District forestry estate now on the market

By John Maslin -
1 comment
The bulk of Whanganui District Council's forests are now up for sale. Photo/Supplied
The bulk of Whanganui District Council's forests are now up for sale. Photo/Supplied

The bulk of the Whanganui District Council's forestry estate is now officially on the market.

The council is a majority shareholder in a forestry partnership with South Taranaki and Ruapehu district councils set up in the 1970s to help bankroll the city's massive wastewater separation and treatment project.

The joint committee had been considering selling off the now mature trees but has been waiting for market conditions to improve.

Councillor Ray Stevens, who chairs the committee, said market conditions were "right" for the sale.

"It's about marketing the forests to the best advantages of all the partners. We've had all the information in front of us and now is the prime time," Mr Stevens said.

"Some in the community will suggest this is selling off the family silver but these trees were planted specifically to fund the city's wastewater treatment scheme overall.

And these funds couldn't be coming at a better time."

The committee has also been considering the future of the 61,000 carbon credits it holds under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). About a year ago the credits were only worth about $2 each, but the latest price has them sitting at close to $18.

Mr Stevens said this meant the council's credits could bring in another $1 million.

He said the committee was "in a holding pattern" with the carbon credits.

"We have a figure in mind and when that's reached it will trigger the sale of those credits."
Whanganui's council holds a 95 per cent share of the forestry estate, Ruapehu has 3.93 per cent and South Taranaki the remaining 0.98 per cent.

The councils' forests cover about 1200ha in trees in six separate blocks but the intention is to sell 1000ha included in four of them. Three of the forests are on SH4 next door to the privately-owned Lismore Hill forest and the fourth on Tokomaru East Rd.

In the past 15 years harvested trees have earned the councils $11.6 million.

The sale is in the hands of an international company which specialises in commercial real estate. It is also handling the sale of the 4739.6ha Lismore Hill forest.

Company spokesperson Jeremy Keating said the sale comes at a time when there was considerable capital in New Zealand and overseas looking for forests.

The deadline for expressions of interest for Lismore Hill closes on October 13 and for the local authorities' forests a fortnight later.

Mr Keating said forest investment was increasingly popular in NZ and overseas mainly because forestry is seen as a very safe long-term investment.

"Combined with the global recognition of NZ as a safe investment destination and a shortage in supply for domestic log processors, these Whanganui holdings could fill a sizable market gap," he said.

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