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Secretary: Bryan & Heather Holdsworth
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What would ole' Gus think?

After several years of trying, we finally managed to deliver an autumn field day at the Guthrie Smith Arboretum…
The arboretum has been described as one of Hawke’s Bay’s best kept secrets… clearly not to farm forestry folk though, as we were joined by members who’d made the trip over from the Rangitikei and Manawatu.

The 90ha arboretum is mostly part of a 2,000 acre block that renowned farmer, author and naturalist Guthrie-Smith bequeathed in trust for the nation. Mike Halliday has been a trustee since 2009. Mike introduced the day and led a brief tour, outlining some of the history of the arboretum, plans currently underway and more going forward.

Our first stop was to view an impressive stand of Mexican oak that had been planted on a particularly erosion-prone area of the arboretum. These trees have performed exceptionally well, with growth rates comparable to radiata pine. Mexican oak timber has a range of uses internationally, from furniture and flooring to wine barrels and even cosmetic cream. Another versatile and potentially lucrative hardwood to add to the list.

A nice stand of Mexican Oak Quercus polymorpha

Once consent is granted, Mike expects works to progress relatively quickly. The wetland will look a picture from the road, and will compliment Lake Tutira and the surrounding forest park nicely.

The Arboretum’s location offers some pretty spectacular views over Lake Tutira. Steep hill-country above the lake’s eastern margin is now dominated by planted and naturally reverting manuka. In 2011, HBRC established 100ha of high UMF manuka in a partnership with Comvita. the manuka has grown remarkably well, but much to the delight of naysayers, early returns from honey production have been below initial expectations. Also, naturally regenerating (non UMF) manuka and kanuka is beginning to outcompete the ‘flash stuff’.

HBRC Forests manager Ben Douglas was on hand to help put things into perspective. Even when considering establishment costs and a lower-than-expected revenue from honey, the returns from carbon alone have provided a positive return on investment. This is before considering the biodiversity and erosion mitigation benefits in this sensitive lake catchment.

The Guthrie Smith Aboretum and lake Turia in autumn - not too shabby

After lunch we were given free range to explore the arboretum, in what will have been the closest thing to world travel that any of us had experienced in some time.

The concept of planting ‘world regions’ was first initiated in 2002. Since then, over 20,000 trees have been planted, many arranged into groupings that represent different countries and geographical regions. It was quite mind-blowing to see how much these trees have grown since my last visit a dozen or so years ago. I was also impressed by what must be quite a few kilometres of well-maintained trails. After making my way through Australia, I spent some time in Asia and North America before seeking out the familiarity of New Zealand. For the uninitiated, it’s a bit of a hike down to Lake Orakai, but well worth it. Just allow yourself plenty of time to get back up.

Overall, a nice day out with the autumn splendour very much worth the wait. This is not to say that the arboretum isn’t worth a visit at any time during the year. I’m picking my next visit will be late winter/early spring to see the prunus/cherries in bloom. I reckon Guthrie Smith would have to be ‘pretty chuffed’ with how things have turned out.

Warwick Hesketh, HBFF Newsletter Editor

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