Administration by a Separate Forest Service
Forty years of administration by a separate Forest Service has seen forestry well established and future wood supplies sufficient for domestic needs, with an assured surplus for export for some time to come. Wood utilisation industries are buoyant, and the recent development of pulp and paper production holds promise of broadening the country's export economy.
During that period, a revised Act, the Forests Act of 1949, has been passed and the name of the Department changed to the New Zealand Forest Service. The scope of activities of the Service has been widened considerably. In particular, provisions for rural fire control have been greatly strengthened and provided for in a separate Act, the Forest and Rural Fires Act of 1947, administered by the Service; and noxious animal control has been transferred from the Department of Internal Affairs to the Service. Provisions for control have been made also under a separate Act, the Noxious Animals Act of 1956.
This period had also seen the vindication of a forest policy which was implicit in the passing of the first Forest Acts. The broad basis of this policy has been the conservation of indigenous forests for local timber supplies, as well as for the prevention of soil erosion and the regulation of water flow, and the creation of exotic forests to assure future wood supplies.
In this latter field, as has been noted, marked success has been achieved. An exotic forest estate has been established which is more than sufficient for immediate domestic wood supplies. Some of the surplus has been used to build an export trade of sawn timber and of pulp and paper, with radiata pine the main log supply. This species now provides more than half the rough sawn timber of the country and, as indigenous supplies dwindle, will undoubtedly provide the bulk of it. Acceptance of the timber has by no means been straightforward or easy to achieve. In many of its properties it is the antithesis of native timbers. The wood is almost entirely sap, in contrast to the high proportion of durable heart provided from indigenous logs. As building authorities have rightly been unwilling to accept this non-durable sap timber, a sizable timber-preservation industry has grown up. On a per capita basis it is by far the largest preservation industry in the world.
Timber from New Zealand grown Douglas fir is becoming increasingly available as forests age. No difficulties present themselves in marketing this, for it takes the place of imported Douglas fir brought in mainly for building purposes. In time it should become one of the major New Zealand timbers. Other exotic trees supply minor quantities of sawn logs. The only uses for which these exotic timbers are not suitable are for joinery and furniture. The superior grade timber of native trees and some imported timbers are preferred for these purposes.
Radiata pine has proved outstanding in so far as it produces very high-quality mechanical and chemical pulp, also kraft papers, newsprint, and cardboards. These products have thus been able to provide quickly most domestic needs, and some have also competed successfully in overseas markets. It would seem that the prospects for expansion in these lines are far in excess of the potential raw material supplies available from present exotic forests.
The policy of indigenous forest conservation has been successful for the reason that a reservation has been achieved of what might be considered a minimum protection forest estate only. There is little doubt that in many areas clearance of protection forest has proceeded much too far; at some time, therefore, there must be a reversal of the process. Indeed, this is already happening on soils derived from highly erodible shattered Tertiary rocks in the catchment of the Waipaoa River, Poverty Bay. Conservation measures, including the planting of trees and an afforestation scheme, are under way there to prevent excessive aggradation of the river bed. Unfortunately, introduced wild mammals are in many places reducing the effectiveness of protection forests. A number of species, including particularly the red deer of Europe and the opossum of Australia, have become thoroughly acclimatised and are now superimposed on what was a vegetation free from browsing animals. They, together with domestic animals, now running wild, have everywhere altered native forest and in a few cases have destroyed it.
The policy of conserving indigenous timbers has not been so successful. Some 30,000 acres of native timber-bearing forest are cut over annually. Partly because of price control of rough-sawn timber, which has operated since 1936, native timbers have not been available for the high-quality uses for which they are so eminently suited. Most are still used for general building purposes, needs now adequately filled by exotic timbers. There is also a reluctance by Government to close mills before they have completely cut out resources. Nor has the introduction of measures to secure the second crop of timber trees, once the forest has been cut over, been pursued as vigorously as it should have been. Admittedly the regeneration of some native timber trees is very difficult and research must point the way to achieving this. On the other hand, some species, such as the southern beeches and kauri regenerate readily in the right conditions. Management has been introduced into these forests but the area treated forms only a fraction of that cut over annually.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.
- Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Annual Reports (1896–1918), Department of Lands and Survey (C. 1 of each year until 1905, C. 1B, 1906–18)
- Annual Reports (1919–20), C. 1B (1906–18); Annual Reports (1919–20), Forestry Department (C. 3, 1920); Annual Report (1917–48), State Forest Service (C. 3, 1917 and subsequent years); Report of Royal Commission on Forestry (C. 12, 1913);
- National Forest Survey of New Zealand, 1955, Vol. I (1957).