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Newsletter 129, April 2021

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In this issue

Trees In a Political Landscape - Wellington Conference 2021

A successful conference was enjoyed by all in Wellington last week.  There was a wide range of interesting speakers and field days.

If you are interested in the presentations from the conference they are available on our website.  Live recordings will also be available soon.


For more information on these events, they are posted on the NZFFA website »
Branch secretaries, please make sure you notify head office of any branch or action group events.

  • Forest Biosecurity Conference 2021  Ka mua, ka muri: Looking back to move forward To reflect on the forest biosecurity journey and what has been achieved to date to help guide our way forward.


Reports (Members Area)

Meet your new president, Graham West

Hello everyone, let me introduce myself and familiarise you with my background and what I want to do as president. I’m from a sheep and beef farm near Raetihi and I’m a fourth-generation farmer with two grandfathers who both broke in steep hill country bush blocks west of Raetihi, toward the Whanganui river. One was near the “Bridge to nowhere” in the Mangapurua valley and was forced to leave the farm after 18 years of hard work because the road was closed due to land slips. Their perseverance and contribution to our country gives me a sense of heritage that makes me determined to rejuvenate what previous farm foresters have created. I am one sixteenth Maori, Ngati Apakura, Tainui, and if you understand Maori you will recognise, they always take their ancestors with them.

I’m also the great grandson of an English immigrant who arrived in 1863 at the age of 18 and started his NZ experience serving in the Waikato Militia. So, I am as kiwi as you can get, deeply committed to improving NZ for future generations, hope to make a contribution in my semi-retirement.

I have mostly had a career in science with a Masters of Forestry Science from Canterbury and 48 years’ experience in research at Scion. I started with a team lead by Wink Sutton, Bob Fenton, John Tustin, and Leith Knowles, so its no wonder I enjoy debate and hold strong views. In those early days’ forestry was discussed with huge passion and only those who could provide facts and references could get a word in at smokos or field days. My research was particularly in forest management systems, economics, wood supply chain, and computer modelling. 

The good thing about Scion is they provide plenty of personal development training and allow you to move sideways into new roles as your experience develops. I had senior roles as the Atlas (software) Business Unit Leader, Intensive Forest Systems Program Leader, and Principal Technologist.  I enjoy learning about the broader forestry sector and I now run a forestry consultancy business that land use advice, project management, and forestry transactional services. At home I have a supportive wife and two children, a small farm with some blocks in forest.

Throughout my career I have been passionate about the role small scale forestry can play to enhance New Zealand’s economic and environmental performance. For the last three years I’ve been instrumental in the BOP Forest and Wood Action Group and associated initiatives to develop a forestry information and extension service to encourage afforestation. I have helped to establish the CNI Wood Council and currently on the Committee. As chairman of BOP Branch, I led the organisation of the May 2019 National Conference at Rotorua, and since that time have been a member of the National Executive.

Thank you very much to the Wellington Team that stood up and took on the Annual Conference this year, you are an example to us all. Outstanding. I strongly believe we can rejuvenate this organisation; I employ you to get involved, everyone can contribute something, it will take the team of 1300 to achieve it. An ounce of passion is worth a tonne of dynamite, you all have it, get out there and stir things along, you’ll have fun doing it!


In Council

The Council meeting before the AGM shaped up to be a game of two halves. The first half went smoothly. As Hamish declined to extend his term beyond the statutory two years and Graham West offered his services, Graham was elected President. Then elections were held for the two positions of North Island and South Island reps, and Tim Forde and Laurie Bennett were successful against Don Wallace and Michael Orchards. Don will stay on as Secretary and Treasurer, but not as a member of the Executive. Michael has not escaped either as he may yet be co-opted back into the team. Then came the remits. 

Remits one and two had clearly generated some ill-feeling. Remit one proposed the Strategic Review Working group should continue for another year and spend up to $100,000, while remit two proposed a governance group should oversee them in case they absconded with the money. Understandably, some were hurt at such a lack of trust. 

Anticipating trouble Graham and I got together the night before and composed a motion we hoped would somewhat ease the pain. It said the Strategic Working group would be wound up, since it was likely most of them would join the Executive anyway (which they did); the budget was reduced to $50,000 since there was better information on likely costs; and a ‘Steering Group’ of Councillors would be formed to exercise a governance role. Graham presented the motion, remits one and two were then withdrawn by the Councillors who had submitted them, and the motion was passed. Faith, hope and unity were restored.

The third remit, proposed by the Gisborne East Coast branch, was to adopt the name ‘Tree Growers Aotearoa.’ This was modified by the branch to allow the Executive to consider the name change as part of the rejuvenation project rather than in advance of it, and passed.

Over the last two or three years there had been rumours that the ‘Wellington cabal’ was exerting far too much influence over the way in which the NZFFA was run. These rumours were true: by default, we were exerting too much influence. But one of the cabal’s particular successes was to annoy some of the branches so much that they have now stepped up to take a more active role in the Association. The old cabal is dead. Here’s to the new cabal.

Howard Moore
20 March 2021.


Introducing new Executive members

Tim Forde - North Island

Tim is a passionate farm forester on a 210 hectare property in Hawke's Bay.  They run a bull fattening unit with a dash of sheep.

Tim's interest and development of of poplar has developed over many years with the all-round versatility of this tree and its uses never ceasing to amaze him.

Laurie Bennett - South Island

My name is  Laurie Bennett. I am 67 years old and graduated from Lincoln College in the late 1970s with a Ag Science Degree. Now retired from full time employment after some 35 years owning and operating a Motel. For 18 of those  years I co-owned and ran a mobile sawmill business. 

My wife Pauline & I live in Ashcroft Forest on Medway Road, Hanmer Springs – the lifestyle block in the centre of the  above picture. It has  20 ha of Radiata production forest, some grazing and a few  small blocks of Cypress with poplars in the wet areas. We also have many amenity trees – exotic and native – grown, planted and tended by ourselves. The property was purchased in the mid 90’s when the pines were a year old. Realising  the need to  learn more about forestry we shortly afterwards joined the NZFFA.

We have both benefited enormously from membership of the North Canterbury Branch. Wanting to give something back, I  joined the Branch committee and after a time  served a term as Chairman. For some years now I have been Secretary of this Branch - a job I continue to enjoy.

Concern about the future of our organisation has led me to be motivated to join the Executive. While I recognize that change is never easy I want to see the recommendations of the Strategy Group carried through to completion. 

Our organisation has a  huge legacy of experience and knowledge residing within our membership. I want to keep this legacy alive but I also want to help it to grow towards a future where the FFA  can take its rightful place as the prime advocate for “ the right tree, in the right place, for the right reasons” in our natural landscape. 

I look forward to serving you and am always open to any ideas or concerns you may have about our organisation.             027 2047026


Lets play Simon Says

I was shaken at the Conference by Simon Upton, who suggested that both the He Waka Eke Noa team and the CCC were thinking about having a levy on agricultural emissions that could be offset with planting trees on farms.  A levy?  That suggests an agricultural carbon tax independent of the ETS, allowing totally different rigour in terms of measurement, compliance, penalties and rewards.  He further suggested that carbon forestry was bad, and in order to rein it in the Government might consider controlling the number of NZUs a grower could claim for each tonne of carbon stored.  He offered four possible mechanisms for doing this, including (for example) one NZU per two tonnes sequestered.  Good grief.

What Simon was suggesting was, in effect, different emissions treatments for different sectors.  Exploring that thought, I suggest there is nothing in the ETS that we (small forest owners) can rely on: it might be fluid and subject to policies that will be adjusted as other sectors do or don’t perform to expectations.  If Simon is right and the Government adopts fluid policy adjustment, there is no promise of a level playing field, equity across sectors or regulatory fairness. 

What he said threw the ideas I had drafted in the CCC submission totally into disarray, as I had assumed (against gnawing doubts) that equity and fairness would be fundamental.  If they’re not, anything goes.  The loudest or most serious voice will get the most attention and the rest will have to suck it up, as in the Covid-19 lockdown when public health officials shut down the tourism industry.  We all agreed what they did was right, but there was no equity or fairness involved.

There seem to be three possibilities.  The first is, we can sit back and hope that what Simon says is nonsense.

The second is, if we don’t want to ‘suck it up’ as a result of someone else’s priorities, we might put aside equity and fairness and become the loudest voice in climate change response.  I don’t know how to achieve that, but I think that to get any traction at all we’d need to unify; make sure the FOA shared this understanding and vision and were prepared to lead; gather up any other sectors who supported us; and then find those arguments that most appealed to (or least offended) Beef+Lamb and Federated Farmers, to start to make change without raising an even louder voice against us.  

The third possibility is that I’m just paranoid.

Howard Moore
29 March 2021

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Action Group meetings at Conference

Report from Neil Cullen

I got to all the meetings except for Amigo. They were well attended with 40 to 80 present and the majority of the discussions were positive and constructive.

Eucalyptus Action Group

This group has a new Chairman in Gary Fleming and a few ideas on where they can be active in the next year. These include; producing a map showing what species can be grown where in NZ, and identifying and compiling the best seed sources for different species. The committee was asked to come up with further ideas for projects.

The “elephant in the room” with this group is the Dryland Forests Initiative which has been so successful in gathering organisational and financial support and has a clear plan of action of where it is heading. This has tended to suck up all the oxygen in the Eucalypt space but this meeting showed that there is room and need for EAG to promote and advance the use of the species in all parts of NZ.

Cypress Development Group

This has been by far the most active group in the last two years thanks largely to the enthusiasm and hard work of Vaughan Kearns. He has been guiding the strategy development process in conjunction with SWP and it is at the stage of prioritising options. Vaughan has cajoled members to trial the new clones that Scion have produced and has been active in gathering results from older trials. Leyland Cypress sawing trials were conducted at Vaughan’s mill and a well attended Cypress weekend was organised last February. Another field visit in Canterbury is planned for May. Subs doubled to $30 to finance more work.

This group is also taking on the responsibility for gathering seed from the Abies grandis stand at Gwavas forest and a sawmilling trial on those trees is being explored.

Indigenous Forest Section

Although the most well supported of the action groups, IFS is struggling to find it’s mojo in an area where other more active and financed organisations are operating. Producing at least one Indigena magazine a year would be well received but requires members to contribute material. One possibility for some work is collating the evidence that exists showing in what circumstances successional establishment via a exotic nurse crop will work better than straight indigenous planting. More ideas hopefully to come from committee zoom meetings.

Sequoia Action Group

A new Chairman here in Rob Webster from NZ Redwood Co. SAG has run several research projects in the past and there were three new projects suggested for the meeting to rank. The highest priority was given to determining the fate of redwood stumps and roots between rotations. This is timely as the risks involved in clear felling radiata on erodible land are heightened. Second in ranking is a study on redwood durability that could influence building standards and third was work on improving redwood growth modelling. This group has a proven record in research on an important alternative species.

Farm Forestry Timbers

There was considerable discussion here on the competition this section faces from the likes of kwila from Indonesia or Malaysia with FSC certification of dubious validity which undercuts local eucalypt by 20-30%. No easy answer to this but Dean Satchell is updating sustainability status on products on the website. There was also discussion on a SWP proposition for a small-scale sawmilling group which originated with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. It was pointed out that Farm Forestry Timbers could be the parent body for such a group.

Oak Action Group

 Plenty of enthusiasm and interest in this new group. The challenge will be to maintain that interest, but it is already active in trialling different Quercus around the country. It has a strong relationship with Eastwood Hills and other arboretums. Like EAG it wants to record and publicise the best sources of seed that already exist.

In general it was encouraging there was more evidence of action than reported at Rotorua Conference and confirmation that NZFFA is the organisation to further the use of alternative species.


President: Graham West

Newsletter editor: Dean Satchell

National Office: Liz Chamberlain Phone: 04 4720432

NZFFA Executive »

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Disclaimer: Personal views expressed in this newsletter are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the NZ Farm Forestry Association.

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