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Sustainable Farm Fund supports eucalypt forestry initiative

Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) supports eucalypt forestry initiative

A national forestry initiative with roots in Marlborough has again been successful in its bid to the Sustainable Farming Fund.

The New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative (NZDFI), which is establishing forests of genetically improved durable eucalypts in New Zealand’s driest regions, will get $216,000 of SFF funding towards a three year programme worth over half a million dollars.

Project manager Paul Millen said the “fantastic” news would see the five-year old initiative extended to new landowners and regions, with a focus on species specific management of the existing and new blocks.

“The past five years have seen us establish over 120,000 trees in research trials from Bay of Plenty to North Canterbury. The key to this project is in helping our landowners and growers get optimal success from the trees.”

That includes research and training in silviculture, he said.

“We want growers to know and understand that they are very different to managing pine trees.”

The project will look at the potential of the chosen eucalypt species on various sites to produce pole and post wood from short rotations.

“In forestry we look at 30 year horizons, and here we are looking at potential to grow pole and post wood in 10-15 years.”

One of NZDFI’s major aims is to create hardwood posts to replace CCA treated pine in New Zealand vineyards and orchards.

The results of the current trials, which involve “wild seed” from selected eucalypts, will be compared down the track with the genetically improved species, bred from the best performing of the trial trees.

“Our breeding programme is a critical part of the initiative, and could deliver productivity gains of up to 30 percent,” said Mr Millen.

The NZDFI also wants to diversify New Zealand’s timber supply, with high quality durable hardwood available in place of some of the $270 million of hardwoods imported annually.

“From 2035, we will be substituting for imported Australian and tropical woods from unmanaged and unsustainable sources,” the NZDFI stated in its application to the SFF.

For example, project supporter Marlborough Lines wants to see domestically grown durable eucalypt used for its hardwood cross arms.

There is also the potential to create a high value hardwood export timber industry in New Zealand’s east coast regions, worth $2 billion by 2050.

The Ministry of Primary Industry Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) invests in farmer, grower and forester-led projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to New Zealand’s primary industries.

In 2010 the SFF granted the NZDFI $399,000 to pay for planting breeding populations of durable eucalypt species, allowing the project to extend into dryland areas from Bay of Plenty to North Canterbury.

Mr Millen said the new grant had been enabled by the continued support of its landowners and other financial supporters, who will provide another $318,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.

The NZDFI’s founding partners include the Marlborough Research Centre, New Zealand School of Forestry (University of Canterbury), Vineyard Timbers and Proseed NZ Ltd.


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