Men and trees

I spent yesterday at the Farm Forestry Association Conference in Invercargill and I can confidently report that what those people don’t know about eucalypts and acacias and redwoods is not worth knowing.

I was there to promote the Green New Deal on forestry and to learn about the sector from a group of very experienced practitioners of farm forestry.

I was relieved to see that farm foresters are passionate about planting indigenous forestry and species other than pine trees, and it was really useful to get feedback about our Green New Deal forestry ideas which were received with interest. Some people felt we had over-emphasised the value of carbon farming which was still highly speculative. These people are truly committed to producing quality timber as well as forestry for biodiversity, and carbon farming may be a lower order motivation for them. Nevertheless, the response our Green New Deal proposals was generally very positive.

The conference was colloquially called “Men of the Trees” so I was not sure whether to go dressed as a man or a tree, but in fact there were some women of trees present who clearly know their stuff. I was disappointed not to win the Husqavarna chainsaw but was delighted to hear the respect a number people expressed for Jeanette Fitzsimons, as a person with great good sense and knowledge of farm forestry. It was also good to get some real interest in the campaign to ban illegal and unsustainable tropical timber from people in the sector. Another plus was that my partner Gordon and I were invited to visit a number of forest farms owned by some of the true elders of the farm forestry movement.

So there was much common ground especially in terms of attitudes to industrial dairy farm effects. Southland is a warm and hospitable place despite the frost and the widespread inability to pronounce Maori words. As an alien from the North I did enjoy the learning and the commitment to forests, not to mention the chance to attack coal mining on the local television station.

Next stop of my mini forestry listening tour is Ruatorea but first there’s a mining film event in Whakatane. It’s busy but it beats the hell out of Urgency and watching the Government wipe out regional democracy.

20 Comments Posted

  1. Further to my comment on pine forests above – I have just returned from a remote Pacific Island where Pinus caribaea forest was planted on infertile eroding land 45 years ago. Prior to planting of the pine forest no crops would grow in that soil. Now that the trees are being harvested and milled the local people have found the soil is suitable for highly production gardens. I have photographs of cassava almost 3 metres high that had had no fertiliser applied. The local people are ecstatic as now their rapidly growing population can be fed, even if sea level rise takes away their coastal flat land. So much for the myth that pines ruin the soil!

  2. Re Peter Alchemy and his hatred of pines. I spent over 30 years working to protect the unstable Gisborne/East Coast hills from the extreme soil erosion. In a few cases natural regeneration of indigenous species can work. On some other slopes a combination of drainage and poplar/willow planting will allow farming to continue safely. However, in the majority of the worst eroding argillite and mudstone lithologies only afforestation with Pinus radiata can be guaranteed to prevent massive uncontrollable gullies forming.
    Please, Peter, don’t let your prejudice against pines reduce your own credibility. We should be extremely grateful that we have that species at our disposal. In the longer term we may be able use them as a sustainable source of energy.
    I have had other valuable erosion control work around the Pacific hampered by ill-informed meddlers who were later proven to be totally wrong. Useful and non-invasive plant varieties banned for years due to people with limited knowledge but loud voices. I know of at least one Pacific nation that will lose large amounts of topsoil when it is next hit by a cyclone – all due to hysteria from a handful of untrained people who acted out their predjudices.

  3. “We also have a major wilding pine problem. ”

    The thing is sprout, many of these areas areas are already highly modified landscapes, much of the tussock land is occupying land that was once forest.
    I think a conifer forest in these barren areas may actually be beneficial to native wildlife and may even save it from extinction, Kiwi are known to do well in plantation pine forests for instance.
    I think we need to reassess whether we should be stopping all wilding conifers spreading in a landscape that is already highly modified.

  4. We also have a major wilding pine problem. These alien trees are rapidly taking over many areas of our unique landscape and creating a Northern Hemisphere look a like:

    I’m pleased to say I have the oposite problem in my little urban 1/4 acre, we have Totara trees bursting out of our hedge and self sown Horoeka (Lancewood) and coprosmas emerging from our uncultivated corners.

  5. Oliver – Key claimed he had some elegant plan that would save the whales but it turned out to be an ugly about-face that made our country look sleazy.
    Palmer is implicated, as you so rightly point out.

  6. So much of NZ farmland is clear-felled without a tree in sight. A very doubtfull scheme.
    All we need is a drought (and we have one) followed by winds strong enough to blow away dry topsoil, and all that lush green Farmland will become desert.
    Central Tasmania was similarly cleared @ 100 years before NZ was, and this is exactly what has happened there.
    It is now a rocky Desert that can support virtually nothing.

  7. A tree is a tree is a tree and pinus radiata has it’s place (some say the cliff tops of Monterey)but the problem, as Shunda says (in an alluding kind of way) is the purposes to which the pine is put, most of which require the too-quickly-grown wood to be fortified with nasty-crap chemicals.
    The profusion of the easily-rotted pine is indicative of so much of what is wrong with the way we have managed our resources here in New Zealand. It makes me cringe. We could do so much better.

  8. “that we chose such a useless tree to make into our major forestry icon!”

    While I am not a great fan of the Montery pine I am not sure I would describe it as useless. The tree has been developed into a good utility timber producer, the problem is it is used for everything else as well!!
    Ain’t chemicals a wonderful thing?

  9. Well Father’s Car’s a Jaguar Fly.
    my sense of entitlement booms when I see Nick

    “The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”: Thomas Jefferson(in his last letter, 1826):

  10. Nick Smith, because sacks of bullsh*t add value to the earth?
    (value that Nick can’t contribute otherwise).

  11. It’s really heartening that a group of folk are doing this, and good on you for attending their conference!

    As I drive around various parts of NZ and see the untold acreage of Pinus radiata, it literally sickens me, that we chose such a useless tree to make into our major forestry icon! Just about any other tree species would have been a better choice!

    And…. still more are being planted as I write this.

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