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New Zealand Journal of Forestry (2006) 51(1): 34–37
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry

Rectifying bad forest governance in New Zealand

H. Levack

The development of New Zealand’s dysfunctional and worsening forest governance over recent decades is explained. Currently native forest ecosystems are not being managed sustainably by an under-resourced Department of Conservation operating under an inappropriate Act. Agriculture, unlike forestry, tends to have harmful off-site environmental effects and competes with forestry for land, labour and resources, but Government forest policy is generated largely by a Ministry that is dominated by agricultural interests. This has contributed to unwise outcomes such as Government’s unworkable current climate change policies. Soil, water, nature conservation, carbon sequestration and other benefits have been delivered incidentally, (although not always in the right location or the right quantity), by private forests which have been established and managed primarily to yield commercial timber, but now that afforestation is no longer perceived by investors to be sufficiently profitable, the production of these vital forest co-products will diminish. This, together with the market failure that always existed for such values anyway, brings the need for Government intervention and support for forestry strongly into focus again. An effective, unified, institutional framework for multi-functional forestry, (essentially a new Forest Service), needs to be reassembled which, apart from overseeing the management of Crown–owned native forests and other Crown residual forest interests, has the mandate to monitor and research the multiple social, economic and environmental benefits conferred by forests, raise public awareness, and where appropriate advise Government on ways of raising the level of effectiveness of investment in forestry. Government intervention needs to be holistic. The use of free market or semi-market solutions such as extending contestable grant systems, or creating a domestic market for the trading of carbon credits or biodiversity units are valid ways of achieving this
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