Time for planting trees in earnest

James Reid. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
James Reid. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
When Labour swept into power in 1984, the farming scene changed radically, with the advent of Rogernomics.

A change in farming policy also occurred at Traquair Station.

Heavy machinery makes light work of processing logs on Traquair.
Heavy machinery makes light work of processing logs on Traquair.
The Reid family started planting trees in earnest on the 6000ha property near Outram and James Reid reckoned it could be "well on the way to a million" that had been planted on "a few hundred" hectares.

A logging operation has been under way at the Outram end of the property since the middle of November.

The Traquair farming operation was split five years ago, between James and his brother, Charles, and their families. The logging operation was for their joint Traquair Partnership which involved both.

Earlier this week, eucalyptus trees planted in 1988 were being logged by the fifth crew to work on Traquair over the years. Some was destined for export, where a market had been found, and some for firewood.

It was a slick and impressive operation using a fully mechanised process.

"There’s no-one walking around with a chainsaw on the ground," Mr Reid said.

The work was being done by Southern Logging Services and sub-contractor Aaron Lloyd, from Lloyd Contracting, said about about four truckloads of logs were dispatched each day.

The wider area being logged included Douglas fir, eucalyptus and pine trees and it would hopefully be replanted this winter with radiata pine.

Virtually all gullies in that area, which were previously covered in gorse or had the potential to be covered in gorse, had been planted.

It was alongside State Highway 87 and that was one important factor of farm forestry — it needed to be accessible. 

"You don’t want them in silly wee bits on the back of the farm," he said.

Traquair was in an ideal position, being equidistant from either an export port,  Otago Harbour, or Pan Pac Forest Products’ Milburn sawmilling plant.

Last month, the Forest Owners Association said an important trend was the gradual rise in the number of timber woodlots on farmland and farmers appeared to be seeing the countercyclical value in having profitable timber plantations on their properties, to balance returns from fluctuating meat and wool prices.

They might also have a long-term eye to carbon offsets from their trees if agriculture was ever brought into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

While trees at Traquair did not require the attention that sheep, beef cattle or deer did, the biggest issue was wind.

Several incidents of strong winds recently had broken the top out of trees. At the high-altitude Lee Stream end of the property, snow was an issue.

Land above 400m was now planted in Douglas fir and virtually everything below that was now in Pinus radiata.

The extensive farming operation still had to carry on alongside the logging, Mr Reid said.

The Forest Owners Association has called on the Government to get extra forest planting under way and not wait until next year for a report to be presented on climate change.

The Productivity Commission will report back in June 2018 with recommendations for achieving a lower carbon economy, to enable New Zealand to achieve its Paris Agreement commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 30%, by 2030.

Association president Peter Clark said the time to start acting on sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere, by using trees, should begin now.

"The Government is already supporting the uptake of electric vehicles without waiting for the Productivity Commission.

"There’s every reason to get the same impetus for tree planting, especially on farm and Maori-owned land," he said.

A recent Vivid Economics report said planting new forests was the only technology currently known and implementable on a large scale that had the capacity to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Planning must begin now to ensure labour availability and sufficient volume of seedlings to plant out those extra trees, Mr Clark said.

"As it is, if there is going to be any meaningful expansion of planting, then it’ll take another year to build up seedling capacity, which will result in planting out in 2019.

"The government timetable will add at least an extra two years to that — more, if legislation is required.

"That’s far too long a delay, especially when you consider that, even on the most rapid government timetable, it would then take until at least until 2026 to grow trees big enough to become effective carbon sinks."

In the 1990s, there was up to nearly 100,000ha a year of new plantings.

"We certainly wouldn’t get to that level again for many years, but we do need to make a start now to build up from a static, or even slightly declining, national forest area."

An expected reduction in available harvest volumes from about 2030 was also a critical factor in expanding forest areas, Mr Clark said.

The sooner there were "more trees into the ground" the more likely the New Zealand processing industry would have the confidence to invest in modernising production.

Timber availability in the next few years was sawmillers’ biggest concern. An efficient and high-tech milling industry in New Zealand would both reduce costs for domestic timber consumers and add value to exports.

Add a Comment