Major forestry study to assess performance of erosion and sediment control practices

Safeguarding New Zealand’s waterways is the key driver behind a seven-year study into the performance of control practices for reducing erosion and sediment delivered to rivers from forest harvesting.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has partnered with a forestry company, OneFortyOne New Zealand, providing $1.37 million through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund to the $3.6 million project.

The project is in its second year, with a long-term monitoring programme now established within control and treatment catchments at OneFortyOne’s Donald Creek Forest, near Tadmor in the Tasman district.

“We want to find out what erosion and sediment control measures work best, and we can only know this through robust real-world studies,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

“This project is exploring the effectiveness of current best practice in sediment control as well as some new innovations. Later in the project, the researchers will construct a large sediment retention pond to see how that measures up compared to traditional methods.

“As well as the benefits of erosion and sediment control, the programme will also compare the costs of different practices.” Continue reading

Government acknowledges carbon farming is not the silver bullet to address climate change

The acknowledgement by the Government that current policies will likely see too much carbon forestry planted, along with the opening up of a conversation for potential limits through the Emissions Trading Sceme, is being welcomed by Beef+Lamb NZ on behalf of sheep and beef farmers.

As AgScience reported yesterday, the Government has released a discussion paper, Transitioning to a low emissions and climate resilient future, which aims to help shape New Zealand’s emissions reduction plan.

B+LNZ says the paper notably contains a slight shift in how the Government is talking about the role of carbon-only exotic forestry in addressing climate change.

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that fossil fuel emissions must be reduced, rather than continually offset, to ensure a fair, equitable, and efficient transition to a low emissions economy,” says Sam McIvor, chief executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

“The discussion document indicates any decision on changing the ETS rules would come by the end of 2022. We’re concerned that’s not fast enough given the scale and pace of land conversion happening.

“What we need is urgent action to adjust the ETS to limit the amount of carbon forestry offsets available to fossil fuel emitters. New Zealand is the only country with a regulatory ETS that currently allows 100 percent carbon forestry offsetting. We will be putting forward potential policy solutions as part of this process.” Continue reading

Investment fund seeks backing to develop carbon sinks

A new fund to develop carbon sinks on less productive agricultural land is being launched today, RNZ reported.

Carbon sinks are anything that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases, like plants, RNZ explained.

The fund, known as the CQuest Forestation and Carbon Investment Fund, is seeking $15.2 million to buy up 1500 hectares of land to plant pine trees, and aims to give wholesale investors an opportunity to farm carbon credits.

It is being managed by MyFarm Investments, which said it would also look at opening to retail investment in the future.

MyFarm chief executive Andrew Watters said the plan was to do two things.

“In 20-25 years we will harvest those trees for timber and other products. But in the meantime, we’re doing this really important job of taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into the wood product.

“The benefit from an investment perspective is, we can generate those credits and then sell those credits through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.”

Watters said there would be good cash-flow returns from year five or six, through to year 15 or 16.

He said the project would look to avoid the controversial practice of using productive land for planting.

“We’re operating on the margin with our activities. We’ll be careful with the properties we select and make sure they’re the lower quality properties,” he said.

Watters said demand for carbon credits was high and expected a good return for investors.

At the most recent auction in the government’s Emission’s Trading Scheme, the government set aside nearly 5 million units, with a price ceiling of $50 each.

But strong demand saw prices hit $53.85 per unit, forcing the government to release its reserve of 7 million extra units in a failed bid to keep prices in line.

MyFarm said it would initially invest in a 465 ha former sheep and beef property in the Tararua district, in the North Island.

It envisaged sequestering (removing) 480 tonnes of carbon per hectare from the atmosphere, generating carbon credits at a cost of between $20-25 per tonne.

As the trees grow to maturity, it aims to sell the credits on the secondary market, where carbon credits have recently been trading as high as $60 per tonne.

Initial property planting is expected for next year.

Source:  Radio NZ 



Research highlights the need for limits on forestry offsetting for fossil fuel emitters

New research confirms a significant amount of sheep and beef farmland has been converted to forestry, underlining the need for limits on carbon offsetting. It also undermines myths about trees going on ‘unproductive’ land and reinforces Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s view that the integration of forestry on farms is a better way of managing our landscapes and meeting climate change targets.

The study by BakerAg, commissioned by B+LNZ, reveals there has been a significant increase in the amount of farmland sold into forestry, driven in large part by an increase in the carbon price.

The report was unable to identify exactly how much of the sheep and beef farmland sold into forestry was intended for pure carbon farming but based on examination of the land titles, it is estimated that about 26,550 hectares of the 77,800 hectares of whole farms sold into forestry since 2017 were to carbon only entities (about 34 percent of the whole farm sales).

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said the report shows that in 2017, 3,965 hectares of whole sheep and beef farms were sold into forestry; this increased to 20,227 ha in 2018; 36,824 ha in 2019.

It declined to 16,764 hectares in 2020 (most likely as a result of COVID-19) but rural intelligence suggests it has regathered momentum this year and moved into new regions, threatening rural communities. Continue reading

Govt funding of $5.5m aims to get everyday Kiwis planting trees

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide a $6.6 million boost to a well-established Trust to get New Zealanders planting native trees nationwide.

The funding, over three years, will go to Project Crimson Trust’s Trees That Count campaign, which was launched in 2016 and connects tree planters with tree funders, Forestry Minister Shane Jones said.

“The Trust’s goal is to motivate New Zealanders to plant as many native trees as possible. This funding will allow Trees That Count to significantly scale up its efforts to mobilise more people to get out there and plant native trees to mitigate climate change, improve the environment and increase biodiversity.

“We want everyone – children, mums and dads, grandparents, teenagers, iwi and private businesses – to be part of the nationwide native tree planting movement as part of the One Billion Trees programme.

“The funding will deliver significant social and environmental benefits and I’m pleased the Government has been able to partner with Project Crimson and build on the fantastic work the Trust does.

“The funding will also be used to encourage businesses to fund trees which can be gifted and then planted by everyday Kiwis. Landowners will also be able to pledge land to ensure there are various ways of participating in this common goal.

“Trees That Count will support the development of educational resources, skills and employment for communities. Training is being developed with NorthTec, a local iwi and their plant nursery. Six regional advisors will be employed to train and connect land owners, tree funders and planting groups.”

This is about more than an investment in trees – it’s an investment in people, regional communities and the environment, Mr Jones said.

Source: Minister of Forestry

Govt’s new forestry agency enters Mānuka partnership as part of grand planting plan

Te Uru Rākau – the name the Government has given to its newly established forestry service – will partner with Mānuka Farming New Zealand to plant 1.8 million mānuka trees across New Zealand this year, Forestry Minister Shane Jones has announced.

The Government has a target to plant one billion trees over the next ten years.

“Doing this will require innovation and genuine partnerships with the private sector, local councils, iwi and NGOs,” Mr Jones said.

“Te Uru Rākau will provide up to $1.8 million to Mānuka Farming New Zealand to source seedlings, work with landowners to undertake site assessments to assess land suitability, and provide an overall planting plan.

“Seedlings will then be provided free of charge to landowners who proceed with planting. Individual assessments to assess land suitability for establishing Mānuka plantations will take place this month and next and planting will occur from July to September.”

Mānuka is a valued native forest species and plantations can help prevent erosion as well as providing diversified income streams and environmentally sustainable land-use options for landowners, Mr Jones said.

Products from Manuka, such as honey and oil, are in high and increasing demand both domestically and globally.

The planting plan will take into account the suitability of available land for production of Mānuka honey, readiness for planting this winter, and availability of suitable Mānuka cultivars.

Mānuka Farming New Zealand will buy most of the seedlings from Kauri Park Nurseries and already has 100,000 seedlings available.

Landowners will need to cover the costs of dispatching the seedlings from the nursery, pest and weed control, fencing if required, planting costs and post-plant monitoring.

This approach extends to the funding of initial consultancy services to landowners via Mānuka Farming New Zealand.

“This will include confirmation of sites suitable for Manuka, ensuring effective pest control is in place, land preparation can be completed in time for planting, seedlings are matched to the available site and confirmation that labour for planting is available,” Mr Jones said.

Landowners who are interested in this initiative are advised to contact Mānuka Farming New Zealand directly.

Source: Minister of Forestry

National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry take effect

New plantation forestry regulations will better protect the environment while improving productivity within the forestry sector, Forestry Minister Shane Jones says.

The new National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry come into effect today.

Mr Jones says they provide a nationally consistent set of regulations to manage the environmental effects of plantation forestry activities undertaken in New Zealand’s 1.7 million hectares of plantation forestry.

“Forestry is our third largest primary industry but its efficiency has been hindered by variation in planning rules across New Zealand’s multitude of councils,” he says.

“Many large forests cover multiple council boundaries, resulting in different rules for the same forest.

“From today that forest will be governed by one set of rules.

“Greater certainty around the rules should encourage more investment in the forestry industry, providing a boost for regional economies. The regulations also create a consistent operating environment for any plantation forestry established under the One Billion Trees programme.”

The standards are based on existing good practice standards for the forestry industry and include three risk-assessment tools developed to manage the environmental impacts from forestry, covering the issues of erosion, wilding conifers and fish spawning.

“The benefits of these tools are that the restrictions on forestry activities are related to the environmental risk rather than which council area a forestry operation is in,” Mr Jones says.

“The regulations cover eight core plantation forestry activities: afforestation, pruning and thinning to waste, earthworks, river crossings, forest quarrying, harvesting, mechanical land preparation and replanting. Councils may apply stricter rules for these activities in specific circumstances to manage locally significant or sensitive areas.”

The standard was developed jointly by Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry for the Environment. It was gazetted in August 2017 with a delay in commencement to 1 May 2018 to enable councils and foresters to understand their responsibilities under the regulations and put in place processes to meet these responsibilities.

Foresters and councils have been supported in this process through a series of regional workshops. These were attended by more than 600 foresters and council representatives throughout New Zealand.

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry will be reviewed in 12 months to ensure they are being successfully implemented.

Source: Minister for Forestry

Canterbury University team is looking for sustainable solutions for NZ forestry

An innovative team at the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry is working on a breeding programme that could determine which durable sustainable eucalyptus varieties are best for producing high quality wood.

Dr Clemens Altaner, who heads the team, says wood is a biodegradable material and therefore central to a sustainable and environmentally friendly economy, but it can decay or rot prematurely.

Wood can be impregnated with chemicals to make it longer lasting, but these are toxic and some still used in New Zealand are restricted in other countries.

Importing naturally durable wood from tropical countries is problematic because these forests are often not harvested sustainably.

Dr Altaner says some eucalyptus trees provide another option because they are highly durable.  Crucially for foresters they grow fast and straight, which makes them easier to process.

Dr Altaner and his colleagues are now aiming to find which variety is the best option for New Zealand’s climate.

He says:

“We want to identify not only the trees which are the fastest growing, most frost-resistant and most insect-resistant but also those which produce the best quality timber.”

“Selecting trees for wood quality is rarely done due to the amount of time it takes to make difficult measurements, however we have developed new, quick wood-quality assessments.

“Another unique feature of the programme is the assessment of the trees at a young age, drastically reducing the time to deploy improved trees from decades to years.”

Hopefully within five years superior trees identified from the breeding programme will be mass propagated and planted.

All this is done with the goal of creating high quality wood which can also be used to produce engineered wood products such as laminated veneer lumber, both here in New Zealand and to open up additional export opportunities for the forestry industry.

Dr Altaner’s research was awarded a $500,000 grant last year from the Government’s Sustainable Farming Fund, and other funding sources have come from the forestry industry, from seed producers to tree nurseries to forest growers and wood processors.