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Newsletter 136, September 2021

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In this issue

President's Comment, August 2021

From the August 2021 Tree Grower

A lot has been happening since the March Wellington conference. The Council passed a motion for the Executive to progress the plan to address the rejuvenation of the organisation. The Executive has willingly taken on the challenge and has formed…more

Update from President, September 2021

Hello all

There has been a lot of activity in the management of the organisation that I would like to brief you on quickly;

  • The executive are making good progress in reviewing and recommending changes to our major communication channels, i.e. the website and newsletter. We next meet on the 15th September to go through the recommendations, probably by Zoom.
  • The Council Steering Group (Dave Forsythe, Lynne Wallace, Gary Fleming, George Shallcrass, Gary Hansen, Denis Hocking) have had an initial Zoom meeting with me and have been briefed on progress with the rejuvenation projects and some of the strategic developments occurring with the sector. We agreed to hold the next Council meeting on 30th November in Rotorua and add a field day following this to see some of the exciting and topical issues in practice. This will be worth attending and there are lots of things to do and see in Rotorua.
  • The Director General of MPI (Ray Smith) invited the forestry sector to a communication session that was very interesting. Can I suggest you read MPI’s update on the “Fit for a better world” strategy, I will give more detail at the Rotorua meeting.
  • The 31st of August was the deadline for funding applications to the Forest Growers Levy Trust. Many people have put a lot of effort into six applications for research and extension that total $674,300. An incredible effort and I would like you to thank the major contributors (Vaughan Kearns, Hamish Levack, and Howard Moore) when you next see them, they are working hard to bring benefit from the Levy to small scale growers.
  • Forestry continues to be a political topic and the position of Farm Forestry in the future of NZ land development is in my view critical. We are the model for sustainability and diversification, please keep up the brilliant work in the branches in sharing the benefits of this land use and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Support in terms of promotion and extension is on its way.

Listen to an interview Graham West did with Jamie MacKay on The Country "The national president of the NZ Farm Forestry Association said a recent Beef + Lamb NZ report that "significant" areas of pastoral farmland were being converted into forestry was alarmist and needed to be put into context."

Quick Links

Throwback to more crowded times: Michael Orchard of the West Coast having his say at Parliament 2019.

Tree Talk

With Howard Moore of Wellington

It's spelled Native - with a T

Some of us were stunned when the Climate Change Commission suggested that NZ should plant 300,000 ha of indigenous forests by 2030 in order to suck up greenhouse gases. The cost of doing this, per tonne sequestered, is off the chart compared to any logical way of storing carbon. However they have persisted and there must be a reason. We use Phil Wiles of the CCC as a conduit to badger them, a role he bears with cheerful stoicism. He confirmed recently that he (or a colleague) is willing to come to any meeting of the NZFFA to be part of a conversation. "Our role is to provide independent and evidence based advice. A key way to achieving this is through talking to people who are actually doing things. If we’ve got things wrong, then we want to know." he bravely said. So if any members are doing things that shed light on the real costs of establishing and managing indigenous forests, ask for Phil. Show him what's happening and why. The truth is out there somewhere, as they say. 

The circular bio-economy - yeah, right

Some Farm Forestry members went to the NZIF annual conference in Masterton, ducking home just before lockdown. Reports suggest it was well run with a good turnout. A number of presenters talked about the Government’s wish to transform the industry into a ‘circular bio-economy’ with bio-energy and chemical plants alongside sawmills and pulp mills. But if wishes were horses beggars would ride. Making great things out of radiata pine is a challenge, because the species is so cheerfully average. Its few competitive advantages are only revealed in a chemical pulp mill. There the mature wood makes world-class linerboard, or dissolving pulp for rayon and cellophane; while chemically it offers one of the richest sources of phytosterols in the world. To capture those advantages you need a mill that draws a million tonnes of chips a year from arisings and slab-wood, from a forest of 150,000 ha that feeds sawmills cutting 2.7 million tonnes of logs and selling 1.5 million tonnes of sawn timber. More or less. Then add water, electricity, transport, engineering infrastructure, labour and capital, stir until smooth and apply for a resource consent. Easy as. Alternatively, upgrade Kinleith and Kawerau.

Wood first getting closer

There’s now a clear recognition that using wood can reduce the carbon footprint of a building and provide other advantages for both owners and tenants. Good grief. This slowly dawning realisation seems to have taken more time than climate change itself. It's not like it's a new discovery. Hopefully the MBIE “Building for Climate Change” policy work will start to actually deliver policy soon. To find out, and to see the growing activity in engineered wood for commercial and multi-residential buildings, go to the WoodWorks (6th Annual) event running in Rotorua on 21-22 September. The new Scion building is featured and there's a trip to Red Stag for the mechanically minded. Click here for more details.


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.


Natural durability, accelerated framing tests and relative durability Dean Satchell's blog, August, 2021.  The New Zealand Building Code offers three pathways for proving durability performance of materials under section B2/VM1 Durability Evaluation. These are History of Use, Similar Materials Tests and Laboratory Tests.  Laboratory Tests can…

NZFFA members can set up their own blogs on the NZFFA website. Email Dean.

Forest Growers Levy Board - Small Forest Growers Representative Wanted

Steve Wilton has advised that as of next month he is retiring from the Forest Growers Levy Board, where he has represented small forest owners since 2013. Steve has a deep understanding of the sector and in his role has worked tirelessly on behalf of both the NZFFA and the wider group of small forest owners. He's stepping back to allow someone else to be elected, and of course he'll still be around but more than likely out enjoying himself and so less visible. His experience, humour and wisdom will be sincerely missed. The NZFFA salutes you Steve, thanks for all your efforts.

Of course the rest of us need to think of someone to replace Steve, and keep our eyes out for the election. We want to show the Levy Board that we can muster a huge number of votes when we please. The dates will be:

Nominations open    - 13 September
Nominations close   - 1 October
Voting opens            - 11 October
Voting closes           - 22 October.   

People are again waking up to the strength of forestry. If you'd like to help shape our future, put your name forward.  Send your name in to Liz on


Eucalyptus obliqua – Messmate stringybark

Gary Fleming North Canterbury

At the North Canterbury field day on Alistair Malcolm’s property (the South Island Husqvarna winner), there was some confusion over the drought susceptibility of Eucalyptus obliqua. E. obliqua has been grown in Canterbury for over 100 years, and there are many very large examples of them still around. It is one of Australia’s most important hardwoods. As it is one of only about 10 species capable of reaching heights over 80m tall it is used for pulp production, and for a wide range of purposes in construction and manufacture, including house building, joinery, flooring, furniture and interior finish. The sapwood is susceptible to borer, and even though the heartwood is normally classified as class 4 or perishable and not meant to last more than 10 years in ground contact, I have had some small diameter stakes last 20 years here. And many a cattle yard in N. Canterbury has been made of locally grown E. obliqua. Belonging to the Eucalyptus subgenus ‘Eucalyptus” (monocalyptus), it has good resistance to foliar insect pests, tolerates low fertility soils, and starts to produce heartwood at an early age.

Most nursery catalogues and books on eucalypts will say that E. obliqua is drought tolerant, as it is naturally found in average annual rainfalls of 500mm-2500mm. In fact it has the largest natural distribution of all the monocalypt eucs, covering an east-west range from Kangaroo Island and the adjacent South Australia coastline right across to Eastern Victoria, and a south-north range from southern Tasmania to southern Queensland.

With frost tolerance, the recommendation has always been to collect seed from the coldest regions in Australia if you want to grow it here in Canterbury (or in fact anywhere in New Zealand). And some species like E. regnans only has a small natural range compared to E. obliqua, but has a large range of frost tolerance from very sensitive to very hardy.


However drought tolerance is normally stereotyped, ie., species “A” is drought tolerant and species “B” is drought sensitive. That is unfortunately not 100% correct and drought tolerance can vary greatly between different provenances. With E. obliqua the trees that grow in 500mm average annual rainfall found on Kangaroo Island and parts of South Australia only grow 3m tall. Nobody collects seed from a 3m tall shrub and brings the seed back here to grow timber trees - hence most of the seed that has been brought to New Zealand has been collected from large trees in cooler locations which just happen to have higher rainfall (often 900+mm). Consequently this has resulted in some spectacular trees being grown, but as soon as they are put under severe moisture stress they will die back or fail completely. This could be seen at Alistair’s place with some young trees struggling in the last dry autumn, even though Alistair had excellent weed control. Over the last 4 or 5 years at our property we have lost four 100+ year old E. obliqua, about seven (100 %) of my 30 year old trees and about 30% of my 13 year old trees. These are growing on the same site as E. muelleriana, E. macrorhyncha, and E. blaxlandii, (stringybark species with better timber properties and better for the birds & bees) and I have not lost any from drought out of the 250 trees planted.

Personally I would choose drought tolerance over frost tolerance as young trees are normally only susceptible to frost for the first year, after which they tend to grow out of susceptibility. If they do get frosted, a lot of species will recover and regrow from lignotubers, and if they do die you have only lost 1 year of growth. Whereas, even if your establishment technique is good they will generally grow into drought susceptibility as they get bigger – not helped by occupying more of the site and creating higher between-plant competition for a limited moisture resource. From my experience eucalypts don’t die from drought in their 1st year, they tend to die from drought after their 7th + year, (like a lot of people I try not to thin until I can harvest something in the way of posts or useful firewood).


South Otago Field Day Report

At the property of Dennis and Margaret Larsen, Lawrence, June 2021

Nine attendees joined Dennis Larsen at his farm Ulleren near Lawrence on a cold afterernoon in June. Dennis had logged 15 hectares of pines in 2020. We were there to view the logged areas and the remaining blocks of trees.

There has not been a mass re-planting since last year's logging, just a paddock of Douglas-fir. In the meantime, Dennis has put one of the logged blocks into turnips for winter feed for the sheep using a “spray and pray” method. Once Dennis has replanted the logged areas, he will have about 90 hectares in trees. He is still re-fencing after the logging job. This has taken a long time because of the line hauler parked in the way.

The line hauler which was used last year broke down at the end of the logging, and it is still sitting on site, waiting for a part to come from the USA.

The logging was carried out by Greer Logging, under the project management of Paul Molloy/ James Love of Southern Forests NZ Ltd. Dennis was happy with the service but with last year's experience under his belt had these comments:

  • Logging contractors treat farm forestry land in the same way as they treat commercial forestry land, and there were occasions when the contractors showed no awareness that Dennis would still have to farm the land after they were gone; there was unnecessary mess and damage, in his view, and
  •  For the next logging job, Dennis will survey the market before deciding on a manager.

On average, Dennis' trees resulted in 502 tonnes/ha, and he need $20,000/ha after hauler, forwarder, freight and contractor costs. A roadway had to be installed for the logging, needing 11 truckloads of shingle on a 1 km track.

The Larsens' logged trees were in blocks of 26 year-old, 27 year-old and 35 year-old pines. The best ones, Dennis said, were the 27 year-old's which had grown in a three-sided gully which had provided an excellent sheltered growing environment, and the trees here had grown very tall. The 35 year-old pines were bigger, but not as tall. 

We visited the 6 ha Douglas-fir block which had been planted in mid-August 2020. The trees looked very happy. The area was not sprayed before the seedlings went in but the trees that were planted in the extra grassed area have been released by spot-spraying since planting. The problem with planting Douglas-fir in an area where pines have been logged is that pine wildings may overtake the young firs, so it is recommended to do a kill spray before planting Douglas-firs, or oversow with bushburn grass and then spot spray, and keep an eye out for wildings in the early years.

Dennis was asked why he had chosen Douglas-fir; this was because the farm will be sold when Dennis retires, and Douglas needs no pruning so there will be no work needed by Dennis or the next owner. However, Dennis was thinking of putting pines back into other areas as they give a quicker return. 

Dennis mentioned that all his tree blocks are in the ETS and a discussion on carbon credits followed. Briefly:

  • the current sawtooth model was thought to give more flexibility
  • the upcoming averaging accounting scheme left the owner with no carbon liability but you only receive credits for the trees' first 17 years of growth
  • if you have a permanent forest for carbon farming you can still do selective logging
  • it is possible to claim on a second rotation
  • there is general confusion about the rules
  • the system will no doubt change again
  • it is an artificial market.

We saw a 5 ha block of 28 year-old macrocarpa, pruned to 6m. Dennis said this needs tidying, then he would log it when the trees were big enough. He was advised to thin it by taking out the trees affected by canker. It was noted that the price of macrocarpa logs for the China market had not gone up, unlike pine and eucalyptus. Stevie Robinson had previously done silviculture work for Dennis; now he uses Glen Wallace. Leo Hughes was recommended for thinning work, or Mike Hurring for producon thinning. However, the advice from the group was not to thin too much, or the branches on the remaining macrocarpa would grow too big.

Dennis has very good records on his trees and was able to tell us that a 2 ha block of 30 year-old pines was of GF25 stock, had cost him 40c a tree to buy and 10c labour to plant. These are next on the logging list along with a nearby 9 ha block.

Given the drought as we went into winter, the Larsens are expecting fewer lambs this year, so the income from trees will offset the lower income from stock.

It is fairly common in farm forestry to see eucalypts planted around the outside of pine blocks – Dennis has also done this but regrets it now, as the eucs make the paddocks dry and they get in the way come logging time.

Dennis was planting out a gully some years ago and found it had rotten rock in it. Forced to plant One of the logged blocks the trees where he could amongst the rocks, he achieved a 99% strike rate – exceponal. Pines like a bit of a challenge, it seems. 

At our last stop to see a 19 ha block of pines, Dennis told an interesting story about the severe snow damage suffered here in 2012. The trees were bent over with snow but Dennis put 1400 hoggets into the block and all but one survived; the trees had lots of grass around them and the hoggets were able to get to it. Dennis is certain he would have lost many more if he had had to feed out to them, if he was even able to, given the conditions.

And all was not lost with the trees either – they mostly stood up again. Many thanks to Dennis for taking the time to show us around.


Middle Districts May Milling Field Day Report

Rachel Rose (photos Peter van Essen)

The weather was kind to those who braved a winter’s day to gather at Rangitoto Farm outside of Bulls to discuss the milling (and growing) of eucalypts. There was a lot of expertise among our dedicated group, with growers, multiple sawmillers and three timber merchants present. Our guest of honour was John Fairweather, notable Canterbury miller and merchant of large volumes of eucalypts, almost entirely E. nitens and E. fastigata. 

A number of different species grown at Rangitoto were put to the Lucas swingblade circular sawmill, with a large diameter saligna log behaving very nicely on the saw. Smaller logs helpfully demonstrated the difference between crook and bow and the timber merchants talked about how they deal with each of these (weight it down as it dries/resaw to cut it out, respectively). Checking (cracks opening up) was discussed; the risk of this varies with species. Eucs in the ash group are less dense, lowering the risk of checking. 

It was good to see a more highly featured Wood-Mizer bandsaw mill compared to the basic version that ran at our field day a couple of years ago. It had a hydraulic log lifter and could rotate logs on the saw bed: more efficient and less physical effort for the miller. However, a damaged blade arm meant the tension couldn’t be adjusted and the blade wandered badly and soon got stuck, bringing its operation to a halt for the day. The operator’s experience is with cypress and it highlights that hardwoods are more challenging and need to be approached with care and due skill. 

We spent a lot of time talking about drying because pitfalls abound here. It’s useful for growers to understand the care required to get good, saleable product out of their carefully grown trees. 

The key advice is to dry eucalypts as slowly as possible, especially for the first third of the drying time. 

The combined advice of those present:

  • Seal ends of logs within 24 hours with two coats of Logshield or acrylic paint.
  • John fillets boards in stacks with 30x20mm fillets set just 300mm apart.
  • Wrap boards in four layers of microclima (frost cloth), stapled in place to reduce air movement (and thus drying potential).
  • After three to four months when moisture is below 30%, it’s safe to dry the boards more quickly: remove the microclima and aim to airdry down to 14-16%.
  • Depending on end use, boards may be sent to a kiln. (Flooring has to be down to 12%.)

Big thanks to the MacBlack Timber crew; Richard was on hand to answer questions and Hamish and Jonah spent their Saturday sawmilling.

Warmest thanks also to John Fairweather for making the journey north to join us, Ross Campbell for bringing his WoodMizer and Wood-Mizer NZ agent Paul Marshall who also came from the South Island to join us.

Once again Denis Hocking did all the hard yards in organising this field day, making arrangements with millers and guests, welcoming us onto his farm and felling trees from his own property to offer to the mill. Thank you Denis! 

Quote of the day -  On growing eucalypts: “Give them room and grow them fat!” Angus Gordon 


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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