Forestry forum targets Maori strategy

By, Katie Holland

About 210 people have attended a Maori forestry forum in Rotorua, the first step towards the development of a national strategy for Maori land and forest owners.

The Mai i te ngahere oranga - Maori Forestry Forum was held at Waiariki Institute of Technology yesterday, with speakers discussing the global forestry scene, opportunities in innovation and research and their own experiences and challenges in forestry.

Victor Goldsmith, a member of the Federation of Maori Authorities and the forum organising committee, said all the presentations showed the huge variety of possible uses for forestry land.

He said most iwi were represented at yesterday's event, with parties present from 160 different land blocks. It had been about a decade since a similar forum was last held, he said.

"It's been a long time for us to get in the room... it's timely," he said.

Mr Goldsmith said the forum first looked at how forestry fitted within the Maori economy and in turn the national and global scene.

Speakers then discussed innovative ideas such as manuka honey, eco-tourism and ginseng, and how they could be turned into commercial propositions.

Maori had a significant ownership in forestry and while they were predominantly receiving rentals from the crown at the moment, over time those licences would be handed back, he said.

Mr Goldsmith said the forum attendees were a "coalition of the willing" who wanted to explore the options available and help develop a voice for Maori forestry.

He said following the forum the Federation aimed to develop an ongoing strategy, and yesterday's event would help ensure they were "on the right track".

They will then visit other regions to continue the discussion. "We've got to turn the korero [talk] into action."

The event was supported by the Federation of Maori Authorities, Te Arawa Primary Sector Inc, Te Puni Kokiri, Waiariki Institute of Technology and Scion.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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