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Neil Barr Farm Forestry Foundation

Foundation Trustees, New Zealand Tree Grower May 2013.

Most readers will know about the Neil Barr Foundation and its broad purpose, but few would be aware of its success to date. Over the last 14 years, since 1998, it has disseminated almost $170,000 in the promotion of more trees on farms. In the table later in the article there is a list of projects funded over the last six years. However, it will help to first look back briefly at the Foundation’s history.

The background

The first branch of the national NZ Farm Forestry Association, the Lower North, was formed in 1959 and within 10 years there were 19 branches in existence – today there are 27. Discussions about raising funds for education and promotion were initiated in 1967, but it was not until 1984 that recommendation for an endowment fund was made by who else other than Neil Barr.

By 1986, a trust deed for the New Zealand Farm Forestry Foundation had been drawn up and registered at no cost to the Foundation, thanks to considerable effort by member and lawyer, Mike Malloy. An inaugural meeting for the first trustees Neil Barr, Mike Smith, Peter Smail and Bruce Treeby was held at the Gisborne conference in 1989. Mike Smith was elected as Chairman/Secretary, a position that he held until 2005. He has remained as Secretary to the present day.

Neil Barr started off the Foundation’s accounts with a donation of $100. The challenge was then for the trustees to increase this amount so that applications for funding could be met, preferably from interest. By 1997 the sum raised stood at $128,000 and today’s investments are over $400,000.

Neil Barr, the founding father of the NZFFA, died on 1 January 1996. After considerable discussion throughout the farm forestry movement on a suitable memorial for him, it was decided at the 1996 Nelson conference to change the name of the Foundation to the Neil Barr Farm Forestry Foundation. Trustees at that time were Mike Smith, Bruce Treeby, Jim Pottinger, Geoff Brann and John Mackay.

New Foundation deed

In 2011 it became apparent that the original trust deed, then 25 years old, should be updated to meet modern day standards and to allow greater flexibility in fund raising and disbursement. In keeping with the original purposes of the trust, which remain relevant today, the trustees adopted the following mission statement −

To promote and encourage the planting of trees on farms.This is to be achieved by supporting practice and research which may benefit trees in the landscape.

Current trustees are Howard Williamson − Chairman, Mike Smith − Secretary, Dougal McIntosh, Patrick Milne, Murray Downs, Nick Ledgard and Ian Jackson (NZFFA President).

Projects funded

The first grant made by the trustees was to the Cypress Action Group in 1989. This group was the main interest of the Foundation during its initial years, as funds were limited and could not go much wider. By 1995, cypress work had been allocated $10,000. Lesser amounts went to the Acacia melanoxylon Interest Group Organisation (AMIGO), the Indigenous Forests Section for a handbook on indigenous forest production, and to eucalypt research.

Projects funded between 2007 and 2012
Year Title Purpose Amount
2012 Blackwood video To promote exemplary blackwood management $3,625
  Mystery Creek Rental for stand $690
  Eucalypt research packs Research seedling packs for planting nationwide at over 50 sites $1,500
  NZ Dryland project Trials of durable eucalypts $16,000
  Silverwood trial Central Canterbury dryland research hardwood coppicing for durable posts, Acacia dealbata silviculture mapping and monitoring site $2,500
  Annual total   $24,315
2011 Market for speciality timbers Support for SFF project on establishing and developing market for NZ-grown special purpose timbers $4,000
  Mystery Creek Rental for stand $600
  McKean pinetum Maintenance - damage fixing, pruning and thinning $2,000
  NZ Dryland project Trials of durable eucalypts $24,000
  NZ native tree book Loan towards publication and marketing of Wardle's Native Trees of New Zealand ($5,000)
  Annual total   $30,600
2010 McKean pinetum Maintenance, damage fixing, pruning and thinning $562.50
  Short rotation eucalypts Technique for cutting high value lumber from young eucalypt plantations $2,667
  Milnethorp Park, Golden Bay Map trees of a range of species planted in 1970s, and record performance, GPS and tree tagging $1,000
  Small stand certification Support into investigation into FSC certification for small growers $4,444
  Mystery Creek Rental for stand $500
  NZ Dryland project Trials of durable eucalypts $8,000
  Annual total   $17,173.50
2009 Mystery Creek Rental for stand $600
  Farm Forestry Model Support SFF application to assemble case studies of successful farm foresters and their farms $4,444
  Cypress durability Support SFF application to investigate natural durability of cypresses $1778
  NZ Dryland project Trials of durable eucalypts $821
  Douglas fir Growers Manual Publication of practical end-users manual written by Piers Maclaren $2,362
  Annual total   $10,005
2008 Massey student Use of funds from Western Farm Co-op to support a School of Forestry student in farm forestry area $889
  Special Council meeting Contribution towards costs of holding a Special Council meeting before the 2008 national conference $444
  Mystery Creek Rental for stand $600
  Marlborough Dryland Support of NZ Dryland Forests Initiative involving natural durable eucalypts $4,444
  Annual total   $6,377
2007 Durable hardwood workshop Workshop on 'Growing ground durable hardwoods for vineyard posts' $1,800
  Alternative species development initiative Support NZFFA with study of the alternative species genetics Stage 1 $2,828
  Annual total   $4,628
Total funded   $93,098.50

Supporting research has traditionally been considered a major objective for Foundation funding. However research is expensive and its results can be a long time coming, especially in forestry, with success far from guaranteed. The Foundation has therefore tended to lean towards projects which can pass on new knowledge and research results, and more directly lead to greater use of trees on farms. As a result, regular funding has gone into promotional items such as our stand at Mystery Creek and farm forestry books such as −

  • Neil Barr’s Growing Eucalypts for Milling on New Zealand Farms − $9,000 in 1998
  • Joll Hosking’s farm forestry book − $13,000 in 2000
  • Wardle’s Native Trees of New Zealand and their story on our indigenous trees − $5,000 in 2011.

The Foundation also tries to look kindly at localised research exploring or advocating the use of trees at the branch level, and encouraging members to seek their own answers to their specific needs. Having said that, we are very aware that meaningful research has to be conducted with considerable rigour and attention to detail, which may not come easily to a layperson. Therefore we have supported Central Canterbury’s trial area at Silverwood near Darfield, and the mapping and labelling of a major 1970s to 1980s species planting including 67 eucalypt species at Milnethorp Park in Golden Bay.

Helping with other funds

As representatives of the nation’s end-user farm foresters, the NZFFA and the Foundation are in a strong position to help with applications to major research funders, such as the Sustainable Farming Fund which allocates millions of dollars each year to farming research. For example, we are co-funding the composition and production of research pack plantings to more than 50 farm sites as part of the Eucalypt Action Group’s application to test eucalypts throughout the country.

Another Sustainable Farming Fund project aims to sort out how best to mill E. nitens timber and then to quantify, grade and value the result so that it can help substitute imported hardwood timbers.

While on the topic of eucalypts, most members have an interest in their ability to produce naturally durable timbers, particularly for use as posts and poles. With this in mind, we have supplied funds over recent years to the NZ Dryland Forests Initiative to help with their comprehensive search for the right durable eucalypts for New Zealand conditions.

A current project looking for Sustainable Farming Fund input deals with developing a means by which small forest growers can certify their stands under the Forest Stewardship Council scheme. We look on this as extremely important for farm foresters and will be supporting it.


As mentioned already, between 1998 and 2012 the Foundation has allocated funds to a total value of $169,960. This has been in 61 annual allocations, although some were for the same project in different years. Annual allocations have ranged from $186 to over $30,000, with a mean amount of just over $11,000 a year. The biggest total annual allocations were −

  • $30,600 in 2011
  • $24,315 in 2012
  • $21,627 in 2000
  • $21,116 in 1998.

Years of little expenditure were almost solely as a result of few funding requests because on average we approve around 50 per cent of applications.

The future

After 25 years of existence, the Foundation can safely say that it has made a significant contribution to advancing the use of trees on farms. Enabling us to do this has been our success in building up a substantial capital sum from which future funds can be allocated. However, needless to say, there remains a large untapped potential for the wider use of trees on farms. Therefore we would like to be able to support more farm forestry activity, and the level of applications over recent years indicates there is an increasing demand for such support.

Our new deed allows for more attractive pathways for donating money and being part of the Foundation’s decision making processes, along with greater flexibility in how the funds are allocated. We ask you to think seriously about how you can help us in reaching the Foundation’s aim of promoting and encouraging the planting of trees on farms.


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