Totara project aims to harvest wood more sustainably

The Northland timber industry in New Zealand is spending $1 million dollars to study the feasibility of a totara timber industry. It is partially funded by the Provincial Growth Fund. 

Despite the anti-native tree logging laws passed in the 1970s, the Totara Industry Steering Group, which is running the pilot project, is quick to indicate it is not felling trees indiscriminantly or cutting down the few original totara left in New Zealand. The pilot aims to understand selective felling of totara trees which have regenerated in abundance on Northland’s farms. 

The steering group includes representatives from Scion, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Northland Totara Working group, Tai Tokerau Maori Forests and Northland Inc.. They wish to find out whether barriers to establishing a sustainable industry can be overcome and if so, it hopes to facilitate the development of the industry. 

If successful, the pilot could pave the way for sustainable native forestry in New Zealand. Following last week’s announcement that two thirds of the One Billion Trees programme would be native trees as well as setting the goal to better managing land prone to erosion, the steering group feels like the “stars are aligning” for their project. 

The potential of the totara industry is estimated to bring in $7.5 million per year in three years. If the wood is processed into higher value products, the industry could even be worth up to $60 million per year. 

Steering group member, Paul Quinlan, hopes the pilot will bring about a more sustainable way to produce wood.

“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.”