Eucalyptus initiative seeks $3.8m

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 11:30 29/06/2012

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The Marlborough-based New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative has applied to the Science and Innovation Ministry for $3.8 million towards a six-year research and development programme.

The initiative is studying the growing of eucalypt species on drought and erosion-prone farmland in Marlborough, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, the Wairarapa and Canterbury.

Project manager Paul Millen of Queen Charlotte Sound expected to hear in August whether the application was successful.

"Just as different grapes need different soils to get the best flavours, different eucalypts will grow the best wood in certain environments."

Over the next six years, the group planned to spend about $5m on improving the genetics of five eucalypt species, managing trials and telling people about the benefits of eucalypts and how to grow them, said Mr Millen.

This included paying scientists from the Canterbury University forestry and engineering schools. The initiative aimed to establish a $3 billion per year industry growing hardwood export timber in east coast regions, he said.

This would provide a source of untreated posts for the grape and kiwifruit industries that would be free of copper chromium arsenic, while improving the sustainability of dryland farming.

Mr Millen said the initiative also sought $1m of co-funding from supporters.

The School of Forestry, Marlborough Lines, the Marlborough Research Centre Trust, Proseed, six councils including the Marlborough District Council, and 17 landowners were among organisations already funding the project. Since the initiative began in 2008, 100,000 eucalypt trees of eight species and 100 families had been grown at 17 sites around New Zealand.

Another 70 would be planted in the coming spring, said Mr Millen.

All needed to be monitored and measured and the results analysed to select the best genetics for dryland sites and the information communicated to landowners, said Mr Millen.

One of the most successful species being trialled was bosistoana, used in Australia for posts and poles.

Other potential uses included power poles and cross arms as well as durable timber for the building industry, said Mr Millen.

At the end of June next year, a three-year Sustainable Farming Fund grant of $399,000 from the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry (now Primary Industries Ministry) runs out. This grant was matched by $320,000 from initiative members and supporters and $300,000 of in-kind contributions.

The Marlborough Research Centre Trust administers the Dryland Forestry Initiative.

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- The Marlborough Express

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