Gov't support for radiata alternatives welcomed

19 May 2015

Forest owners have welcomed government support for research into plantation species other than radiata pine. [See]

"Radiata pine is the backbone of the New Zealand forest industry and likely always will be. It grows rapidly on a wide range of sites and is suitable for numerous uses from joinery to structural lumber, as well as newsprint manufacture," says Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

"By focussing on a single species, we have achieved economies of scale and have developed world-class expertise in growing and manufacturing.

"That said, radiata is not the ideal species for all growing environments, end uses and market needs. There are also biosecurity risks in being heavily reliant on a single species."

He says forest owners therefore appreciate the support of the government for research into alternative species, both through Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund.

Farm Forestry Association president Dean Satchell says the MBIE co-funding announced today will enable the industry to maximise opportunities for alternative species for which there is existing market demand, especially Douglas-fir, eucalypts and cypresses.

"Douglas-fir is our second largest plantation species by area, with commercial plantations in colder areas, including the Central North Island and the South Island high country. All three species are also widely planted in small blocks on farms," Mr Satchell says.

"This seven-year programme takes a value chain approach to the breeding, growing and processing of these species, to enable market opportunities and returns to growers and processors to be maximised."

Mr Satchell says the MBIE project will have synergies with projects on alternative species co-funded by the MPI Sustainable Farming Fund. These include:

• Providing best-practice information to forest owners on growing cypresses and eucalypts
• Selection and breeding of eucalypts cultivars that are not subject to growth-strain (a major processing fault)
• Evaluation of the performance of cypress cultivars on a range of sites as a basis for establishing commercial plantations
• Assessing the durability of coastal redwood timber
• Producing guidelines for growing totara on farms.

"The potential of the forest industry to grow and diversify is clearly recognised by both forest growers and government agencies. Together with Scion, the universities and other providers, they co-fund these and other research projects to the tune of many millions of dollars a year," Mr Satchell says.

For more information, please contact David Rhodes, Tel 027 495 5525 or Dean Satchell, Tel 09 407 5525