevant to new planting

  • Afforestation Grant Scheme. In the first round from 2011 to 2014, $22 million was invested in planting 12,000 hectares.The second round from 2015 to 2020 has a budget of $19.5 million with a flat rate of $1,300 a hectare. It is hoped that 15,000 hectares will be planted. In 2015, 2,900 hectares was contracted for planting in 2016 with a significant part of this is being manuka.
  • The Emissions Trading Scheme has now resulted in a higher carbon price which should stimulate planting. Deforestation of pre-1990 forests is declining with more off-setting involving replanting another area after harvest and deforestation of a forest. Of the roughly 600,000 hectares of post- 1989 forest, about half has been registered in the Emissions Trading Scheme.The Paris Climate Change Agreement means New Zealand has committed to a 30 per cent reduction in 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and this will need more trees
  • The Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative was the first sequestration scheme brought in under the old Forestry Act. It will be moved to the Climate Change Reduction Act so it aligns with the ETS.
  • The National Environmental Standards is an attempt to ensure consistent rules around the country while ensuring good environmental standards. It focuses on eight main areas and should be operative in early 2017. Patrick Murray pointed out that decisions made later in 2016 will be too late for nurseries to respond for the following year.There may not be sufficient stock to allow a significant increase in new planting in 2017.

The conclusion was that there was much to ponder and digest from the presentations.

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