29 March 2017
More timber trees for planting 2017
A rise in the number of timber tree seedlings being produced indicates a recent decline in plantation forest replanting
may be reversing.
An MPI survey of all 28 commercial forest nurseries in New Zealand shows stock sales in 2016 for planting this year were
52.2 million seedlings, compared with 49.5 million the year before.
Forest Owners Association Chief Executive David Rhodes says the increase in seedling sales is a positive sign the
industry is gearing up for increased production, even if the trees planted now will not be harvested for about another
“Improved log prices over the past year will be one factor. Another is the carbon credit value for planting trees under
the Emissions Trading Scheme is increasing, now we don’t have those bogus Eastern European credits in the market.”
“One important trend is the gradual increase in the number of timber woodlots on farmland. Farmers appear to be seeing
the countercyclical value in having profitable timber plantations growing on their properties to balance low meat and
wool prices. They may also have a long-term eye to carbon offsets from their trees, if agriculture was ever brought into
the ETS,” David Rhodes says.
Production from New Zealand forests will increase over the next five or so years, due to extensive plantings in the
past, which peaked at a growth of nearly 100,000 new hectares planted in 1994. But some recent years have seen a
reduction in New Zealand’s total plantation forest area.
The MPI survey has revealed other plantation forestry trends, including an increase in the use of Pinus radiata. Ninety percent of current plantation trees are Pinus radiata, with Douglas Fir the next most important species, especially in the South Island. The Pinus radiata dominance appears to be increasing. The survey indicates nearly 94 percent of 2016 seedling sales were Pinus radiata.
Foresters are also taking advantage of the genetic developments in Pinus radiata, with 72 percent of seedling sales comprising Growth and Form 19 trees or better. This is higher than the 69 percent in
New Zealand Farm Forestry Association incoming President Neil Cullen is also heartened by the increased sales of
plantation forest seedlings reported for 2016.
“It doesn’t look like a one-off. The indication from nearly all responding nurseries is that sales for 2017 are going to
be the same or better,” Neil Cullen says.
“However, the new planting rate is still too low. I don’t expect a big increase until the government provides incentives
to deliver policies of national importance through more planting, in particular for improved water quality and to
off-set greenhouse gas emissions.”
Neil Cullen says of special interest in the nursery survey is the reported sale of 9.8 million manuka seedlings, enough
to stock 6300 ha. This, he says, is a reflection of the current high demand for manuka honey.