Totara growers set sights high

Wednesday 22 Aug 2018

Totara project sets sights on sustainable timber – In Northland, $1 million dollars, partly funded by the Provincial Growth Fund, is being spent to investigate the feasibility of a totara timber industry.

There’s little cause to dust off the anti-native tree logging placards of the 1970s though. The Totara Industry Steering Group, which is running the pilot project, is quick to point out it is not clear-felling trees or cutting down the few original totara left in New Zealand. The pilot is focused on selective felling of totara trees which have regenerated in abundance on Northland’s farms.

The steering group which includes representatives from Scion, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Northland Totara Working group, Tai Tokerau Maori Forests and Northland Inc. aims to investigate whether barriers to establishing a sustainable industry are surmountable and if they are, it hopes to facilitate the development of the industry.

If successful the pilot could pave the way for sustainable native forestry in New Zealand. With last week's announcement two thirds of the One Billion Trees programme would be native trees and a focus on better ways to manage land prone to erosion, the steering group feel like the "stars are aligning" for their project.

It’s estimated the totara industry has the potential to produce $7.5 million per year in three years. Eventually if the wood is processed into higher value products, the industry could be worth up to $60 million per year.

Steering group member, Paul Quinlan, hopes the pilot will change the way timber is produced.

“The Totara Industry Pilot project is quite focused on making sure this is not business as usual, but a new and different model. Something better than we have ever seen before.

“That’s the lofty ideals. Whether it can achieve that will be very interesting.”

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