Organisers of next week's New Zealand Farm Forestry Association annual conference say the event is the start of several big developments that will encourage small scale forestry to become a significant feature in the rural economy.

The conference, in Rotorua from May 15-20, will address several major issues for the sector.

Organisers say small scale forestry in NZ is at a watershed moment.

"We are perhaps at the start of a new era of better understanding how we live sustainably on planet Earth, and the role of forestry has in achieving that," organising chairman Graham West said.

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"As governments address these issues and new policies on afforestation, water quality, and land use are being developed, we suggest farm foresters have an important role to play."

Questions to be addressed include: What role does small and medium scale forestry have in our future economic model of land use? What are the opportunities and challenges with the new government policy on afforestation? And what needs to change in the organisation to meet these challenges and opportunities?

Photo / File
Photo / File

"Our conference theme Fast Forward is to encourage all to seize the opportunity and to engage in the many decisions that are occurring," said West.

He said this year's conference had a line-up of top-notch speakers who would talk about the current situation, spell out the opportunities, and provide seasoned advisor or land owner experience.

Some of the key presenters are:

•Minister of Forestry – Shane Jones – Welcome Dinner.
•Steve Wilton, from the Forest Growers Levy Board, will outline who are the small-scale owners that now contribute 25-30 per cent of the levy.
•Te Taru White will offer insights on what role there is for Māori in small scale forestry.
•Professor Bruce Manley will report on the status of small-scale forests and what are the expected impacts on wood supply.
•Susan Kilsby, ANZ economist, will explore what are the major economic drivers of a good forestry investment.
•Kim von Lanthen, from ForestX, will explain new financial structures and private funding sources for forest investment.
•Ruth Fairhall, Te Uru Rakau, will present the government policies and incentives that provide encouragement for small forest growers.
•Emeritus Professor Warwick Silvester will talk about shifting the narrative on native forests.

Shane Jones. Photo / File
Shane Jones. Photo / File

The event will be run over five days, with a two-day programme in conference. There will be an associated expo of trade displays providing links to information and service providers. The daily activities include:

Wednesday, May 15: Action Groups
Thursday, May 16: 10am National Council, 2pm AGM, 5.30pm drinks, 7pm Welcome Dinner
Friday, May 17: Conference & expo, Awards Drinks, Awards Dinner
Saturday, May 18: Conference & expo
Sunday, May 19: Conference field trip
Monday, May 20: Post conference tour – two options

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This year the conference will aim to engage young people by funding the attendance of 15 to 20 young rural people who will be the future leaders and thinkers.

The conference will also acknowledge and celebrate the huge contribution many farm foresters have made over the last 63 years.

Post-conference tours on May 20 will take in Kawerau, the biggest and the best example of an integrated wood processing hub in New Zealand, and the Port of Tauranga, the largest log export port, with an annual log supply chain operation of more than 6 million tonnes.

Another tour will take in Scion, which will have a new range of developments including its plans for a new Innovation Hub, and Jaap and Sue van Dorsser's nine hectares of mixed native species planted along the banks of the Awahou Stream. The oldest trees are now over 20 years old and show which species work best for the site.

The conference will be held at the Distinction Hotel, Fenton St, Rotorua.