Forestry has to be sustainable

Wednesday 20 Jun 2018

With issues relating to the environmental effects of forestry in the East Coast region this month we have some insight from forestry advocate Henry Koia.

In an opinion piece on Friday in the Gisborne Herald, he wrote: "I am an advocate for plantation forestry sustainability. It provides an opportunity for forest- based communities across the regions to utilise their natural resources as a basis for long-term economic, social and environmental health.

Plantation forestry essentially entails growing trees for cropping primarily for commercial purposes. One of its main benefits is job creation, and not just inside the forest gate but outside it through downstream processing, manufacturing and industry-servicing activity. At the global level, where current demand for forest products is strong and is driving export growth, the competitive nature of plantation forestry and the drive to maximise value recovery can be a cut-throat game. But when you spoon “sustainability” into the mix, everything changes.

I like to view plantation forestry sustainability simply as the ability to successfully compete in the plantation forestry sector indefinitely. This entails focusing on strengthening the three pillars of sustainability — social (people), environmental (planet), and economic (profits). If any one of the pillars is neglected, the whole system may crash.

For example, if too much weight is accorded to profits at the expense of the environment, or the benefits to local people by, say, replacing workers with machines, then foresters risk having their social licence to operate revoked by those communities that are adversely affected by its profit-heavy practices.

A plantation forestry sustainability indicator is an indicator that is useful in monitoring, making decisions about, or measuring progress towards sustainability. A high forestry death toll; a critical shortage of in-forest skills; poor training outcomes; poor working conditions; and torrential rain events that wash tonnes of woody debris and forestry slash on to roads, bridges and properties, are all key sustainability indicators. My assessment of these indicators unequivocally concludes that the current business model is unsustainable. An underlying problem, I would suggest, is a lack of effective strategic leadership.

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Source: Henry Koia & Gisborne Herald

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