11 Oct 2013

East Coast foresty set to boom

9:09 pm on 11 October 2013

The already-huge contribution forestry is making to the Gisborne-East Coast region is set to keep growing, the industry says.

A newly released Waikato University study, commissioned by the Eastland Wood Council, shows forestry ranks with farming as a contributor to the regional economy.

Wood council chairman Iain McInnes says it's a pertinent reminder to local and central government of the role forestry is playing in the region.

"The direct revenues in 2011 from forestry are $225 million, so that's mainly export revenue from the port," Mr McInnes says.

"But actually it puts it on a similar scale to farming. Sheep and beef farming produced $205 million revenue at the same period."

It was also a huge contributor to employment in the region, with 1035 people employed in planting, harvesting and logging, plus those working in cartage, the mills and the ports, he says. All up, about 1600 full-time equivalent jobs stemmed from the industry.

Port of Gisborne is the third largest exporter of logs but timber production could double in the next 10 years, Mr McInnes says.

"In the last year, the annual cut was something like 1.5 million tonnes. There's a lot of plantings in the 80s and early 90s here in Gisborne, so the MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) forecasts ... say that the annual harvest could actually reach 3.2 million tonnes a year (by 2020)."

The study estimates that by then, up to 10% of the population of Gisborne will be involved in or derive a living from forestry, boosting the local economy by $328 million and another 630 jobs.

Infrastructure such as roads and the port would need to grow, and attracting skilled labour was also difficult, he said.