New Zealand Journal of Forestry (1996) 41(2): 16–20
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry
Alternative approaches to Forestry, and Education for alternative approaches to Forestry
'Conventional' forestry in New Zealand in 1996 is intensive management and utilisation of radiata pine plantations while excluding logging from most of the indigenous forest. This is decidedly 'alternative' compared to 'conventional' global practice which is harvesting timber from native forests, with little understanding of plantations. International opinion, indicators of sustainability and certification processes are directed towards sustainable management of native forests. Even though 'conventional' forestry in New Zealand is arguably the best model of environmental responsibility, it could become misunderstood in a global market that may move towards penalising wood from clear-cutting of exotic monocultures. The demise of the possum-skin industry in New Zealand bears striking similarities.
Radiata pine grows fast, has wide site tolerance and is silviculturally forgiving. The reasons for having 90% of the estate in this species are compelling. Nevertheless, there are good reasons to increase the amount of alternative species in the estate. Radiata grows and processes well, but it is not a good-quality timber and requires considerable re-engineering and modification to meet many end uses. Also, despite attempts to downplay the argument, there is a risk of biotic or abiotic catastrophe in having nearly all the estate in radiata pine.
A university education in forestry should not focus narrowly on conventional forestry but should be all about alternative approaches to forestry. Such an education should encourage a student to think, to be creative and to develop planning skills. It should be presented in an historical perspective and in a global context. It should encourage an open and questioning mind. 'Excellence in education' is preferable to 'standards in training', and attempts to confine a university education in forestry to training technicians to meet industry prescriptions of the day should be resisted