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Grants for 2022 from the Forest Growers Levy for small-scale forest growers

Julian Bateson and Howard Moore, New Zealand Tree Grower February 2022.

Each year the Forest Growers' Levy Trust collects around $9 million from the levy raised on the sale of every tree harvested. The amount varies as you might expect, but the round figure of $9 million gives you the general scale. From this, after the costs of administration and running the levy process, around $8 million is available to spend on all the good things for which the levy is raised, such as research, biosecurity, training, promotion, health and safety.

 Each year the committees managing these subjects invite applications for grants to undertake appropriate and useful projects. Such projects can vary from multimillion, multi-year programmes to short, sharp exercises finished in weeks. Small-scale forest owners represented by the NZFFA often apply for these grants, and have had significant success over the years.

Submission process

Applications for grants in 2022 had to be submitted to the relevant committees by August 2021 for assessment and ranking. Committee recommendations were then passed on to the levy board which made its final decisions in early December.  The NZFFA applied for a total of nine projects adding up to a little over $750,000. Of these, seven were approved for funding, representing a total of just over $400,000 of levy money.

As often happens, those promoting the projects have been able to use their success to obtain other funds.

For example, the project to develop and run a forestry extension series of workshops which received just over $20,000 from the levy has secured a further $75,000 from Te Uru Rakau – NZ Forest Service. Not all grants will be able to gear up to over three times the original, but it shows what can be done.

Preparing grant applications can take a lot of time.  As usual in the NZFFA, this has been by volunteers mainly from the action groups. When the projects are running, often further significant amounts of usually unpaid work are required to ensure the projects are well managed, generate results, and are properly reported.  Hats off to all concerned.

The grant applications

This year the Executive helped nine grant applications to go to the levy board from various parts of the NZFFA. The table below shows an overall summary.  Following the table are abbreviated descriptions of the applications, with their success or failure.

 Improving the database of permanent sample plots for alternative and contingency species $282,600 requested, $150,000 granted

There are nearly 700 permanent sample plots for alternative and contingency species around New Zealand.  Of these, nearly 500 have not been measured in the last 10 years. With rising interest in these species the NZFFA believes it is important to start a re-measurement programme so that the relevant growth models and yield tables can later be brought up to date.

The application was for assistance to re-measure a selection of around 300 of these permanent sample plots across the country, to establish a number of additional plots in suitable locations and to commission Scion to record and maintain the data. This should provide the basis for a later programme to update the growth models, yield tables and calculators for public use and generate reliable response for the various species.

Evaluation of elite cypress clones for wood quality $122,000 requested and declined

Scion have two cypress clonal trials which have recently been assessed by industry for growth, form and canker resistance allowing the most promising ‘elite’ clones to be identified. This project aimed to comprehensively measure and report on the growth of the elite clones in each of the trial blocks.

Some of those trees would then be thinned to provide logs for sawing trials and timber evaluation.  The boards would be assessed for heartwood content and colour, and then destructively tested for stiffness and strength. Durability would be tested under accelerated decay conditions and the results noted by site and by clone.

The project would produce a comprehensive report describing the wood properties of the very best cypress clonal selections from the Scion breeding programme.  This would fill the final gap in our knowledge of cypresses, giving the industry confidence to promote and propagate these clones for commercial release.

The potential for Abies grandis as a contingency species for radiata pine $121,500 requested and granted

In Gwavas forest an Abies grandis provenance trial has demonstrated yields of greater than 30 tonnes a hectare each year. This level of productivity suggests that, should radiata pine succumb to pathogens, A. grandis, which is from a different genus and not likely to be affected by the same pathogens, may be a good commercial substitute. Seed collected from the stand is being propagated for planting in 2022 to replicate the Gwavas trial in a number of locations, to determine the species’ response under different conditions.

The mechanical properties of New Zealand grown A. grandis have never been assessed. Some logs will be obtained for trials including sawing, strength, drying, preservation and durability to confirm that it produces good structural timber which is readily treatable with preservatives. By determining grade recoveries, strength and treatability, forest growers will gain the knowledge required to determine whether A. grandis could be usefully grown as a contingency species.

Geospatial wind risk analysis $57,500 requested and granted

Forest insurance premiums are increasing and the conditions of insurance are becoming tighter as climate change develops. Owners of small to medium-sized forests rely on insurance to cover risks. The size of insured forests averages around 100 hectares, ranging from less than one hectare to over 2,000 hectares.

This project will provide information on wind risk to support forest growers and forest insurers to adapt to climate change and help to maintain a healthy forest insurance industry. Growers need to know how location and silviculture affect the risk of wind damage.  Insurance providers need information on how growers reduce risk and where safer forests are located.

Work will be carried out using climate change scenarios to calculate the risk of wind damage nationally to a level useful for individual properties. The results, which will help forest growers and insurers make decisions on risk avoidance, new planting and insurance, will be presented in the TreeFarmer which is available on the Forest Growers Research website.

Monitoring native planting to improve future success $50,000 requested, $15,000 granted

There has been little systematic monitoring of the success of establishing native species. This project would monitor and assess current native planting across the country on a variety of sites, including those which have had taxpayer or ratepayer funding. The results would be used for advice and recommendations on sites and species to improve future success, and increase the economic value of native planting due to higher survival rates.

Monitoring would take place just after planting and for the following two years, and then as appropriate. Some of the one and two-year monitoring would be carried out in 2022 by measuring planting carried out previously.

Functional improvement and user support for TreeFarmer $40,800 requested and granted

With the assistance of levy funds in 2020 and 2021 TreeFarmer was developed to raise a grower’s awareness of the issues, costs and decisions they would encounter with tree planting and harvesting on their property. Its aim is to help improve the afforestation and harvesting experience of small-scale forest growers.

The TreeFarmer steering group has recommended the usability of the software be improved by adding a user login, and the ability to store completed planning projects together with their maps and costings. This feature will encourage users to widen their testing of scenarios or projects and improve user uptake.

Building a code for the future $40,000 requested and declined

A critical uncertainty for alternative species is building code compliance, in particular durability performance.  The durability evaluation clause of the building code provides methods to prove durability, but is open to interpretation resulting in a high level of uncertainty for species not listed in the code NZS 3602. The industry needs to develop a position on determining compliance for which species can be used in which applications.

The project will produce a rational interpretation of the durability evaluation clause of the building code, along with methods for proving durability and specific durability benchmarks for testing performance of naturally durable timbers. This will be achieved via literature reviews, current practice and industry consultation. Expert input will be used to establish recommendations for an industry-agreed position, which will give growers certainty to invest in diverse forests.

Developing and running a forestry extension pilot project with Te Uru Rakau / New Zealand Forest Service $21,700 requested and granted

Te Uru Rakau – New Zealand Forest Service and the NZFFA are in discussions to partner a pilot series of forestry extension workshops in 2022. The aim is to educate and provide real-life examples of successful on farm tree planting, involving Beef and Lamb and using the extensive network of farm foresters in the target regions.

Subject to approving the details, Te Uru Rakau – New Zealand Forest Service has agreed to meet most of the costs of the pilot project. The NZFFA requested an element of co-funding to help its contribution in planning and running these events. Members will be advocating the timber values of farm forestry and trees planted under this programme would be subject to the forest growers’ levy when harvested.

Eucalypt seed collection for improved genetics $15,000 requested and granted

The Eucalypt Action Group believes there is a short-term opportunity to gather seed from well-known stringybark eucalypt stands around the country. This seed would be used to extend a project which Scion has been working on for several years, to improve eucalypt germplasm.

Scion has concentrated on the ash eucalypts and Eucalyptus nitens, but no work has been carried out to secure and improve germplasm from the stringybarks which have been the backbone of eucalypt plantings in New Zealand. This group of species is regarded as the best substitute for imported tropical hardwoods for the building industry, and complements the ground-durable eucalypts being championed by the Drylands Forest Initiative.

These projects are not bad for one year. But we are planning to do better.


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