What is your levy being used for?

Published Forestry Bulletin – 5 May 2015

More than half the money collected from the forest levy in 2015 is being invested in research, science and technology.

The plantation forestry levy is to fund activities that benefit all forest growers. The first levy, set at a rate of 27c/tonne, was collected from 1 January 2014 on all harvested wood products from plantation forests.

In late 2014, the Forest Growers Levy Trust (FGLT) decided to continue the levy at the same rate in 2015. It expects to raise more than $6.5 million from the levy this year, with additional money coming in from government research grants and voluntary contributions from industry players.

Over 80% of the 2015 budget will be spent on the $5.96 million work programme of which 57% ($3.4 m) will fund the research, science and technology programme. The balance goes to health, safety and training ($965 k), forest health and biosecurity ($920 k), marketing and membership support ($296 k), environment ($120 k), Farm Forestry Information Transfer ($95 k), fire ($85 k) and transport ($50 k).

The 10 projects in the research, science and technology programme are being supported because they have the "potential to deliver real value for growers", explains FOA research manager Russell Dale.

The largest of these is the $1.6 m sustainable intensification programme being conducted by Scion that aims to deliver more value from each hectare of forest.

"For future forests it is looking at the best trees for the conditions at a particular site. It also aims to extract more value from existing forests by looking at how we can improve sustainable growth and improve the profitability of the crop over the rest of the rotation, through interventions such as fertilisers and soil organisms," says Dale.

Three other projects with a budget of $1 m focus on forest health and biosecurity. Scion is aiming to build our understanding of red needle cast and control options; Lincoln Bio Protection is looking at the value of beneficial organisms, such as endophytes, as a way of improving the health and vigour of tree crops; and another team from Scion is looking at phytophthora diseases and their impact on commercial forests.

There is also financial support for two existing research programmes: Scion's work on the main alternative tree species and fire research.

FGLT has also agreed to fund four new projects: weed research; the impact of harvesting on riparian margins; extension of water quality monitoring; and the final 18 months of the steepland harvesting Primary Growth Partnership programme."This is in recognition of the steepland programme's contribution to improving productivity and safety in the industry," says Dale.

The streamlined funding process offered by the FGLT means that research programmes have more certainty regarding longer-term funding and approvals can move more quickly for things like biosecurity issues, says Dale. "In the past, we had to find funding from a wide range of sources. This was slow and time-consuming and, in some cases short-term, to fit in with company and department budgets."

Dale says the FGLT is also looking at growing the programme using the levy funding, bolstered with additional funding from industry, to attract more government investment for forestry research and innovation through the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. The remainder of the total FGLT budget – about a fifth – will go on: operational costs for the maintenance of IT and the database, depreciation of software, the levy board and communications; secretariat; and programme management costs with a team of 6.5 full-time equivalent staff making sure the programme runs smoothly.

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