Trees or bees? That was one of the questions hashed out a recent Bay of Plenty Farm Forestry field day.

The event, held at Neil Mossup's coastal hill country property at Pikowai, drew more than 40 participants keen to hear why commercial forestry had been chosen in preference to mānuka honey or livestock grazing.

Mossup had recently harvested his first crop of radiata pine and although a significant manuka honey producer, he chose to replant his site in genetically improved radiata which were now just over three years old and growing like rockets.

The previous crop had netted an average of around $50k/ha for him after only 22 years, with one block exceeding $60k/ha.

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The field day addressed several pertinent topics such as:

• Trees or Bees?
• Where to plant the 1 billion trees
• What species?
• Why replant now after harvest?
• Should we prune this crop ?
• What does the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forests (NES_PF) mean for farm foresters?
• What is the future of the Forest Growers Levy?
• What is the future for Carbon Forestry?
• What alternative investment structures are there ?
• Why should I attend the Farm Forestry Annual Conference at Rotorua in 2019?

An experienced and diverse lineup of speakers addressed these topics.

Consultant Jeff Tombleson and Graeme Young from Tenon addressed the vexed question of whether Mossup should prune his second crop of trees. While costs have gone up and many corporate forest owners do not now prune, many felt it was still a good strategic investment for smaller forests. A demonstration of pruning tools and techniques followed with some first time foresters trying their had at pruning.

Ryan Standen from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council spoke about the impact of National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forests. The key to this was for foresters to notify the council when activities such as land cover change, roading, harvesting may occur and the actions required was based on an national erosion risk and fish spawning rating.

Heather Miller from the Ministry for Primary Industries spoke on the 1 Billion Trees programme and the current incentives and grants available. The proposal was to primarily encourage native tree planting and a new suite of incentives was expected to be announced in November-December.

There was some concern that native trees did not create jobs or wealth at the scale required in regions.

Several voices raised concern about the slowness to provide information and challenged MPI on how they would reach the 45,000 pastoral farmers in New Zealand. The inherent delay in ordering plants and scaling up seedling production may mean the target of 50,000ha /year of new planting was a long way off.

The day's facilitator Graham West and Simon Stokes from the regional council spoke about a mapping study they had completed to examine what suitable forestry land was available in the Bay of Plenty region. Using criteria that selected sites that would make a reasonable forestry profit, eg $80k from a port or processing plant, they found there was 74,000ha of potential land in the BOP alone.

West, a registered forestry consultant, also spoke about the range of investment options available for forest investors; they include self funding with incentives, joint ventures with an investor or family members, and leasing.

Crown Forestry was looking for blocks over 200ha to joint venture. He added revenues from carbon sales were about to make a large impact on this discussion if the proposed changes to forestry in the ETS eventuate. West welcomed all to attend the Annual Farm Forestry Conference at Rotorua in May 2019 to continue the discussion.

The field day closed with the humble words of Neil Mossup summing up the pleasant journey he had with his forestry blocks, the involvement of the whole family, and the satisfaction the future crop offers as a legacy.