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Calder Stewart Industries forestry

Bruce Stewart, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2011.

The forestry division of construction and development company Calder Stewart Industries is the largest private forest owner in the Otago region. As company co-founder I was keenly interested in farm forestry in the 30 years between 1950 and 1980, frequently attending farm forestry conferences around the country over that period, along with my wife Elsie. My interest in forestry on farmland originally grew from a shortage of exotic trees for sale.

First planting

Today the company plants around 120,000 seedlings every year. The first plantings started after a farm on rough hill country was purchased in 1979 at Milburn, neighbouring the Otago Coast Forest. The farm, called Avon Glen, is situated beside the Milton golf course, in the gully behind the new Otago prison and continuing on down towards the Milburn area. Most of the hill land was covered by scrub, gorse and tussock.

A farm manager was appointed and sheep, cattle and deer were introduced to the property for the next ten years. The deer hinds introduced on the first block of land were originally bought at $3,500 but were not a good investment. Later, the deer were sold for a miserable $600 each, less than a fifth of their original value.

Over a period of time 230 hectares were planted in radiata pine and Douglas fir. After a few years the remaining unplanted land on the farm was leased out and the deer, sheep and cattle were sold. The first plantings were at 1,500 trees per hectare although at the time there was less choice of trees available compared to today, with radiata GF 12s to GF17s planted.

Jim Hansen was the manager of the Otago Coast Forest. He gave good advice on the type of trees, the number to plant per hectare and details of how to plant, particularly planting close to gullies, water and roadways. A small area was planted in Douglas fir. However, we have noticed that Douglas fir does not grow well in the Milton area, and the land appears more suited to radiata pine.

Since 1980, the company has bought six other properties, four in the Milton area and more recently, two properties in north Otago, near Palmerston. At one of the properties near Milton, 50 hectares of macrocarpa have been planted. These are being pruned annually to about five metres. At Palmerston, on lower areas sheltered from the North West wind, Douglas fir is being planted.

Taieri Peak Forest

Pruning and management

Harvesting 31-year-old radiata at Avon Glen

Pruning costs are significant, and in some years total upwards of $700,000. Between a seven and ten people are employed full time on planting, land preparation, pruning and thinning to grow trees to the maximum height and quality throughout the total 2,600 hectares. The original planting of 80 hectares has recently been harvested.

Jeremy Hayes is currently the manager of the forestry division. He spends half his time in the field and the other half in the office on specific estate planning, including dealings with the ETS scheme. Calder Stewart has purchased the land for perpetuity, with the intention that it will be planted in trees and maintained to its full potential, whenever that might be in the future.


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