New Zealand Forest Service (formerly Forestry New Zealand) says it is laying the foundations for a new biofuels industry, to turn forestry waste into a potential billion-dollar industry.
The $1.5 million in funding comes from the One Billion Trees programme, which was announced in 2018.
Acting deputy director-general Henry Weston says the Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Action Plan 2020-2024 identifies that the sector will require 5,000 more workers by 2025.
Weston says there has not been a further breakdown of that figure to find out how many of the required workers would need to fill entry level positions and how many would need to be skilled workers.
He told Rural News the food and fibre sectors are key drivers of the New Zealand economy and that investing in projects that attract people to the sector is a priority. “
As New Zealand continues to recover from the economic impacts of Covid-19, we need people taking up careers in this important sector.”
Weston says the forestry and wood processing sector currently brings in between $6 and $7 billion per year, employing 35,000 people.
“We want to keep helping New Zealanders find exciting and rewarding training and career opportunities.
“It was great to see ten trainees graduate from a 17-week Taranaki-based course at the end of 2020 and go straight into jobs.”
The course, run by Treemachine Services, received $183,240 in the round of funding.
Another programme KTM Silviculture Limited, in Masterton, received $200,000 to run a programme for 24 trainees to gain Level 3 NZQA silviculture training qualifications.
Also identified in the Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Action Plan is the issue of diversity in the sector. The document states that the majority of employees in the industry are male, European and older than New Zealand’s median age.
Weston says a scholarship was set up by Te Uru Rākau Forestry New Zealand to tackle this issue.
“Our Ngā Karahipi Uru Rākau – Forestry Scholarship programme aims to increase diversity in forestry sciences and engineering, with a strong focus on encouraging Māori and women to embark on forestry careers,” he says.
“These two groups currently represent only a small percentage of the forestry workforce in senior level roles, and Te Uru Rākau is working to ensure the forestry and wood processing sectors are more reflective of our communities.”
Weston says both the scholarship and the training programme funding are a part of the organisation’s programme to assist the industry to meet its employment needs in the future.