How long does it take for a tōtara tree to grow to millable size?
It depends on the site and growing conditions. Some trees grow quickly (1 cm in trunk diameter per year), while others manage only a few millimeters a year. In an earlier study, the age range of the tree selected for removal have been from 40 to 120 years-old, with the average around 85 years-old. However, these regenerating stands of tōtara tend to be over-crowded which slows the growth rates and therefore size. Growth rates would increase with active management of these stands.
What would you use the timber for?
It is an excellent-quality softwood timber suitable for many applications - particularly interior linings such as feature walls and ceilings, but also for bench tops and cabinetry. It is known to machine well and, of course, as the favoured carving and turning timber.
Tōtara heartwood is naturally durable and would be suitable for exterior applications. It may also replace imported timbers from non-sustainably-managed tropical forests.
Is the wood from younger trees any good?
Yes. Results from this and other related studies suggest that the timber from younger, faster grown tōtara have similar wood properties to mature trees, except for the quantity of durable heartwood. Investigations into heartwood formation are in progress with the publication of recent research.
Are there enough tōtara trees?
The TIP project will answer this question. Current estimates indicate enough timber available to sustain a local industry.