A new standalone forestry hub in Rotorua “delivers so much of what this Government stands for”, the Prime Minister says.

Jacinda Ardern officially opened the new Ministry for Primary Industries unit, Te Uru Rākau, on Friday.

The unit will have its head office in regional New Zealand – honouring the coalition commitment made between NZ First and Labour.

“I grew up amongst trees and I want the next generation of New Zealanders to because that means jobs,” she said.

Ardern said it ticked boxes for regional development, job creation, climate change mitigation and creating a sustainable economy.

She also paid tribute to Forestry Minister Shane Jones’ commitment to reinvigorating the forestry sector.

“Shane’s passion for forestry is real and genuine. From the moment we sat around the negotiating table he said we’re planting a billion trees.”

Jones said he believed Te Uru Rākau would create around 300 jobs, split between Wellington and Rotorua, “not counting the young men and women we’re going to need to roll out the trees.”

By next year an additional 100 million trees would be planted, he said.

“This Government has been clear about its commitment to New Zealand’s forestry sector and the One Billion Trees planting programme,” Jones said.

“I believe Te Uru Rākau will play a key role in supporting and promoting our vision for a flourishing forestry sector, delivering sustainable jobs in our regions, forestry workforce development and training and economic growth while helping meet our country’s climate change targets.

“New Zealand’s old forestry service was disestablished in 1987 and in recent years, our forestry sector has experienced decline, but we’re determined to shine the spotlight on forestry once more.

“Te Uru Rākau will build a strong and dedicated forestry presence in Rotorua, recognising that Rotorua is at the heart of the forestry sector in New Zealand. Forestry is our third largest export earner – with an annual gross income of about $5 billion – and has the potential to grow.

“I’m pleased to be able to announce today that Budget 2018 will set aside $15 million of operating funds to boost the capability of the new service, enabling it to work with land owners, provide forestry expertise and deliver on the Government’s forestry objectives.

“Today, we’re also launching an online tree counter to keep track of the One Billion Trees goal. This will be updated weekly throughout the winter planting season and will show how many trees have been planted, the number of tree seedlings sold and the percentage of native versus exotic species.

“Since coming into Government, we have given Crown Forestry the mandate to enter into commercial arrangements with landowners, provided $5.8 million of operating funding to scale up production of native seedlings and announced a nationwide planting programme over Matariki to recognise the men and women of our New Zealand Defence Force.”

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