Mon, Mar 20, 2023 5:30 AM

Forestry bread and butter for the region.


Staff reporter


Often maligned, forestry is an important contributor to the region’s economy.  It provides jobs, trees sequester carbon plus well-tended and harvested properly has its place on many farms in the region.  

Murray and Vanessa Earwaker, have 180 hectares of Pinus radiata forest and they say, “forestry is a bread-and-butter option for many, provided it is done right plus it’s a way to plan for farm succession.”

They purchased their block in 2014 and with careful planning by the original owner the trees were staggered for the harvest of thirty hectares every three years and then replant to keep the rotation going.  The infrastructure, skid sites and roading were all in place, as a system their future looked secure.  

Five years into their project the Pigeon Valley fires happened, and they lost 150 hectares in the fire.  After the fire, what stopped them from total devastation was the fact they had insurance. They’d lost the bulk of their future income, there was a big expensive clean up job as standing spars still had to be cleared to get the land back to planting condition again.  

This was not the first time the Earwaker’s have been hit by fire.  The family house caught fire in 1997 on their Korere farm from which they escaped with nothing.  How did they recover after two major disasters?  Vanessa says.

“It was tough losing all their personal possessions and especially dealing with Insurance loss adjusters at that time.”  After the Pigeon Valley fire they were relieved to find their Insurers we so much more helpful to deal with giving good advice to reaching positive outcomes for both parties.

“Right from year one we’ve just had to believe in what we were doing to carry on,” says Vanessa.

Murray strongly advises anyone with a forest to have insurance. We aim for a 20year rotation due to the risk of windthrow in our block after year Twenty. He also added, “there’s future potential for using forestry slash as biofuel, but currently there is no infrastructure to support it.”  

“It will come though” responds Vanessa.  The Earwaker’s have replanted 150Ha in Pinus and their 4-year-old trees are looking good on their hills. They would like to add more diversity to their crop and have planted a few Redwoods, Larches, Eucalyptus and Japonica but say longer rotation species are a luxury they can’t afford yet.

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