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The NZFFA annual conference Timaru 30 March to 3 April 2023 The new normal – opportunity or threat?

South Canterbury committee, New Zealand Tree Grower November 2022.

Making the decision to postpone the 2022 conference was difficult. Ultimately the committee had to weigh up the health and safety of the attendees as well as running a conference which was financially viable. By the end of February, covid numbers had been tracking in the wrong direction and we had fewer than 60 people signed up to attend.

With hindsight such decisions seem easy to make, and in this case the covid numbers in late March and April vindicated our decision. According to conference convenor Ian Jackson – ‘It was tough on the committee who had spent months preparing, and kudos to them for being happy to go through it a second time.’

We have elected to keep our theme for 2023 – The new normal: Opportunity or threat?  Broadly speaking this theme explores the government regulations and carbon forestry and how this integrates into farm forestry today.The theme seems even more pertinent today than it was six months ago with new issues emerging such as Significant Natural Areas and some of the new proposals for the Emissions Trading Scheme.

For readers who like to plan well in advance, it may be worth noting that the conference will be the weekend before Easter.You might consider spending a bit of time travelling around the South Island.

The first day Thursday 30 March

This is the day when all the action group meetings will take place, running in sequence because this format has been very successful at the last two conferences.The meetings take place at the Sopheze on the Bay tearooms which are very conveniently located. If you have a gap in your programme, you could take a stroll down to the beach or do some shopping.The first evening is free which gives you an opportunity to catch up with friends you may not have seen for some time.

Friday 31 March

The first part of the day is dedicated to running the NZFFA.The Councillors’ meeting is in the first part of the morning and is followed by the Annual General Meeting. After lunch will be the bulk of the conference speaker sessions which try and answer questions such as – What opportunities are there for farm foresters with the Emissions Trading Scheme? How can we use the new government regulations to our advantage?

In the evening will be the opening dinner and an opportunity to enjoy some great South Canterbury hospitality.

Saturday 1 April

We will have an early start with an 8.00 am departure on the bus.The first visit will be to Jane and Peter Evans farm Alpine.They are 20 kilometres west of Timaru on 1,050 hectares of mixed of steep hill, rolling hills and arable flats.We will have a look at their 90-hectare forestry block which they started harvesting in 2021.There will be presentations in their woolshed which will cover topics such as the forestry returns compared to livestock, carbon opportunities and Significant Natural Areas.

In the afternoon we will travel to Gladwyn, owned by Andrew and Vicky Steven.They established a 25-hectare block of radiata pine in the mid-1990s, but they also planted trees for fun and their property has a park-like feel to it. As well as visiting the plantation, we will also visit an experimental area where a series of small ponds retain nutrient loaded sediments, and where a variety of trees have been planted. Last is a visit to their small sawmill and Andrew’s thoughts on making this economically viable.

It will be a long day and some attendees might consider a nap on the bus back to Timaru to build up energy for the awards dinner in the evening.

Sunday 2 April

This is going to be a big day with another early start on the bus to visit the iconic Mackenzie Basin.The first stop on the way will be Balmoral Station owned by Andrew and Karen Simpson. As well as running substantial numbers of sheep and cattle on the station they also have approximately 450 hectares of forestry.

Initially stocked with Douglas-fir they are now planting with radiata hybrids.We will be privileged to spend a few hours on the property which includes a walking tour to visit the Scion research sites, lunch and discussion about the High Country ethos, wilding pines and carbon forestry.

The second stop will be Mt Cook Station which recently featured on an episode of Country Calendar. There will be a drive around the property on an internal road with a stop which includes a short walk.

We have a variety of speakers lined up who will talk about several topics including how wilding trees fit into the Emissions Trading Scheme and the costs of eradicating wildings.

After that we will travel back to Tekapo for dinner before the drive back to Timaru.

Monday 3 April

This is the final day and another early start with the first stop at Flaxburn, a 146-hectare family-owned dairy farm milking 530 cows.Visitors will see riparian planting along the Ohapi stream, a spring fed tributary of the Orari river.

This was once overgrown with gorse, blackberry, broom and choked with willows, but the stream is now clear of exotic weeds, fenced from stock and a habitat for trout, spawning salmon and a healthy population of bird life.Visitors may also be interested to see 150-year- old specimens of English oak trees which form part of the owner’s garden along with extensive native planting.

Our next stop will be the Port Blakely forestry plantation at Te Moana. Most of their logs are harvested on steep slopes and we will watch one of their cable harvesting operations in action. Port Blakely are also making inroads into the bio-fuels market and we will observe one of their portable chippers dealing with waste residues.There will also be presentations on how the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry affect their forestry operation.

The conference finishes with the final dinner at the Hilton View – a stunning venue just outside Geraldine. A fitting way to end what will surely be a memorable NZFFA conference.


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