Are you allowed to cut these trees down as part of the TIP project? Aren’t there rules against this?
You can get permits to harvest native trees on private land, but it must be done on a sustainable basis. The Forests Act applies. This means no clear-felling; only single trees or small groups of trees (3-5 trees) are harvested and the remainder of the forest left intact.
Will this lead to a new wave of exploitation of natives?
We are absolutely not advocating for exploitation of the tōtara resource. The Forests Act applies to the milling of all native timber from natural stands and it requires commercial harvests to be done on a sustainable basis. There is no clear-felling. A permanent forest cover is maintained and permitted harvest volumes are set and controlled at a rate less than the forest’s growth increment. We believe maintaining robust sustainability credentials is essential to creating a market for regenerating tōtara.
In the case of tōtara in Northland, most of the resource comprises young trees with trunk diameters less than 30cm. In other words, it is far from being a resource under threat. It has a very young and healthy population structure. The volume of trees harvested will quickly be replaced and we can expect the number of millable-sized trees to also significantly increase in the decades to come. Nevertheless, best-practice sustainable management is a non-negotiable policy for the TIP project and any industry going forward.
How is harvesting policed?
Permits are controlled by the New Zealand government through Te Uru Rākau (Forestry NZ) and the Ministry for Primary Industries. The Department of Conservation get to comment on all permit applications.
The TIP project timber has come from Sustainable Forest Management Permits or Plans that have been approved and inspected by MPI. The mills are registered and must provide records of log received and volumes milled and where it goes.
Will you be planting new trees?
A successful tōtara industry will encourage the planting of new stands of tōtara and increase the area of native forest on private land. We envisage more tōtara appearing in the landscape, rather than less.
New planted stands are not subject to the requirements of the Forests Act. New plantation area can be managed like a woodlot. Better seedlings and silviculture will result in better trees and quicker growth rates. Other species can be planted to enhance biodiversity values.
In existing natural stands, natural regeneration will replace more than is harvested. Nature does the planting. But planting is the perfect complement to accelerate an expansion of native forest area.
TIP will not be planting new trees.
Where are these trees growing and will climate change have an impact?
The tōtara are currently growing on private land throughout the wider Northland region, particularly hill-country areas that have been cleared in the past for pastoral farming. They are often well integrated with farmland and occupy areas of poorer pasture quality.
It is not old-growth native bush or conservation areas. The new regional tōtara resource has regenerated naturally on land that has been previously cleared or logged in past but regrown. Because tōtara is resistant to livestock grazing, it is now common on many farms. Tōtara is a pioneer tree species that regenerates freely in disturbed environments. It provides a unique opportunity to integrate a native forest resource into the pastoral production environment. A new resource of this iconic native tree species is developing in Northland and in other regions too.
Tōtara is a species that prefers a warm climate and is relatively tolerant of dry conditions and droughts. Climate change is likely to see better growth of tōtara in natural and planted stands.
Over time tōtara forests will naturally become more species-diverse and provide a suitable environment for shade-tolerant hardwoods and understory vegetation to become established. Active management of tōtara forests should ultimately lead to a more diverse mixed-species native forest cover again.
Are you concerned that increasing the amount of tōtara on private farms and Maori land could diminish productive farmland and lead to job losses?
The tōtara that we are dealing with already exists. It is well-integrated into the pastoral environment and tends to occupy the less productive areas such as steep slopes, poor soils, shady faces, gullies and riparian margins . We see naturally regenerating tōtara as being the perfect complement to farming, and the opportunity to ‘weave in’ native forest to the pastoral landscape – in all the places that it’s needed – not replacing or diminishing productive farmland. It’s about refining land-use to match micro-sites and the capabilities of the land.
If a farmer chooses to establish a new plantation of tōtara on more productive land, then it will need to be managed like a woodlot, like any other crop. As for employment, one of the key drivers of the TIP project is that it will create work in parts of the region where good jobs are hard to find.