Tue, May 31, 2022 2:03 PM

Tree enthusiasts gather at The Throne



By Andrew Ritchie

The Marlborough Landscape Group organised a hugely successful field day at David and Sue Dillon's property at The Throne in the Waihopai Valley in late April.

The Marlborough Landscape Group advises Council on how to enhance and protect the landscape of Marlborough.

Members include local business, forestry, farming, winegrowers and environmental groups.

Group Co-ordinator Bev Doole said the group's aim was to connect industry and Council and encourage thinking about landscapes and trees.

She highlighted the tree planting in the Taylor Reserve in Blenheim as an example of the influence of the organisation.

Introducing the property David Dillon talked about how his grandfather planted an avenue of eucalypts alongside the Waihopai road in 1900.

Now an impressive plantation of substantial trees, their survival has been fought for over the years with various landowners and electric lines companies threatening to cut them down.

David's father Tim Dillon spent the war years in the western desert of North Africa and came home with an increased appreciation of the need for shelter and of the shade provided by trees, as well as the need for a reliable water supply. To that end he built a large dam to supply the property with reticulated water and planted many shelter belts on the property.

The diverse nature of the plantations on The Throne must be seen to be believed.

The first plantation passed on the tour contained hybrid oaks thought to be bred from some of the stock brought into the country by the early settlers and noted for their upright growth pattern, examples of which can be seen in Hagley Park in Christchurch.

A totara plantation has been established and, although less than four-years-old, these trees have already reached two metres in height.

Mike Aviss, responsible for the sustainable management of native vegetation at council, told visitors that the totara used to be a dominant species in the region and that they are capable of living for 1000 years. However, they could be harvested in 80 years.

They provide a great deal of fruit for the native birds who would bring in seeds of other species in the future which would produce food all the year round.

The totara has a massive root system and will sequester a lot of carbon as one grows.

In the wetter parts of the plantation kahikatea have been established. These trees are virtually extinct in the lowlands but Marlborough District Council have been carrying out a seed collection programme from local trees that have adapted to the environment of the area.

Forestry expert Paul Millen said, “it is necessary to be wealthy to be green, as plants cost approximately $3 each.”

If planted at two-metre spacing and 2500 stems/ha this would work out at $7500/ha with an additional $2 per plant for spot spraying.

Mike Aviss highlighted the Significant Natural Area programme overseen by the Council.

His job is to work with landowners to identify and look after indigenous areas of which there are 750 sites in Marlborough so far.

One such site of northern pink tree broom survives on The Throne and has survived grazing and fire protected by a bluffy outcrop. There are only a few hundred of these trees surviving in Marlborough.

The SNA fund matches dollar for dollar with the landowner the costs involved in protecting such areas, giving our native bird species a chance of survival.

The other way of protecting such areas is to set up a QEII Trust which will permanently secure the area by covenanting the land.

The Field Day continued with a visit to a pine plantation which was being harvested by mechanical means.

Forester Aaron Robinson pointed out the desirability of having a flat area to gather the logs nearby and proximity of a road helps to reduce cost at harvest time.

The final stop of the day was a eucalypt plantation where fourteen thousand trees have been established as part of the New Zealand Drylands Forests Initiative where forester Paul Millen explained the reasons behind the project.

A thoroughly informative day was had by all who left inspired by the diverse range of plantings and the foresight of the Dillon family spanning several generations.

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