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Durable eucalypt forests: A multi-regional opportunity for investment in NZ drylands

By Paul Millen, February 2018.

Download SWP-T041 (pdf)

Executive summary

This consultation paper is the first step in a process to develop the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI) regional strategic plan, focusing on the establishment of durable eucalypt forests in New Zealand’s dry east coast regions. We aim to engage with central government, regional government and those in the forestry and agriculture sectors including NZDFI’s landowners, stakeholders and other supporters.

NZDFI seeks responses to key questions identified in this paper (see page 14). Your feedback will guide our direction in developing our regional strategic plan.

Since 2008, the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI) has focused on tree breeding and research to develop the foundation for its vision of creating 100,000 ha of durable eucalypt forests. These forests will be established in New Zealand’s east coast regions by 2030, and could generate an estimated $2 billion in annual sales of naturally durable timber products by 2050.

Regional development and employment could be generated through local processing to produce high value export products that are a sustainable alternative to unsustainably logged tropical hardwoods.

Over $3 million has been invested into the NZDFI’s work to date. A network of trials has been established; a long-term breeding programme will produce the first genetically improved seedlings by 2020; and strong partnerships with research providers, landowners and industry have been developed.

The case for durable eucalypts as a land-use alternative in east coast regions can be summarised as follows:

  • The NZ Government is very keen to encourage and support new forest planting at a national level, with a ‘One Billion Trees’ target over the next ten years. Durable eucalypts have significant potential in any new forest planting in drier east coast regions.
  • Our trial network confirms the high productivity and potential of selected durable eucalypt species in demanding, low-rainfall east coast conditions.
  • National and international markets for durable eucalypt products have been identified: these markets are diverse, often high-value, and sustainable.
  • Durable eucalypt forests will mitigate the market and environmental risks that go with NewZealand’s current radiata pine monoculture (around 90% of plantation forests in New Zealand are radiata pine).
  • Durable eucalypts will confer numerous environmental benefits, including a reduction in the use of CCA-treated timber, provision of nectar and pollen for bees and birds, carbon sequestration, and soil erosion control.
  • The NZDFI’s investment in research has led to the evaluation of these new species for rapid selection and propagation of high-performing genetic material.
  • The NZDFI team has developed significant skills and contacts, and will continue to work hard to provide leadership, research and development expertise, and to communicate and collaborate widely.


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