Forestry business wins conservation award

16 April 2015

A Wairau Valley forestry block balancing good business with good conservation was one of the winners at the Marlborough Environment Awards.

When the Manuka Island Trust bought a block of Marlborough farmland for forestry in 1992, they faced objections from conservation groups concerned for a rare fern bird habitat. More than two decades on, the operation has taken out the top forestry spot at the Marlborough Environment Awards, for integrating a successful production forest with conservation, landscape and recreational values.

Merrill & Ring New Zealand's Murray Turbitt, who manages Manuka Island Forest in the Upper Wairau Valley with Philip Woodward, said the American owner had given them "free range" to manage for both the environment and production potential.

The rare fern bird colony, on the lower reaches of the Eves Stream catchment, was protected through the sale of that land to DOC, and two other areas put into protection by Department of Conservation covenants, including the Garden Covenant on the banks of the Goulter River, with a river terrace and tall kanuka forest on the hill country, and The Boulder Creek Covenant on the lower slopes of Star Hill, with regenerating beech and kanuka forest.

These were just a few of the initiatives that saw the operation win the Marlborough Forest Industry Association Forestry Award last month, with judges remarking on 450ha of extensive native sections, as well as environmentally sound harvesting techniques, minimal earthworks and wide riparian strips.

In their report they said the main objective was to grow a high-value crop of intensively managed radiata pine and Douglas fir. "However, what stood out was the enthusiasm for Manuka Island as much more than a production forest. Murray and Phil are dedicated to balanced management which values biodiversity, landscape, historic and recreation along with production."

The men will host a field day at the site this Saturday, where visitors will hear how the flat and rolling terrain allows for relatively low impact harvesting, with approximately 70 per cent suitable for ground-based mechanised logging systems.

Turbitt said the field day was an opportunity to visit an intriguing landholding, once part of one of Marlborough's largest farms. "It's a unique property. A lot of people in the rural sector of Marlborough have known about Manuka Island for decades, but it's been a kind of mystery place. It's big and not a lot of people ever got the chance to go there."

The Manuka Island Forest field day is on Saturday, April 18, 9am-3pm. Other Marlborough Environment Awards field days include the  New Zealand Dryland Forest Initiative, winner of the Supreme/Business Innovation Award, on Tuesday, May 12.

For more information and bookings contact Nicky Eade at Marlborough District Council on 03 520 7400 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go to the website at

Source: Marlborough Express article by Sophie Preece. To read the full article >>