Taranakipine CEO Tom Boon says the region is heading for a timber shortfall as forests planted in the 1990s are harvested and as demand increases. Source: Stuff.co.nz
So he’s suggesting to farmers thinking about establishing forests to seek professional advice. That way they can be sure of planting the right trees in the right place.
“In my travels around Taranaki and drawing on my knowledge as a forester, I see land that could be suited to profitable forests,” Mr Boon said, he is also deputy chairman of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers AssocIatIon of New Zealand.
“Forestry is a thriving industry that’s bigger than we all thought it would be,” he said. “Forest owners need markets and wood processors need forests, so we are reliant on each other.”
Foreseeing a gap in log supply late in the 2030s, Boon said Taranaki needed more forests.
“Everything grows well in Taranaki so trees will grow well,” Mr Boon said.
“The mid-2030s sounds a long way away, but a tree needs up to 30 years to grow. We won’t run out of logs – we’ll just go further afield to get them. But we’d rather have forests close to us.”
Mr Boon said New Zealand foresters now had a lot of experience and had learned what did and didn’t work, so they could apply that learning to new forests.
“There’s a lot of knowledge about where and where not to plant a forest, so there’s no need to make the mistakes of the past,” he said.
Although there could be more value for some landowners in growing a forest than in whatever they were doing now, site selection remained paramount to the success of forestry.
The profitability of a forest would be determined by its soil type, its distance from a port and timber processing companies and whether it had road access for logging machinery and trucks.
“What is needed is terrain that can be economically harvested and roaded,” Mr Boon said.
“To be profitable, forestry needs scale to offset the costs of the logging infrastructure. Planting trees at the back of the farm or on small blocks when you’re 200 kilometres from the market doesn’t work.”
He said if forestry was established on small blocks, roading and transport costs needed to be kept low to make it economical.
Smaller woodlots on land that was marginal for drystock farming but relatively close to the New Plymouth market could be successful.
A lot of forestry in New Zealand wasn’t harvested because it was so far from markets that transport and logging costs made it uneconomical. However, small blocks uneconomical for forestry did have a place for erosion control.
It seems fitting that Boon is part of the Taranaki timber industry because he has a name that’s synonymous with it.
He grew up in Waverley and is a grandson of Herbert Boon – known as Bert, a one-time managing director of the renowned New Plymouth building company, Boon Brothers.
Today Taranaki’s forest and wood processing industries employ about 500 people. Eight wood processing companies – Clelands Timber Products, Taranakipine, Waverley Sawmills, Kaimata Sawmill, Mangorei Plus, Pukehoe Sawmills, Value Timber and Inglewood Timber Processors – employ 350 staff who process 160,000 cubic metres of timber a year.