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Newsletter 139, December 2021

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Neil Cullen's Catlins Forestry.  Photo credit: Derek Morrison Photography

President's Update

I would like to first wish everyone a safe and very enjoyable Xmas / New Year break. It’s been a difficult year for most and the constant COVID news, travel restrictions, vaccinations, and mask wearing, has worn many of us down with resulting anxiety and tiredness. I hope you have a very long restful and enjoyable break.

National Field days

I’m currently a member of an MPI/FGLT working Group designing a large forestry and wood products exhibit for the National Field days at Mystery Creek, Hamilton. NZ FFA has a major opportunity here to raise its profile and attract new members. As previously mentioned, this will be inside a large marque (25m x 35m). Expressions of interest have been sent out to the sector and about 16 organisations & companies have registered interest. I hope through this we can position the forestry sector as having an important role in the development of NZ and is a sustainable land use that will feature in NZ’s future.

Timber was one of the initial large exports starting around 1840 and the initial indigenous forest industry served NZ well for 100 years. The story of the innovative Plantation Forestry development that now provides a sustainable wood supply is also important and often overlooked because some think we only good at providing food to the world’s middle class.

The diversity of life in plantation forests is not recognised and the recent emphasis on the role of indigenous forest species could be better explained with appropriate exhibits.  On the forest products side, the diverse range of wood-based products we use daily needs better explanation, and the exciting new engineered materials wood can be converted into, replacing oil-based materials, is usually met with disbelief.

I hope I can convince MPI to make the exhibit full of visual impact, sounds, scents, and exciting new information that creates a memorable experience for those who enter the forestry tent. Some volunteers have already stepped up to help with the FFA stand, the more the merrier, we need to sustain a 4-day presence that is quite intense.  Please get behind this initiative as it will be fun and could be the turning point for our organisation.

FGLT Board

My first FGLT Board was on 2nd December in Wellington. A major task was to approve the proposed expenditure programme for next year. There are eight Committees that put up proposals for the ~$11m received from the levy process. A first task was to set the estimated income for next year. This obviously depends on the wood available to be harvested, but also the expected log price trend and export market demand that will drive forest owner behaviour. 10% of the levy take is always held in reserve and used as a contingency fund in the following year. Prudent judgement is needed to ensure programmes don’t get cut mid-year. Requests for funding usually exceed revenues by at least 100%, hence considerable rationalisation and ranking occurs prior to the Board
meeting. This occurs in the committees with a ranking process and across the committees using the Secretariat staff.

By my provisional reckoning, of the 12 projects/proposals put up by NZ FFA and SME Committee, we got 8 funded. We were unfortunately declined on our request to increase the FFA Administration Grant by $55k. However, we asked for a total funding of $911,148 and got granted $511,539, about 56% success rate, which is pretty good. Final notification on funding is yet come out.

Executive Meeting

On the 8th December we had our usual pre-council Executive Meeting to finalise details going to Council. The Executive received a detailed report of activities from me that included the outcomes of the FGLT funding round, and activities within the SME Committee.  A highlight was the decision taken to welcome Vaughan Kearns to join the Executive. Vaughan is very active in the Cypress Action Group, the Specialty Wood Products Programmes, the Grandis project, and many other things. Hence it is better he is part of the discussions within the Executive as he is often representing NZ FFA at meetings.

Council Meeting

Unfortunately, our planned gathering and field day at Rotorua had to be cancelled due to the increased COVID risk, hence the meeting went ahead run completely using Zoom Video Conferencing. Approximately 28 participated (including the Exec) and generally it
worked well.

Some of the major decisions taken were:

  1. The cost of the Credit Card Transaction fee will be added to next year’s subscription
  2. Following the Newsletter Working group recommendation, the Executive will progress the engagement of a professional Newsletter Editor
  3. The Website Working group will continue its work to improve the website and this work be reviewed at the April AGM
  4. Following the failure to secure additional administration levy funds, the Branches are asked canvass their committees and members to financially support the establishment of a Chief Operations Officer (COO). It was suggested they consider pledging a one-off grant of around $5k, or what was affordable to them. Further information on the benefit of the role to be provided by the President.
  5. The Conference in 2022 will need to have a cut-off date for registrations to make a Go/No go decision given uncertainty with COVID.

Go well, take care, and have a great Xmas

Graham West, NZFFA President





Holiday Reading

Going into the holiday season you probably have the chance to chill out with a good book.  If you are looking for something different you could see if the library has any copies of Anastasia, the first book in The Ringing Cedars series by Vladimir Megre. It is a series of ten books that tell the true story of Anastasia, a wise Russian recluse who lives amongst the Cedar trees of Siberia and has a perspective of nature and humanity that is most refreshing.

And of course for young and old there is always The Lorax by Dr Suess. You can watch or listen


The New Normal - Opportunity or Threat.  2022 NZFFA Conference  - Timaru

The next annual conference will be hosted by the South Canterbury Branch in Timaru April 7-11 next year.

We have themed our conference “The new normal-opportunity or threat”, where we will focus on the raft of new environmental regulations coming at the farming and forestry industries. These include, water quality regulations with mitigation by riparian planting, forestry regulations, the ETS both costs and also focusing on, on-farm opportunities with sequestration. We will hear about the Governments vision for forestry from Platinum Sponsor, Te Uru Rākau, including where carbon forestry fits in the New
Zealand framework.

We will visit local farms, a commercial forestry operation hosted by platinum sponsor Port Blaikley, and a visit to the majestic Mackenzie Country where we will see large scale carbon farming.

While we are still very positive to go forward with the organisation of the conference, the situation around Covid is somewhat disconcerting. You will all be aware of events for next year being cancelled or postponed, this is certainly not our intention if we can avoid it. We will go ahead as long as Government rules allow, with double vaccinations being required with all the usual requirements. We will review the situation at the end of January as to the Covid framework and also the number of registrations we have.

Registrations have been, so far, slow to come in. It’s imperative for you to get your registration in now so that we can actually run this conference with members in attendance. Without attendees conference cannot happen. If you intend to come to Timaru next April get your registration done now. In the, hopefully unlikely event that, we have to cancel a full refund of your fee will be forthcoming.

Conference 2022- “The new normal. Opportunity or threat.”  NZFFA Annual conference, 7 to 11 April 2022 Timaru

See you in Timaru.

Ian Jackson, Conference Convenor


Future Proofing the Family Farm

The Bellamy Farm story - Te Puke, BOP

John Channing, extracted from Bay of Plenty Branch December 2021 newsletter

This month Wilma and I had the privilege of visiting Paul and Rita Bellamy’s farm which is situated up behind Te Puke on Clark Road at an altitude of 200M.
As you enter this beautiful property, first impressions say it all:

A second generation family farm the original 640 acres was purchased by Paul’s dad in 1973. Paul and his brother, Richard first leased the farm off dad then bought half each in 1981. After selling off a few unusable pieces Paul and Rita currently own 98ha (240 acres).

Being a keen hunter, Paul was attracted to deer farming and got on board in the early days farming 400 fallow deer in the 1980s. Why fallow; because they were cheap and able to be sourced locally. According to Paul definitely a young man’s game and after 10 years gave up the deer. He was also frustrated by his failure to tame the fallow deer even with breeding they still retained their wild genes.

Pretty much retired now, Paul and Rita have 2.5ha of kiwifruit and run 50 yearlings and weaners. Did I say retired? You can hardly ever call yourself retired if you have land, animals and trees and grew up in the DIY farming world.

At 98ha the challenge is the property is too small to fit easily into current farming methodology, even as a dairy run-off it is too small.

Paul describes himself as a ‘tree hugger greenie at heart... without being fanatical’ and right from the beginning they planted in 1982 Radiata pines and 1984 diversified into Blackwood’s and Eucalyptus regnans. And so a pattern was set, planting what Paul could get his hands on each winter and once they matured harvesting the radiata to provide a reasonably regular income.

Over the years blocks of lusitanica, lawsoniana, redwoods, paulownia, macrocarpa and others were added to the mix providing the farm with a most attractive diversity.

New radiata plantings in the foreground with Kiwifruit to the left, paulownia centre and Eucs to the right.

In the beginning Paul was acting from his passion; planting, planting, planting. Paul and Rita did all the planting themselves. Planting contractors could not be afforded in those days.

Now looking back, he and Rita see the excellent position the property has evolved into as a resource for their four children heading into the future. Unlike stock which must be managed on a daily basis, the trees can just stand there and wait for the right opportunity to come along.

In these very unsettled days where any attempt to predict the future would be foolish, it does pay to have something that can just stand and wait, while all the time adding value to the land. Paul’s desire is to ‘leave the place better than we found it’. He and Rita have certainly achieved that.

Next step is to put the farm into a family trust and forego the trap of being forced to sell the farm because the kids want the money on the one hand and don’t have a need for the land right now.
As Paul said to me, you can never buy back land once you sell it; gone is gone forever. The challenge in this climate is to transcend the short-term view that we cash up the farm and take the money.

Hopefully the time will come when we see that the intrinsic value of land, especially land so loved, so clothed in trees as the Bellamy Farm, is worth more than any monetary value. In the meantime, putting farms into family trusts does hold out its best hope to survive short term greed.

So what is next for Paul and Rita?
Coming from the old DIY school of farming, Paul and his son have plans to set up a portable saw mill and organise themselves to mill trees selectively while maintaining a permanent cover and fulfilling on the requirements for inclusion in the ETS scheme as permanent forest.

The shed is up, (providing unintended shelter for the stock) the sawmill rails set
and the saw waiting in the background to be installed.

As Paul pointed out there is no viable market at present for selling timber trees other than radiata but that does not exclude the DIY option of milling it yourself, using it yourself or selling to the locals. Again there is no short term fix for a market place that is not organised to buy the beautiful timber that adorns the farm. But as I already said, trees are patient and who knows when the future will come to its senses???

Meanwhile trees always have something to offer; in Paul’s case it is to cut 50 trailer loads of firewood each year to support their philanthropic cause which is sending aid to a mission in Indonesia. There is no end to the good that comes from trees once they exist.

The tree splitting operation. Casurina slabs in the foreground; firewood doesn’t
come any better than that.

Starting forty years ago, early inspiration came from Farm Forestry and in particular the initiatives of Geoff and Gill Brann. Another most valuable inspiration for Paul back then was John & Bunny Mortimer’s book; Trees for the NZ Countryside – A planters guide It seems out of print at the moment but second-hand copies are available.

Forty years later, Paul has a wealth of knowledge and experiences to share. It has not been all plain sailing, especially for the deciduous plantings. Paul believes his property is in a flight path for the bronze beetle who have been regularly taking out the deciduous trees once they get to about 3M high, cleaning them out in the spring. And of course, the possums too have a fondness for fresh deciduous growth.
The paulownia too have their issues contracting Armillaria root rot from the adjacent Kiwifruit orchard. And then there are the macrocarpa trees… Paul planted them at the encouragement of a builder friend who so loved the wood for building with.

Paul’s macrocarpa trees are no exception and have succumbed to canker. No
harm in trying!

There is no other way than to ‘give things a go’ and that is just what Paul has been doing over the years.  This is one superb property for a Field Day and Paul has a lifetime of knowledge to share.


Ian McKean Pinetum

Rodney Faulkner.  Extracted from the Gisborne East Coast Branch Newsletter November 2021

The Ian McKean Pinetum is well worth a visit if you are traveling through the inland Manawatu region and are prepared to take a road less traveled.  Heading South from Taihape on S.H.1, turn off at Mangaweka, cross over the Manawatu River and head for Rangiwahia. The Pinetum is on Renfrew Road.

The late Ian McKean, farmer and dedicated Farm Forester and member of the International Dendrology Society, had a passion for Conifers. He sourced conifers from all over the world and gradually developed a 14 hectare section of the family farm where he planted what is now regarded as the most comprehensive collection of conifers in the Southern hemisphere.

Situated on a steep North facing slope near the foothills of the Ruahine ranges, the site provides the ideal environment for the growing of a wide range of conifers. Being well inland and near the ranges, winters can be cold with frequent frosts and the occasional snow fall.

The first trees were planted in 1958 and the collection contains more than 300 species of conifers including 90 of the 110 recognized pine. It is now protected under the Q.E.2 Trust and is open for anyone to enjoy. There is a good network of tracks with seating and picnic tables overlooking the collection but no other facilities apart from a rustic gazebo at the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately not all of the trees are

Ian McKean Pinetum, Rangiwahia, Manawatu

There is a grove of Redwoods planted some 30 years ago in memory of the late Neil Barr, one of the founders of the NZ Farm Forestry Association.

In 1987 when the Eastwoodhill Trust Board convened the Plant Management Committee, Ian McKean was one of the invited members and his knowledge and experience of conifers proved invaluable when establishing the Pinetum at the Eastwoodhill arboretum.

A few km south of the Pinetum are the Mangahuia Wetlands which are also well worth a visit. Established in 1997 by local farmer, Mike Bourke, on private land, this reserve is home to numerous species of waterfowl and other birds. It is extensively planted with a wide range of mostly introduced species of both evergreen and deciduous trees including many magnolias. Enjoy!


Is Forestry Really All Evil?

Denis Hocking, Opinion piece published in Middle Districts Branch Newsletter October 2021 

The ongoing debate on the pros and cons of forestry, and particularly permanent carbon sink plantings, versus farming, continues, but I think there are several points missing in the debate. In particular I’m concerned that protagonists seem to miss the following points:

  1. Recent scientific assessments suggest that production forestry provides more effective greenhouse gas mitigation than permanent forest sinks.
  2. Production forestry has long been a much better export earner than sheep and beef farming.
  3. With new environmentally benign treatments dramatically improving durability and stability, future prospects for our mainstay, radiata pine, look very good.
  4. Forestry, be it production or permanent sink, need not be limited to pine, but there are always exotic species that out-perform any indigenous species.
  5. Good forestry is quite a labour intensive land use, but with seasonal flexibility.
  6. Forestry has less impact on water quality than any other commercial land use.
  7. Wood is providing industrial heat for an increasing number of factories.

I’ll start by stating that I am not a fan of carbon sink forestry, and although I collected, and still have, my pre-1990 NZUs, (carbon credits), allocation, I have not registered any of my 30ha. of post-89 plantations in the ETS. I grow trees primarily for wood, not carbon, though I have no problem with the new carbon regime based on averaging for production forestry.

However my interest was roused by a recent paper published in “Nature Communications”, which in turn follows on from earlier IPCC publications in 2007 and 2019, all suggesting that production forestry is more effective than permanent sinks at mitigating GHG emissions. To quote from the abstract of the “Nature” paper – “GHG mitigation from harvested stands typically surpasses unharvested stands. Commercial afforestation can deliver effective GHG mitigation that is robust to future decarbonisation pathways and wood uses”.

This probably won’t be the last word on the subject, but I think it should raise some questions about current Government policy. Should there be stronger incentives pushing towards production forestry. Worth noting that all the existing permanent sink, pine forests could still be turned into production forests.

If production forestry fits better with climate change policies, then let’s look at some of it’s other benefits. Firstly it is a more effective export earner than sheep and beef farming, with, on average, twice the export value per hectare per year. Or, to rephrase that, it earns 2/3 of the red meat and wool proceeds from 1/3 of the area. This is not a recent development dependant on the Chinese log market; the then Forest Service economist M.B. Granger made this claim in the 1960s.

At the farm level I have certainly found forestry much more profitable than sheep and beef as have many, though not all, others.
However I do have concerns about the present direction of forestry. Currently I believe we are far too dependent on the Chinese paying ridiculous money for low quality logs, but I also believe that if we get our act together with an emphasis on quality, there is a great future in the trees. As mentioned in point 3, there have been recent developments in softwood treatment including acetylation (think vinegar on steroids) and treatment with furfuryal alcohol, (a common by-product of cooking carbohydrates such as starch I might add). These produce Accoya wood and Kebony wood respectively, both very durable and extremely stable forms of environmentally benign softwoods. In Europe they are being used to displace tropical hardwoods. And the really good news is that our radiata pine is the best wood in the world for these treatments. But -- the processors only want knot-free, clearwood, i.e. wood from pruned trees. Both are currently major customers at NZ clearwood mills, helping to keep pruned log prices stable and above the export log roller coaster. Ironically the Kebony process is owned by Norwegians, who use their copious supplies of pine for their lower grades but seek out our clearwood for the top grades.

Closer to home there is Abodo wood, which uses thermal modification to achieve similar ends.

New Zealand has a long tradition of pruning its trees to produce clearwood and I fondly remember the pruned log premium we received in the 1990s. Subsequently the premium has fluctuated but now we have further evidence that pruning does give us a good competitive advantage. Traditionally we have been the world leaders in pruning, buoyed by some early visionaries, our short rotations and also the species we grow. However our biggest problem at the moment is our major corporates giving up on pruning – guided by short sighted accountants in a long term industry.

Put all this together and I suggest that we have a proven and very positive industry especially if we take these opportunities to get our timber onto the top shelf as we have, very successfully, with our meat industry. I see no reason why much, possibly most, of an expanded forestry industry shouldn’t be integrated with pastoral farming to everyone’s advantage. I don’t think the big problem will be loss of jobs and rural collapse; more likely another labour shortage. But then if all farm trainees were made familiar with planting spades, loppers and chainsaws they might find plenty of rewarding, seasonally flexible jobs on farms.

The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of the NZ Farm Forestry Assn.

Comment on this blog here


President: Graham West

Newsletter editor: Dean Satchell

National Office: Liz Chamberlain Phone: 04 4720432

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