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Forestry set to boost Bay of Plenty economy

Monday, 5 September 2011 10:16 a.m.

Forestry is set to provide a major boost to the Bay of Plenty's economy in the next decade, according to the Bay of Connection's Governance Group.

Bay of Connections - the region's economic strategy - has just published a Forestry and Wood Processing Strategy designed to extract more value from the region's valuable forest industry. Developed by industry leaders, the new Strategy is market-led and globally-focused.

Governance Group Chairman John Cronin said the Strategy and its Action Plan were also aimed at increasing employment, income levels and living standards across the Bay of Plenty.

"In 2010 wood and paper product manufacturing and forestry and logging were fifth and sixth as contributors to the region's wealth, and together they made up 10 percent of the region's gross domestic product," he said. The industry is a major employer, especially in Kawerau and Rotorua.

"In the next 10 years, the log harvest in the Bay of Plenty and surrounding areas is forecast to increase by 25%. However a large proportion of the 10 million cubic metres of trees harvested each year in the region are currently exported as whole logs, with no local processing. More than 60 percent of the tonnes of forest products currently exported through the Port of Tauranga leaves as logs, Mr Cronin said.

"That contributes only a small amount to the region's wealth - and this is where there's a significant opportunity to get more value from wood."

He said increased wood processing in the region would contribute to jobs and income, and enhance productivity growth through investment in modern manufacturing equipment, and skills development required to operate the industry.

Industry Consultant for the Strategy John Galbraith said that compared to other regions, and other countries, the Bay of Plenty had a number of competitive advantages.

"We have an increasing supply of sustainably produced softwood, renewable sources of energy in both geothermal and hydroelectricity, highly developed and competitive engineering and support suppliers and world-class research centres in wood processing and bio-materials."

Mr Galbraith said wood processing could provide many opportunities for local manufacture, from small scale, high value-add wood products, to international scale timber, ply and panel mills.

"Key market opportunities are in the rapidly growing economies of China and India, as well as in traditional markets in Australia and the United States," Mr Galbraith said.

Collaborative and strong partnerships would be vital for the plan's success, and rules and regulations needed to be enabling to increase investor confidence, minimise delays, improve clarity around planning and consenting, provide the appropriate standards for the industry and encourage and increase the use of timber products in construction.

Mr Cronin said the first step would be to establish the Bay of Plenty Forestry and Wood Action Group.

"This group will be responsible for prioritising actions over the next two to five years, ensuring the strategy remains relevant and real results are achieved. It is heartening that we have got to this stage, and the success of the strategy will be in the hands of all the key players across the region," he said.

 Ends

 For further media information please contact Miles McConway, Group Manager Technology and Economic Development on 0800 884 880, or Linda Thompson, Senior Communications Advisor, on direct dial 0800 884 881 ext 8149 or (021) 923 339.

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