Sun, Jun 12, 2022 6:00 AM
Paul Millen is the project manager of the New Zealand Drylands Forest Initiative and recipient of the New Zealand Institute of Forestry ‘Forester of the Year 2021 Award’.
The Drylands Forestry Initiative won the Supreme Environmental Award at The Cawthron Environmental Awards in Marlborough in 2017. He recently spoke at the forestry Field Day at The Throne, saying that the success of the NZDI was built on relationships formed.
“Throughout the project these relationships have thrived with landowners from Northland to Canterbury, with the Marlborough Research Centre, the University of Canterbury, Proseed NZ and many more individuals.”
The aim is to establish a sustainable multi regional hardwood producing business, based on the planting of eucalypts.
Since its inception in 2003, NZDI has invested over $10 million dollars in research and planting, with the goal to produce 20,000 tonnes of timber per annum to sustain a medium-scale timber mill at Kaituna.
This would create 200 jobs and add $85 million to the NZ gross domestic product.
He estimates that 3000 to 5000 hectares would be enough to sustain production, but planting would have to take place each year to maintain consistency of supply.
The plantation at The Throne contains over fourteen thousand trees. Since 2003, seed has been collected from around New Zealand and Australia aiming to select for genetic improvement along the way.
The ability to have a good growth rate with a single straight trunk and resistance to pests and diseases is paramount.
Core testing is also being carried out.
“Initially we would grow five trees to produce one good one, now it is the other way round. We are now growing trees that are at eight metres within two years and 100mm in diameter. The genetic improvements are enormous.”
Unlike pine trees, eucalypts will recover from a fire, and the fire risk is not higher than a pine forest. They have the ability to coppice from the tree stump, and are ideal for slopes susceptible to erosion.
By Andrew Ritchie