Three Southern tertiary students are among the eight recipients of an inaugural forestry scholarship.

The Nga Karahipi Uru Rakau scholarships were developed to encourage young, talented individuals into the forestry industry.

They were available to Maori and/or female students enrolling in a bachelor of forestry science or bachelor of engineering (Hons) in forest engineering.

The scholarships were presented by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Forestry Minister Shane Jones at a ceremony at the University of Canterbury.

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The recipients included Max Gomez, from Dunedin, Hannah Humphreys, from Wanaka, and Nicholas Melvin, from Winton.

Over the past five years, fewer than a third of graduates of forestry degrees were women, Ms Ardern said.

While the industry was a significant employer of Maori, Maori were under-represented in the professional and scientific areas of the industry.

''We hope this group of talented scholarship recipients will pave the way for the future and encourage other women and Maori to enter higher education within the forestry sector,'' she said.

Mr Jones said it was ''exciting time'' in the forestry sector, particularly moving towards the Government's goal of planting one billion trees by 2028.

''The focus of the One Billion Trees Programme is about planting the right tree, in the right place, for the right purpose, and for this we also need the right people.

''As technology and science change the way we do things, we need people who can work with robotics, help develop new forestry products and processes, and take them to the market. Our scholarship recipients add to the pool of talent that can accomplish this,'' he said.

Applications for the next round open in June and close on August 15.

Last month's ANZ Agri-Focus said the forestry sector was looking in good shape for 2018 with export log prices holding up at high levels and plenty of timber being felled.

Export demand continued to be underpinned by strong demand from China. Slower Chinese economic growth, if it transpired into lower demand for imported logs, remained a key risk.

New Zealand exporters were also benefiting from less competition from Russia, which was electing to process a larger proportion of its logs into lumber, reducing its supply of logs for export.

Demand from Japan - New Zealand's fourth-largest export market behind China, Korea and India - had waned in recent years, but might get a boost as more homes were being built and import tariffs were reduced.