Newsletter 112, August 2018
New Zealand Farm Forestry Association
P.O. Box 10349
|Newsletter 112, August 2018|
The members area of the NZFFA website can be accessed by using your email address and password to log in.
Your email address MUST be the address you have provided to NZFFA for your subscription (which happens to be the one this newsletter was sent to...).
If you don't have a password or can't remember it, you can get one very easily. Just follow the instructions here.
Any problems logging in then email me.
Dean Satchell, website administrator
If you are receiving this e-newsletter and don't want to, please notify NZFFA by replying.
Plantation Forestry Labour and skills survey
For more information on these events, they are posted on the NZFFA website >>
NZFFA members can set up their own blogs on the NZFFA website. Email Dean.
A workshop involving key forest industry players was held on 2nd August.
Objectives of Workshop:
The joint FOA/FFA research Committee, with funding from Forest Growers Research, convened this meeting to discuss current knowledge and identify information gaps that require further research investigation. NZFFA was represented by Neil Cullen, Angus Gordon, Patrick Milne and myself.
The forest industry met to consider measures that would reduce the consequences of post-harvest, post-replant erosion and the resulting debris carried offsite by flood waters on the East Coast. Whole catchment clearfelling and leaving "a god awful amount of woody material on the slopes" were discussed at length.
A NIWA scientist described climate change scenarios related to the predicted frequency of severe storms. Gisborne Council rainfall data was presented showing that very locally the hourly rainfall intensities (62 mm/hr) exceeded that predicted by NIWA for a 1 in 100 year storm.
Forestry Practices were discussed. Standard practice has been that merchantable stems are extracted, leaving wind throw, non merchantable logs and broken tops on site. The market on the East Coast for low quality material is virtually non-existent, as there is no pulp or MDF mill in the region and the very limited bioenergy market is satisfied by closer forest.
Typical cable logging costs now exceed $50 a tonne for the merchantable logs (haul distances typically average 400 metres and may extend to 600m), with trucking from more distant forests costing around $35 a tonne. On top of $15/tonne for roading, those costs preclude extraction of broken tops and low quality windthrow stems, so they end up staying on the slopes.
Because steep slopes are expensive to harvest and cable haulers are used to minimise roading and environmental impacts of harvesting in this steepland country, the cost put on recovering broken tops and other small low quality material currently left on the slopes was estimated to be $200 a tonne. This residual material is up to 100 tonnes per hectare, 10-20% of the total harvest, and because the forest companies operate on "razor sharp margins" on East Coast steepland country it tends to be left on the slopes.
It was acknowledged that when storms cause landsliding, forest owners need to be able to keep the woody material on their properties. This means constructing more effective debris traps. However, forest boundaries do not always offer the right places to put these, with neighbouring land often being more suitable for that purpose.
Because whole catchments have been clearfelled and replanted, it was asked whether staggered harvesting was more appropriate. Staggered harvesting could also involve planting other species with different rotation lengths or simply leaving mature trees standing on larger river terraces until the replanted slopes above had reached canopy closure. There was debate around the benefits of this. One unharvested Eucalypt stand in an otherwise largely clear felled catchment had not sustained damage, but there was no comparable radiata stand remaining so no particular conclusion could be drawn as to which stand might have fared better.
Post-harvest hydrological changes were discussed, with geomorphic thresholds reducing until such times as the replanted crop achieved canopy closure. A slope stability specialist from Landcare described a "slope ripening" process that naturally occurs in steep erodible terrain which can see even small storms trigger landslides after harvest. This can be unpredictable and hazard zoning does not yet provide sufficient information at a fine enough scale to predict instability. Lidar might offer an opportunity to identify unstable and steep slopes in the future. Once soil is lost, the capacity of soils to produce growth is reduced, so mitigating erosion is important to retain the productive "capital" of the land.
There was lively debate on the proposition that sediment generation could be reduced by achieving a more rapid green-up after harvesting with oversowing and using less residual herbicides, or whether leaving trees standing in riparian zones of headwater streams offers any real protection.
Also under discussion was that there may be important differences between species in terms of soil reinforcement by roots. There needs to be more work done on other species but the key to viability of "alternative species" would be sufficient scale to ensure markets are generated for the species to be a profitable option. On the other hand it was also acknowledged that radiata might still be the right species, but harvest regimes and silviculture may need to change.
Options need to be explored. This means ideas that build resilience into the industry. What do forest owners need to do to de-risk their slopes? Because in the meantime Crown investment in new radiata pine plantings on the East Coast is on hold.
Do we need to tell a story, a good story about what the industry did to address this issue? The risk is that next time around the court of popular opinion will say "that wasn't enough". The public does actually have a level of acceptance of events beyond reasonable control, but will burning slash residue on landings and installation of slash traps be enough? The legal risk is that by not actually extracting and removing woody debris, that the possibility of debris flows occurring was foreseeable.
It was reported that the material on the mid slopes was what ended up in the debris flows and on the beaches. Overall, forest landings and roads (i.e. infrastructure) held up quite well in Tolaga Bay. Perhaps the most important question is how can we remove more material from the slopes? How can we make it cheaper to extract and how can we make it merchantable and who will buy it? There is no proper pulpwood market in Gisborne, nor is there sufficient demand for fuelwood. In my view there needs to be greater engagement with the East Coast business community into turning what is currently waste into a resource.
Minimising the material left on the slopes means we prevent wood from getting into waterways. Minimising stem breakages may be the key to minimising onsite debris. Tree felling, be it by chainsaw or with machines with dangling heads currently results in significant stem breakages, so fixed head felling might offer a solution. However, this puts a greater strain on the machine and would require a substantial retooling by contractors.
A forest growers fidelity fund was suggested as useful to respond rapidly to disasters.
Perhaps foremost we need to identify and research alternative species and regimes. The Joint Environment committee has got the ball rolling with the newly released report “Trees for steep slopes”.
The key solutions offered were:
There is plenty here to keep foresters and researchers busy, with more questions than answers currently, especially on the economic aspects of changing regimes.
Also soon to be published will be a suite of new forest practice guides (to align with the new NES for Plantation Forestry).
Forestry has come out of the shadows into the spotlight. Our industry is undoubtedly New Zealand’s main weapon against climate change by locking up vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
We export more than $6 billion worth of forest products a year. And we need to get better at preventing debris going down rivers in floods. Telling our story on television is overdue.
So, broadcaster Don Carson takes us through what forestry is all about.
Episode One >>
Potentially the greatest threat to the plantation forest industry is a biosecurity incursion. An incursion could affect all growers and does not respect boundaries, ownership or size. Effective management of an incursion requires government and forest growing sector collaboration via the sector Government Industry Agreement (GIA). It is proposed that the Forest industry GIA response will be initially funded by borrowings from commercial entities, with a levy under the Biosecurity Act acting as collateral and subsequently being invoked to service any loan.
On behalf of the plantation forest industry, the FOA is the forest industry representative on the GIA deed and is the industry organisation to which the proposed biosecurity levy is to be payable under any Biosecurity Levy Order. More >>
The NZ Government is doubling to nearly NZ$500 million the funding for forestry planting from its Provincial Growth Fund, meaning one-sixth of the NZ$3 billion, three-year fund will be spent on trees. Regional Development Minister Shane Jones announced the boost this week after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The NZ$240 million commitment to plant some 60 million trees will be funded through the PGF with about NZ$118 million set aside for grants and a further NZ$120 million for partnership projects over three years and will come on top of the NZ$245 million already committed to the so-called 'One Billion Trees' project to kick-start the programme, which includes funding for joint ventures and the expansion of the Hill Country Erosion programme.
The funding would "support tree planting in areas where wider social, environmental, and regional development goals can be achieved" rather than clear commercial returns.
“We’re strengthening our support for planting over the next three to four years in areas where there are currently limited commercial drivers for investment, and where wider social, environmental or regional development benefits can be achieved," said Jones in a statement.
“The new grants scheme will provide simple and accessible direct funding to landowners for the cost of planting and establishing trees and regenerating indigenous forest. Private landowners, government agencies, NGOs and iwi will all be able to apply."
Forestry planting has emerged as a key element of the government's efforts to tilt the New Zealand economy towards action on climate change, land erosion, water quality and regional unemployment, as well as producing a valuable commercial crop.
As New Zealand transitions to being a low emissions economy new opportunities for business, including farming, start becoming real. The opportunities from use of bioenergy and biofuels instead of fossil fuels for energy are the most obvious. Yet the opportunities for farmers to produce and sell food plus energy are likely to be the biggest drivers. This has been recognised in the UK where the Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) has developed a Common Countryside Policy to start bringing forestry and agriculture together (see below). The goal is "a healthy environment, food to eat, and timber to build our homes and manufacture the many day-to-day products we use".
New Zealand has similar opportunities, and for many farmers this is already happening, However the benefits of using trees to stop run off of nitrogen into waterways, protect steep slopes, plant shelter belts for harvest and shelter, and use dairy effluent are still poorly understood. Adopting an attitude of food plus energy from farming will improve farm business resilience and provide quality wood fuel for their food processors.
As outlined in an item below bioenergy uses carbon neutral biomass so it is a "no brainer" that the programmes which Government will lead on over the coming years should include the utilisation of this carbon neutral biomass in a similar way that renewable electricity is driving the adoption of electric vehicles.
To achieve these opportunities we need better cross sector interaction and a government looking for solutions rather than responding to what already exists. More >>
Brian cox, Bioenergy Association.