Council investigates use of wilding pines in boiler

Wanaka-based Queenstown Lakes District councillor Leigh Overton (left) and Deputy Mayor Lyal...
Wanaka-based Queenstown Lakes District councillor Leigh Overton (left) and Deputy Mayor Lyal Cocks inspect the newly installed Wanaka pool boiler. Photo supplied by QLDC.
The new, fuel-efficient woodchip boiler installed at the Wanaka Community Pool has led the Queenstown Lakes District Council to consider creating a woodchip venture from pest wilding pines to supply the pool and other woodchip users.

The council applied to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) for a $270,000 interest-free Crown loan to fund the replacement of the pool's electric boiler. The savings on the power bill would pay off the loan, community services general manager Paul Wilson said.

Council forester Briana Pringle is enthusiastic about the new boiler because it creates a demand for woodchips, would could be made from wilding conifers, a pest plant in the district.

Initially, however, the chips will come from Naseby.

The boiler is capable of delivering heat at significantly lower costs and with substantially lower carbon emissions.

Wood biomass is carbon neutral, fits with the New Zealand Energy Strategy and complies with the Otago Regional Council's air plan.

Deputy Mayor and Wanaka Community Board chairman Lyal Cocks said the project "sets a positive example for other heat users in the area to get on board and convert to similar heating schemes. It also opens up doors for new developments in the region to heat with wood".

Ms Pringle said most wilding conifers had no economic value for timber so the whole tree could be used as fuel, turning a pest tree into a valuable resource.

The chips needed for the boiler could be processed and carted by local contractors, also boosting the council's "green footprint".

The EECA had advised there were people in Queenstown looking to convert to wood energy so there was potential for the QLDC to explore setting up a woodchip venture, Mr Wilson said.

The authority had funded a feasibility study on installing a central woodchip boiler heating system for Queenstown Airport, Lakes District Hospital, Alpine Aqualand and the Queenstown Events Centre (Frankton Flats Heating Feasibility Study).

The conclusion was that a centralised woodchip boiler plant was not considered feasible as the energy supply costs, including maintenance and capital investment costs, were higher than the energy supply costs now.

However the Frankton Heat Study is still a valuable resource.

It is available on the council's website.