New Zealand’s government is starting to cultivate a more sustainable forestry industry with investments in a bioenergy plant, research into biomass, and better forestry practices, according to NZ Forestry Minister Peeni Henare.
Last month, Wood Central reported on the release of “Outrage to Optimism,” led by ex-National Cabinet Minister Hekia Parata and collaborators Matthew McCloy and Dave Brash, which was commissioned in the wake of the Cyclone Gabrielle, causing widescale destruction.
The report underlined greater regulation within the NZ forestry industry and the management of woody debris and sentiment. Ngāti Porou, a local community, was said to be on the brink of becoming “homeless and landless.”
“The Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use recognised current forest harvest practices are not sustainable. In some parts of the country, like Tairāwhiti, there is an urgent need to create a commercial use for harvest residues, such as forestry slash and other woody debris,” said Henare.
The cyclone left the forestry sector in the Tai Rāwhiti region grappling with extensive damage and financial implications for industry workers. A source from the report said, “There is a need to reassess how we manage our forests in the wake of growing climate concerns. We can’t afford to ignore the repercussions anymore.”
Alongside the NZ$10 million to immediately clean up slash and debris in Tairawhiti and other weather-affected areas announced in the 2023 Budget, New Zealand’s government is investing a further $10.4m into woody biomass research.
“We want to look at how we can better manage slash through the forestry process and whether it can be used in bioenergy generation locally in Tairāwhiti,” Henare added.
“One of the research aims is to maximise the management of woody debris, including slash. This includes a study into better slash recovery methods, transportation, processing methods and market options so the resource is used rather than left to cause issues in our communities.
“The research will build an evidence base for investing in woody biomass supply, and help government and the sector chart a sustainable way forward.”
BioEnergy Insight reports that the NZ government has announced two new projects to facilitate the establishment of a bioenergy plant in Tairāwhiti, enhancing the utilisation of slash.
Additionally, they are developing business models for ‘continuous cover forestry’ in New Zealand, which involves cutting down trees in rotation instead of all at once through ‘clear-felling’.
“Through MPI, the government is supporting the consent activity of a collective in the Tairāwhiti-Hikuwai region to develop a bioenergy plant that turns woody debris into a mix of biodiesel and electricity to support their local community,” Henare said.
“This project is designed to provide a self-sufficient slash management process to reduce the impact of slash on the community and environment. The plant is a pilot and if successful will become a model for other forestry regions across New Zealand.
“The inquiry also recommended restricting the practice of clear-felling of plantation forests in some areas, particularly on steep country with highly erodible soils. For this to be successful, new models need to be developed to ensure there is a viable alternative.
“That is why I am keen to look at continuous cover forestry initiatives that limit the volume of trees cut down in order to maintain canopy cover and protect soil from erosion.
“This project, and the bioenergy plant – which are part of seven projects funded to the tune of $1.35m by the government – will help with building resilience in regions like Tairāwhiti where forestry is a significant contributor to the local economy.
“We are investing across the supply chain and looking at the whole system, so we can make changes for the better in this region and across New Zealand,” he added.