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The Forest Growers Levy Board grant applications for 2023

Julian Bateson, New Zealand Tree Grower November 2022.

Previous Tree Grower articles have outlined the annual application system for grants from the Forest Growers Levy Trust. As we know, money is collected by the levy from every harvested log sold and brings in around $9 million a year. The annual programme of grant applications is channelled through the different committees which report to the Forest Growers Levy Board. This then has the authority to recommend which projects are granted funds, based on the advice which the committees provide.

In the early years of the levy, the NZFFA rarely got involved in these grant applications. However, in recent years we have got our act together and applied for a variety of grants on behalf of small-scale forest owners and for their benefit. Last year, for work to be carried out in 2022, the approved applications for work involving small-scale owners totalled over $400,000 out of over $750,000 applied for.

The applications for 2023 have now been submitted, with the closing date 31 August for virtually all of the committees. Projects worth over $800,000 have been applied for on behalf of the small-scale owners who currently produce about 40 per cent of the currently harvested logs.The remainder of the levy funds available, around seven million dollars, go to projects which the owners of large forests apply for, although many of these projects indirectly benefit small-scale owners.

Now that the first stage of applications has passed, the committees will consider and approve their recommendations ready for the full levy board to make their final decisions in December.The article over the few pages outlines the projects backed by the NZFFA on behalf of small-scale owners.The text from the applications has been edited and modified for clarity because some of the applications often pay little attention to plain English. The projects are presented in no particular order but are grouped by the relevant committee.

Small and Medium Enterprises Committee

Eucalypt seed collection for improved genetics Amount applied for $20,000

Following an initial seed collection in 2022, the Eucalypt Action Group aims to continue this work and gather more seeds from well-known stringybark eucalypt stands around the country.The seeds will be used to extend a project that Scion has been working on for several years, to improve eucalypt germplasm.

Scion has mainly 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 for timber production in New Zealand.This group of species is regarded as the best substitute for imported tropical hardwoods for the building industry.

Enhancement of the web-based Treefarmer Amount applied for $53,000

Treefarmer is a web-based calculator developed over the past three years with the aim of improving the afforestation and harvesting experience of small-scale forest growers.Treefarmer has been produced in stages and the next stage will have increased species choice, risk evaluation and economic returns which will encourage more use. Costs and prices need adjustment on a regular basis, improvements recommended by the user group.

Redwood seed collection Amount applied for $40,000

This project is to collect seeds from trees in mature coast redwood stands of known genetic diversity to meet the recent significant demand for redwood tree stocks. Redwood tree clone stocks take over two years to produce, and the soaring demand for redwood must be met from seedling production.

Most redwood in recent years has been grown from seed imported from California and this has several disadvantages. One is that the seed production from natural Californian stands is infrequent. Another is that most regular imports are from the southern part of the range which is not considered suitable for New Zealand conditions. In addition, seedlings from imported seed are prone to ‘damping off ’ and botrytis fungal diseases because they are not adapted to New Zealand pathogens.

Research Committee

The potential for Abies grandis as a contingency species
Amount applied for $45,000

A levy board grant last year has allowed us to confirm that New Zealand grown Abies grandis is a valuable utility softwood with timber properties capable of substituting for radiata pine.This project now aims to develop nursery systems to grow this species at larger scale and if possible, produce strong planting stock within one growing season. Sufficient seeds have been obtained to grow several thousand seedlings which will form the basis of this research.

Due to the significant investment which owners of large forests already have in radiata pine, they may not consider diversifying into A. grandis unless a serious biosecurity threat arises. However, there may be an early uptake by small-scale growers.

Identifying coast redwood trees with superior heartwood durability
Amount applied for $78,000

Near infrared spectrometry has proven to be a successful technique to determine heartwood durability in coast redwood. Applying this technology to trees of superior growth and form within mature stands will help in identifying trees capable of contributing to breeding programmes.

The heartwood durability and basic density of coast redwood is very variable.This reduces its value as a timber and the price sawmillers are willing to pay for redwood logs.The project will provide growers the opportunity to grow genetically improved trees which will produce more consistent timber.

Evaluation of elite cypress clones for high quality timber
Amount applied for $100,000

For this project, cypress clones developed by Scion and already selected for their growth, form, vigour and canker resistance will be investigated for their timber properties, and whether they vary across two trial sites with different climates.They will be tested for heartwood content as well as colour, timber stiffness, strength and durability.

The research will give growers the data to have confidence in Scion’s elite cypress selections.The real measure of success will be to confirm that these clone selections perform in the field and produce valuable wood. Cypress are known to produce quality timber even from young trees. Evidence of these wood properties will open the door for growers to produce commercial wood products on short rotation, widening the economic potential of this alternative species.

Assess and select the best examples of canker-resistant cypress hybrids
Amount applied for $27,000

The aim is to assess a range of canker-resistant cypress nootkatensis hybrids from Scion trials which were planted in 2017.Then 100 of the most promising ones will be selected, cuttings taken and stoolbeds established at two locations for their mass propagation.These will provide the opportunity for reproduction at forestry scale after the selections are refined by timber testing.

Despite the benefits of radiata pine there is some public resistance to growing more of it. Cypress has been grown in New Zealand since the 1800s but it is only recently that we have proved which hybrids are most canker-resistant.This project will make more cypress clone material available to growers and should encourage planting small cypress forests and wider planting of trees on farms.

Measuring the Permanent Sample Plots of alternative and contingency species
Amount applied for $175,000

There are nearly 700 permanent sample plots for alternative and contingency species of which nearly 500 have not been measured in the last 10 years. With levy funding in 2022, the NZFFA began a re-measurement programme so that in the future the relevant growth models and yield tables can be brought up to date.

Redwood tables have already been improved as a result, which has led to a boom in forward orders for redwood seedlings.This project is to ask for help to re-measure the balance of the approximately 300 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.

Proving the commercial viability of a large- scale industry for poplar timber
Amount applied for $40,000

This project is to undertake research which will identify, analyse and report on the status of poplar in terms of tree growth characteristics in different environments.

This will include assessing yield from sample plots and timber production, milling and marketing. It will also obtain research and reports on overseas practices for growing, managing and harvesting poplar from natural forests and plantations. Finally, the aim is to bring sufficient people together to form a Poplar Timber Action Group similar to other NZFFA action groups.

Little information has been collected on growing poplar for timber, or the potential returns of poplar forests. Limited sales of poplar logs, locally and for export, have earned good returns.

This is the first of a three-stage project.

Promotions Committee

Working in partnership with Te Uru Rakau – NZ Forest Service to promote forestry
Amount applied for $50,000

The aim is to work in partnership with Te Uru Rakau – NZ Forest Service to educate land owners and encourage tree planting, to improve ecosystem services, capture carbon and transition to a low-emissions economy.

Following the success of a series of pilot workshops which the NZFFA ran for sheep and beef farmers earlier this year,Te Uru Rakau – NZ Forest Service is currently drafting a Memorandum of Understanding which should involve a future joint work programme.This application is for co-funding to assist with the first annual programme.

Increasing involvement to support Maori commercial forestry 
Amount applied for $40,000

Nga Pou a Tane is a recently established association which will enable and empower Maori in the forestry value chain using a support structure using regional branches.Via Nga Pou a Tane we aim to promote the wider forestry industry, from growing to processing and marketing, as a positive activity and pathway for Maori. This funding will be used for a series of six regional hui during 2023 which will promote the benefits of the forestry industry for Maori.

Forest investment board game
Amount applied for $15,000

This project aims to increase the social licence of forestry and to demonstrate the simple rationale for rural sheep and beef farmers to develop woodlots on difficult parts of their farms. A board game will be developed which uses economic models showing how a farmer, by growing woodlots, can make more profit, pass on a viable farm to the next generation, and at the same time meet the government’s new regulations about greenhouse gas mitigation and the reduction of soil erosion.The game would be used for educational use with rural farmers and with the general public for positive involvement.

Environment Committee

Monitoring native planting to improve future success $35,000

This is the second part of the project which was partially funded in 2022. It is a continuation of monitoring native planting and from these results, provide recommendations and advice on sites and species to improve future success.This first involves appropriate monitoring and assessment of current native planting across the country on a variety of sites, and by a variety of planting groups, including those which have had funding by the tax payer or rate payer via regional or district councils. It will improve the economic value of native planting by helping to improve the frequently low survival rate of native planting and significantly improve overall success of native tree planting.

Training and Careers Committee

To investigate, confirm and plan for the learning and training needs of small-scale forest owners 
Amount applied for $25,000

Following a survey of small-scale forest owners in 2016, the insights and opportunities report on Education and Training Opportunities for Silviculture and Harvesting identified that the learning and training needs of this group were not being met. Small-scale forest owners are unwilling to enrol for lengthy courses and are generally looking for skills and knowledge rather than qualifications.

This application is for funding to confirm their learning and training needs, confirm the ways which best suit their needs and determine their willingness to participate in training. It will then refine and elaborate an inventory of existing training resources suited to small-scale forest owners and review the training available for its currency, accessibility, depth and relevance.

Transport Committee

Initial feasibility assessment of using airships to assist transport for inaccessible woodlots
Amount applied for $20,000

The use of airships in New Zealand to haul harvested logs from remote and difficult-to-access land could improve transport costs and safety, increase New Zealand wood and wood fibre volumes and reduce the environmental footprint of the industry.This project would assess the feasibility of using hybrid or electric powered airships to transport harvested logs from remote and difficult-sites to pre-process operation or final processing sites.These airships could replace or augment the use of logging trucks.With a good development of airship log haulage outfitting these airships could improve the safety of logging and transport.

Feasibility studies were carried out in the 1980s, but it proved to be uneconomic at that time.Technological improvements have been made in the industry and so this project deserves another look.

General summary

The amount of effort put into these grant applications is significant. It does not just involve filling out the form, although this can require more work than you might think. First the projects have to be planned, developed and refined.Then there is a process of assessment with questions such as –

  • Which ones have a priority in the general plan for the NZFFA?
  • Is there available volunteer time to carry out the work for the project during the year if it is approved?
  • Are matching funds from other sources possible and how much time will this take?
  • Which projects seem to be unlikely to get funds.

There are more questions, but you get the gist and it is not a simple task. Many of the projects which do not get to the final application stage are important to small- scale owners and have already needed a lot of work.

There is always next year, but the money pot is only so big.

Finally, three people put in a significant amount of their free time for these grant applications on behalf of the NZFFA.They are Howard Moore, Hamish Levack and Vaughan Kearns.There are many others involved, but these three are the main protagonists who do the heavy lifting. If any of you have questions about these grants, I am sure one of them will be happy to supply you with answers.


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