New Forest Owners chief executive looking to forestry as sustainable keystone of bioeconomy

Forest Owners Association

29 AUGUST 2023

The new Chief Executive of the Forest Owners Association, Dr Elizabeth Heeg, is promising to expand the vision of the forest industry.

Elizabeth Heeg has just taken up the job, to replace long-serving chief executive David Rhodes. She was previously working at Te Uru Rākau New Zealand Forest Service.

She says New Zealand forests are a vast resource that could produce a significantly greater value for Aotearoa New Zealand.
“The world economy is transforming out of a dependence on fossil fuels which accelerates climate change. Renewable resources, such as wood, are vital to powering the global bio-economy.”

“New Zealand has an opportunity to use forestry to achieve a low emissions future,” Elizabeth Heeg says.

“The Forest and Wood Industry Transformation Plan, which was launched just last year, lays out a clear pathway to maximise forestry’s role and value-add to address the climate crisis.”

“But as we meet the challenges of realising the full potential of our forests and development of an advanced processing industry, the catastrophic effects of Cyclone Gabrielle earlier in the year, have also reminded us that we must adapt to climate change as well.”

“We’ve got to get better at managing our forest debris, and do it ahead of the growing intensity of storms which put all land use at greater risk.”

Elizabeth Heeg says she’s looking forward to working with FOA member companies, other primary industry organisations and associations, decision-makers and communities.

“FOA has always been close to the Farm Foresters Association, who represent small-scale forest operations, and they are important partners as we look towards diversification and adaptation.”

“We also are looking to future partnerships to utilise woody biomass for energy, with companies such as Fonterra. Forestry is moving into a new age of partnership and collaboration.”

“By building partnerships across the forestry supply chain, with the Wood Manufacturers Association and Timber Industry Federation, we can process more wood onshore, use more wood for building, and get the highest value from our forests.”

“The ITP estimates New Zealand could lower its projected carbon emissions by fifty-four million tonnes by 2050 if we increase domestic processing and u biomass efficiently. That’s a target worth aiming at.”

Forest Owners Association President, Grant Dodson, says he’s delighted to welcome Dr Heeg as a highly qualified woman as CE of the Association.

“She’ll be bringing a whole range of new perspectives to the top of the industry. There’s a lack of female leadership in the sector and Elizabeth’s appointment is going to go towards redressing the imbalance towards a more diverse leadership and participation in forestry and its supply chain.”