The forest for the trees

By Iain Hyndman

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Wanganui couple Richard Thompson and Laurel Stowell are passionate about the aesthetic, environmental and practical values of trees.
Wanganui couple Richard Thompson and Laurel Stowell are passionate about the aesthetic, environmental and practical values of trees.

A Wanganui couple have been rewarded for their passion for trees, particularly alternative species.

Husband and wife Richard Thompson and Laurel Stowell have been awarded the RH Thevenard Challenge Cup for shelter and amenity planting on the steeper areas of their 16ha block on Papaiti Rd on the western side of the Whanganui River beyond Aramoho.

Their passion for trees is driven by the aesthetic, environmental and practical uses of particularly alternative species, and that passion impressed members of the Middle Districts Farm Forestry Association, who awarded the cup to the couple this year.

Association member and fellow Wanganui farm forester Dougal McIntosh said some very hard, steep hill country comes right into the suburbs of Wanganui and a lot of the soft sedimentary material was far better suited to forestry than grazing animals.

"There are a number of small forestry blocks in this suburban fringe, but undoubtedly one of the best is Richard and Laurel's block at Papaiti," McIntosh said after the association inspected the property in February last year.

The group was especially impressed by the blackwoods on the lower slopes and also the acacia dealbata (silver wattle) on harder sites further up the slopes.

"Richard is very justifiably enthusiastic about the timber from the acacia dealbata, emphasising its status as a blackwood for harder sites," McIntosh said.

The couple also planted good stands of macrocarpa, various eucalyptus, poplars, some black walnuts, but above all blackwoods.

"The association has promoted the use of alternative species for some time now and this block is a prime example of what our organisation is all about. They are worthy winners of the RH Thevenard Challenge Cup," he said.

Thompson said he and his wife were passionate about trees for their environmental, aesthetic, and practical values.

"Mixing forestry into the rural landscape is an important thing to do.

"The nature of the country in this district means trees are needed on the steeper areas for land management, the environment and the economic returns," Thompson said.

A member of the New Zealand Landcare Trust since its inception in 1996, Thompson is now chairman of the organisation.

He also has a portable Lucas mill that travels the region milling small stands of farm forestry for others and in fact, he has milled some of his own timber to be used in a new house he and his wife are building.

The couple have also placed the Papaiti stand into the Permanent Forest Sink initiative, which means the block must remain in trees.

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