Questions and Answers

Who can vote in the referendum?

The intention of the organisers of the referendum is that anyone who potentially will pay the levy during the six year life of the Levy Order will be entitled to vote.

In essence, you will be eligible to vote if you own, or represent a forest owner that owns, a ‘Qualifying Forest’.

A Qualifying Forest is a plantation of trees that, during the 12 months preceding the referendum, has been grown for the purpose of future harvest. The trees may be intended to be harvested for export, or for processing or use in New Zealand.

Qualifying Forests do not include trees intended to be harvested as Christmas trees.

A Qualifying Forest must be planted contiguously (in a single block or continuous strip), be at least 4 hectares in area and made up of trees at least 10 years old (planted before 1 January 2008). A forest will be regarded as contiguous even if a road, track or access way passes through it.

The forest age restriction is designed to ensure that everyone who is growing trees that might be harvested and sold in the 6-year levy period has the right to vote.

Forest owners who are not liable to pay the levy will not be eligible to vote in the referendum.

What is the definition of a forest owner?

A ‘Forest Owner’ is a person having legal ownership of the standing trees in a plantation at the date of the referendum. This person may have direct ownership of the standing trees, a Crown Forest Licence, or similar interest in the trees.

Land owners are eligible to vote only if they have legal ownership of the trees on their land. Owners of cutting or similar rights are not normally the legal owners of the standing trees and therefore are not eligible to vote.

A ‘Person’ may be a private individual, or an entity such as a partnership, limited liability company, body corporate, an unincorporated body or the trustees of a trust.

Where more than one person has legal ownership of a Qualifying Forest, they will be treated as a partnership. The partnership will be eligible for one vote.

Where more than one person is recorded as having legal ownership of a Qualifying Forest, the person whose name appears first on the legal record will have the voting rights. If the owners want someone else to vote on their behalf such as the forest manager, the voting entity has to declare on the voting form that they are legally authorised to exercise the vote for the legal entity.

The board of the Forest Owners Levy Trust (FGLT) has based its definitions on legal opinions.

What if it is unclear who should be voting on behalf of a Qualifying Forest?

Where it is unclear who qualifies for the right to vote in the referendum on behalf of a Qualifying Forest, a ruling may be sought from the FGLT Board.

To apply, send a detailed explanation of the circumstances to the Board, so it is received by 5 pm 15 April 2019. The Board will make its decision with regard to the objectives of the Commodity Levies Act. This decision, which will be final, will be released no later than 5 pm 18 April 2019.

How many votes do I get?

Each forest owner who owns one or more Qualifying Forests gets one vote. This is regardless of how many hectares or blocks they have in the one ownership. You may vote only in support of, or against, the levy proposal as it stands.

This vote will be counted two ways:

  1. The number of owners voting
  2. The number of hectares those votes represent (net stocked area)

For the referendum to succeed, there must be a majority of yes votes in each category.

How do I vote?

Voting will open on 12 March 2019 and close at 5 pm 20 April 2019.

You may register on this website, by mail, fax or phone. It will be a simple process – we will need your name and contact details as well as your word that you meet the voting criteria.

When you vote, you will need to confirm you have a qualifying forest and its net stocked area as at 31 December 2018.

Are all tree species covered?

Yes. If you have a planted forest (or one that has resulted from a planted forest, such as regeneration of a planted forest, or wildings), that meets the area and age criteria, you will have the right to vote in the referendum – regardless of the species involved.

Owners of planted native forest are eligible to vote. Owners of natural or regrowth native forest are not eligible to vote.

What safeguards are in place to ensure the integrity of the vote?

Before you vote in the referendum, you must formally declare that you are legally entitled to vote. When voting has closed, a sample of votes will be independently audited to check that they were cast legitimately. Fraudulent voting is a criminal offence and will be treated accordingly.

The entire registration and voting process is being managed on contract by Research New Zealand, a business that is experienced in conducting referendums. Research New Zealand has no vested interest in the forest industry. All information supplied as part of the voting / registration process is held by Research New Zealand for the referendum process only.

What if a vote appears to be invalid?

The FGLT Board has absolute discretion as to whether a vote has been validly cast on behalf of the owner of a Qualifying Forest and in determining who has the right to cast that vote.

Where more than one vote is cast on behalf of an owner, all votes cast by that owner shall be null and void, unless the Board determines that in the interests of fairness more than one vote should be recognised or that one vote should be recognised and the rest ignored.

Can the levy be increased?

In voting yes you will be agreeing to a levy rate of 27c/tonne in the first year and a maximum levy rate for the six year levy term of 33c/tonne.

Each year a meeting will be held at which the Forest Owners Levy Annual Work Programme will be reviewed and a budget for the next year approved. The levy struck for that period may be more or less than the previous year’s levy, but it may not exceed the maximum levy amount approved in the referendum and included in the statutory Levy Order.

The Levy Order will be deemed to be revoked 6 years after it is made. If forest owners want to continue to fund work on behalf of the industry with a levy struck under the Commodity Levies Act for a further six years, there must be a majority yes vote in another referendum.

What if I am leaving the industry?

You may vote in the referendum even if you plan to leave the industry after you have harvested your forest, so long as you have a qualifying forest at 31 December 2018. That’s because you will be paying the levy on your final harvest.

Paying the levy when you are leaving the industry may seem unfair, but the costs and benefits of industry-good work are to some extent intergenerational. Work paid for by previous generations of forest owners will have enhanced the value of your final harvest. Similarly, owners that come after you will benefit from your contributions.

How is my privacy protected?

The information you provide during the referendum is covered by the Privacy Act 1993. This entitles you to have access to, and correct, this information.

It is being collected to satisfy the requirements of Part I of the Commodity Levies Act 1990. It is your choice whether to supply this information, but it must be supplied if you wish to exercise your right to vote.

Other than data that are already in the public domain, information identifying you or your forests is confidential to Research New Zealand, the company contracted to conduct the referendum. It will not be provided to any other organisation or person without your express permission.

If there is a ‘yes’ vote, the voting papers will be held in confidential storage for two years following the referendum and will then be destroyed. If the referendum results in a ‘no’ vote, the voting papers will be destroyed immediately.

Do I have to vote?

No, you don’t have to vote in the referendum. Your participation is completely voluntary.

However, we hope you will vote. For forestry to achieve its potential, we need a cohesive industry in which all forest owners are involved and have their say.

Following a successful referendum vote, who will represent owners on the levy board?

If there is a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, the constitution of the FGLT provides for it to represent owners’ interests. Details on the FGLT board are available at http://fglt.org.nz/about-us/board

How will the levy be spent in the first year?

A work programme for the first year of the levy has been prepared and is available on this website so that levy payers know, in road terms, how their levies will be spent.

The work programme and accompanying budget for 2020 is based upon, and enhances, the current FGLT work programme for 2019 and the industry roadmap.

The FGLT has legal and moral responsibility for ensuring that levy funds are spent effectively on activities that are supported by and deliver value to owners.

Will the board’s hands be tied by decisions made by the FOA and FFA before the election?

The existing levy is managed by the Forest Growers Levy Trust. The Trust is advised by the Levy Trust Advisory Council which has representatives from FOA and FFA on it.

Decisions regarding the new levy (budget for year one for example) are being made by the FGLT in the interests of levy payers.