Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tree hugger

As Minister of Forestry and Minister for Biosecurity, I have a special interest in these portfolio areas. The significance of both forestry and biosecurity was further confirmed to me during visits to both to Tauranga and Rotorua over the past month.

Apart from forestry’s economic role in sustainable development, it is valued for recreation and its place in the landscape. Due to the value we, as a country, place on this resource, getting biosecurity right is also critical. The arrival of a major forestry pest or disease would be devastating.

It is for this reason the New Zealand Government is committed to improving our already internationally well regarded biosecurity system, which is vital to primary industries and to New Zealand as a whole.

My recent Rotorua trips have been in relation to Scion, the Crown Research Institute that is recognised as a leader in forestry science.

I firstly toured Scion facilities and secondly opened an international workshop on forestry and biosecurity.

Scion is doing some great work. Wood has such potential in markets that are increasingly demanding environmental sustainability.

One of the new projects that amazed me was a smart packaging product – a biodegradable wood replacement for polystyrene – about time we had an environmental friendly packaging for whiteware you might say.

While in the Bay MAF Biosecurity took the opportunity to show me around the Port of Tauranga where I looked at biosecurity, surveillance and monitoring of forest plots.
Around the port is a high biosecurity risk area. I was impressed with the systems that have been established to monitor any incursions that might breach our border.

It is impossible for any country, even a geographically remote island nation like New Zealand, to isolate itself from all risks of imported pests and diseases.

For this reason it was especially relevant for me to be part of the international biosecurity and forestry conference hosted by Scion just a few weeks later. The conference was about promoting global cooperation in forest-related research and enhancing the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees.

Significant benefits to New Zealand will result from links with international science, particularly as biosecurity is so important to New Zealand’s economy and society.

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