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Marlborough Regional Forestry Celebrates 50 Years

Back in in the late 1960s, some forward thinking people in Marlborough’s then local government bodies thought it would be a good idea to plant pine trees on large tracts of unproductive land to promote soil stabilisation and to generate funding from logging.

In 1995 revenue from logging started to be realised, taking financial pressure off the region’s ratepayers and generating funds for a wide range of community facilities and projects.

That original vision has reaped enormous rewards for the Marlborough region, said Councillor Gerald Hope, who chairs the Marlborough Regional Forestry Joint Committee.

“Marlborough was lucky to have had forward thinkers such as Mayor Sid Harling who chaired the Marlborough Local Bodies Forestry Committee from May 1968. The committee’s arguments were persuasive but they had to jump through many hoops to get the idea off the ground. There were councillors to persuade on the four Marlborough councils and the Kaikōura County Council, and money had to be borrowed to pay for land purchases,” he said.

“Ultimately, and through the great assistance of local MP Doug Kidd, the Marlborough Forestry Corporation Act was passed on 13 November 1970 in Parliament, creating a body corporate to establish and manage the forests.”

“Profits from successful harvests of our publicly-owned forests have benefitted major projects across the region, including helping meet the cost of the Picton and Renwick sewerage services, the Southern Valleys’ irrigation project and the Marlborough Convention Centre,” Mr Hope said.

“In the nine years since 2012, Marlborough has received $24.7M in contributions from Marlborough Regional Forestry. Recent log earnings have helped fund the new Picton Library and Service Centre, the Quays riverside redevelopment in Blenheim, water supply services, the Queen Charlotte Track and the Tuia 250 commemorations.”

“We have a current balance of $13.78M from forestry and land development, much of which is already allocated to community projects over the next few years. This sum will be needed as we are currently inbetween log harvest cycles,” Councillor Hope says.

The Marlborough Regional Forestry estate, at 5,011 hectares, are on the North Bank of the Wairau River on either side of State Highway 1. Of the total, 1,438 hectares is native forest managed for conservation purposes, with 3,355 hectares of mostly pinus radiata planted in six forestry blocks.

The largest tract is east of Koromiko and includes three blocks: Koromiko, Strachan and Pukaka. It encompasses the south end of the Robertson Range, about half of the Pukaka Stream catchment and foothills east of the Tuamarina River. On the western side of the river are two blocks: Speeds and Para, composed of hill country rising from the valley floor to mountainous conservation land behind. To the south-west is the Waikakaho Block, an area of hill country that spans both sides of the lower Waikakaho River.

The native bush areas include a Significant Natural Area of 511.7 ha and a QEII National Trust covenant of 115.8 ha.

Sid Harling died in 1977 and was replaced by Bill Bown, then George Robb (1983) and Tom Hickman (1989). The Marlborough Forestry Corporation Act was repealed in July 1996 and ownership of its assets was vested in Marlborough District Council and Kaikōura District Council, with shares split 88.62% to Marlborough and 11.38% to Kaikoura.

MRF contracts forestry specialists Merrill and Ring Ltd to manage the forests on ratepayers’ behalf. For further information on Marlborough Regional Forestry, go to the Forest Management Plan on the Merrill and Ring website.

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