Doc Wakatipu biodiversity threats ranger Jamie Cowan removes wilding pines on Ben Lomond in 2010. Photo from ODT files.
Using the wilding pine trees which infest the Central Lakes
district as an energy source to heat commercial buildings is
being studied by both councils in partnership with two
The feasibility of collecting and processing waste wood into
pellets or wood chips for the local market will be
investigated by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and the
Central Otago District Council, along with the Energy
Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the
Department of Conservation.
Queenstown Lakes district forester Briana Pringle said the
product was used in bio-waste burners which were clean and
highly efficient, but existing users had to bring in bio-fuel
from out of town.
''We have plenty of raw material here, like wilding pines. We
need to find out if it will be economical to turn them into a
fuel source and if so, will there be demand for what is
produced,'' Mrs Pringle said.
The cost of the study has yet to be finalised but EECA will
fund up to $50,000 or 75%, whichever is the least, while Doc
will pay 11%, the Queenstown Lakes council 11% and the
Central Otago council the remainder.
As well as offering advantages in terms of energy efficiency
and cleanness, bio-waste was potentially cheaper than coal
and oil and could offer another option in an area which has
been heavily reliant on electricity and lpg, she said.
Bio-waste pellet and chip burners also met the criteria of
the Otago Regional Council's air plan.
While estimates on how much ratepayer money could be saved
were not calculated yet, research for the study was already
under way, with Ahika Consulting and the Otago Polytechnic
Centre for Sustainable Practice surveying schools and
businesses on their energy use and the potential for them to
convert to wood energy in future, Mrs Pringle said.
A community meeting for interested parties was scehduled for
''We're already seeing bio-fuel used locally at facilities
like the Wanaka Community Pool, where a bio-fuel boiler was
installed last year,'' Mrs Pringle said.
''It will be interesting to see what, if any, potential there
is for expanding on that.''
Central Otago council chief executive Phil Melhopt said the
council headquarters was heated using a coal-fired boiler and
the study should reveal the supply and availability of
pellets and woodchips as fuel, confirm whether there was a
reliable supply and whether it was cost-effective to convert
''If bio-fuel was found to be a viable option, there may be
all sorts of applications in this district - not just to heat
public buildings,'' he said.
The two councils were joint shareholders in a forestry block
at Coronet Station.