Potentially a billion dollar opportunity for the Māori economy and a way to realise this. This is the outcome of a recent study undertaken by a Māori forest initiative group, Toitu Te Waonui.
Toitu Te Waonui is the name of a forestry initiative group comprising various organisations working towards a vision of a large-scale Maori led forestry investment enterprise. The group comprises members of Interpine Innovation, Scion Research, and Tuia Group as well as key individuals including Sir Toby Curtis, Te Taru White, John Ransfield (QSM) and His Honourable Judge Ken Hingston.
Afforestation of Underutilised Maori Land
Toitu Te Waonui has undertaken a comprehensive study to determine the underlying value in underutilised Māori land and developed a strategy to support Māori in realising that value. The study has outlined a collective approach to land management, a way to convert that land into productive forests and provided a blueprint for moving Māori landowners from holding under producing land generating little value back to their whanau, into forestry and further up the value chain into high value adding activities. Toitu Te Waonui is pleased with the outcome of the recently completed feasibility study focussing on the viability of afforestation of underutilised Māori land.
Toitu Te Waonui believes that the study is the most comprehensive study carried out to date on the utilisation of unproductive or under-developed Māori land. While its conclusions suggest that there is substantially less under-utilised land available than previously thought, there was sufficient land suitable for large scale afforestation in the three areas studied (Te Tai Tokerau (Northland), Waiariki (Rotorua) and Whanganui).
The study provided high-level insight into a possible collective approach to forestry management led by Māori landowners based on achieving large scale. It also provided a blueprint for moving Māori landowners from a position of holding under-productive land, into forestry development, and then into participation in down-stream value-adding activities, all over the course of a single forestry rotation.
Toitu Te Waonui believes that putting large scale wood supply in the hands of Māori landowners would create a range of benefits:
- Boosting Māori Land performance: the model will create an opportunity to boost the performance and productivity of a large chunk of the Māori land base, inside a sustainable sector with an inter-generational investment focus.
- Moving Māori Land owners up the value chain: Māori landowners will have an opportunity to directly participate in value adding activities. Moving from a passive to an active investment position in relation to their own assets, and creating long term wealth.
- Creating jobs and regional development: putting wood-supply in the hands of Māori investors means a greater commitment to development of local industry, jobs, and regional development.
- Māori land in three study areas (Te Tai Tokerau, Waiariki, and Whanganui) was assessed using the latest spatial data and categorised according to its afforestation suitability, avoiding any arable land utilising LUC and other datasets available. Each piece of candidate land was then tested against a range of cost and income parameters to determine its economic feasibility as a forest. Over 90,000 hectares of land was deemed suitable for afforestation and most of this was determined to be profitable if established in trees under the Toitu Te Waonui economic model.
- The study identified an investment and ownership model that would lead to the landowners being able to participate in the ownership of the trees and capturing a greater share of the full forestry value chain. Ownership of the forests, in addition to the land, is seen as critical for Māori to maximise their opportunities in the forestry sector.
- A number of software tools that would support forest managers and Māori landowners assess the suitability of their land for afforestation were assessed and used as part of the study.
- The study and its objectives was actively communicated with Māori stakeholders in each of the study areas and the Toitu Te Waonui team are is now relaying results back to the regional stakeholders before embarking on the next pre-commercial phase of the project.
If you would like more information on this project please feel free to contact one of the project team: