Trees such as eucalyptus are being trialled for their
durable timbers. Photo from Allied Press files.
Eucalyptus trees are set to provide long-term
opportunities for New Zealand farmers.
New Zealand Dryland Forestry Initiative chairman Shaf van
Ballekom said durable timbers such as eucalyptus, Douglas fir
and cypress trees were going to provide benefits across a
range of industries, including farming, in years to come.
He said the project started out to assist vineyards in
sourcing durable timber, but he now saw the potential for
providing timber for outdoor furniture, power poles, local
infrastructure, railway sleepers and ''wherever timber makes
contact with the soil''.
''With these types of wood, it does away with having to treat
the wood and some of the species are a lot stronger than
radiata. And it is being sought by Asian markets and even the
Australians are starting to show some interest in our
''It is another opportunity for farmers alongside their other
income sources. It has always got to stack up. It is not just
about growing trees, it is about growing products for the
Mr van Ballekom, who is the chief executive of Amberley-based
Proseed, first became involved in the forestry initiative in
2003 when he was approached by project manager Paul Millen to
assist in sourcing seeds for trialling trees to assist the
Marlborough wine industry.
Around 25 different eucalyptus species were trialled. Some
were already grown in New Zealand, but most had to be sourced
from Australia. From those, five species were selected for
field trials on properties in the lower North Island,
Marlborough and more recently Sefton, north of Rangiora.
The project is also hoping to secure a property connected
with the Waipara wine industry, in North Canterbury, soon.
With the species chosen, more seeds had to be sourced,
primarily from coastal New South Wales and Victoria, Mr van
''Those species have demonstrated good results in Australia
and they seem to be doing well for us.
''We basically contracted collectors and we assembled a large
population of seeds, but we focused mainly on two species. It
was a large geographical region to cover, so we were
collecting from identified sites and key areas.
''People have been very generous in providing sites. It is a
pretty significant commitment to get involved in providing a
The two main eucalyptus species used in the project are E.
bosistoana and E. globoidea, and were chosen for wood
durability, Mr van Ballekom said.
''This is a long-term project. It has been going for 10 years
so far and it will probably take another 10 years to come to
maturity, so it is a real long-term commitment but it is not
a long time in terms of growing a tree.''
However, Mr van Ballekom said timber suitable for posts and
poles can be grown in 10-15 years, instead of the usual 30
Mr van Ballekom said the project had been principally funded
by the Ministry of Primary Industries' sustainable farming
farm and had recently received funding from the Ministry of
Business Innovation and Employment to study other non-radiata
timbers including Douglas fir and cypress trees.
He said tools were being developed by the schools of forestry
and engineering at Canterbury University to rate a wood's
''We have got to have some way of testing lots and lots of
''There are literally thousands of trees out there and we
want to be able to find the best trees to produce durable
posts and poles.''
Mr van Ballekom said the project, when it came to fruition,
would provide real opportunities for farmers and small scale
''We don't envisage large quantities of trees being trucked
off to the saw mills like radiata, but are certainly not
dismissing it. We are wanting to provide the best tree seeds
and to provide some links with the markets.
''The only issue we have is to wait for the best seed to
come. It will take four to five years for us to produce the
next generation of seed.''