I spent yesterday at the Farm Forestry Association Conference in Invercargill and I can confidently report that what those people don’t know about eucalypts and acacias and redwoods is not worth knowing.
I was there to promote the Green New Deal on forestry and to learn about the sector from a group of very experienced practitioners of farm forestry.
I was relieved to see that farm foresters are passionate about planting indigenous forestry and species other than pine trees, and it was really useful to get feedback about our Green New Deal forestry ideas which were received with interest. Some people felt we had over-emphasised the value of carbon farming which was still highly speculative. These people are truly committed to producing quality timber as well as forestry for biodiversity, and carbon farming may be a lower order motivation for them. Nevertheless, the response our Green New Deal proposals was generally very positive.
The conference was colloquially called “Men of the Trees” so I was not sure whether to go dressed as a man or a tree, but in fact there were some women of trees present who clearly know their stuff. I was disappointed not to win the Husqavarna chainsaw but was delighted to hear the respect a number people expressed for Jeanette Fitzsimons, as a person with great good sense and knowledge of farm forestry. It was also good to get some real interest in the campaign to ban illegal and unsustainable tropical timber from people in the sector. Another plus was that my partner Gordon and I were invited to visit a number of forest farms owned by some of the true elders of the farm forestry movement.
So there was much common ground especially in terms of attitudes to industrial dairy farm effects. Southland is a warm and hospitable place despite the frost and the widespread inability to pronounce Maori words. As an alien from the North I did enjoy the learning and the commitment to forests, not to mention the chance to attack coal mining on the local television station.
Next stop of my mini forestry listening tour is Ruatorea but first there’s a mining film event in Whakatane. It’s busy but it beats the hell out of Urgency and watching the Government wipe out regional democracy.