Denis Hocking's farm near Bulls earns more from forestry than sheep and beef in most years.

The back part he bought nearly 30 years ago is sand dune country. It's half foresty and half sheep and beef and Mr Hocking is a staunch advocate of growing trees for profit.

Middle Districts Farm Forestry Association member Denis Hocking.
Middle Districts Farm Forestry Association member Denis Hocking.

He has collected a group of experts to show others how it's done in a free field day on his property on June 24. It starts at 10.30am and goes on until mid afternoon - or until everyone has had enough.

The Middle Districts Farm Forestry Association has run field days before, but not since the 1990s. It's a good time to try again, Mr Hocking said, because log prices are booming and New Zealand needs more trees planted to offset its carbon emissions.

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He's noticing hints of renewed interest in forestry - but "hardly a tidal wave". One of the clues is the optimism of forestry nurseries.

"They expect to sell all their trees this year."

Log prices fluctuate, but are at a high. Structural saw logs and better export grades are trading at $110 to $125 a tonne. Pruned logs can fetch as much as $170 a tonne and round wood is averaging $90 a cubic metre.

"On better sites with better stands of trees this equates to $40,000 a hectare after harvest and cartage costs. But it can be down to zero per hectare on poor quality and inaccessible spots," he said.

The average per hectare return ranges from $20,000 to $40,000. Most forestry is on poorer land that supports a maximum seven to eight stock units per hectare. Even with a 25-30 year rotation pine forest is comfortably ahead of stock when it comes to profitability.

The extra money foresters can make by being paid to store carbon in their trees should help profitability. The current New Zealand carbon price is between $16 and $17 a unit, and Mr Hocking said that has to get higher.

"If carbon stays at that level then there's no way that Government can meet its Paris Accord commitments - there will not be enough forestry."

"Alternative species" - forestry species other than pines - will be a topic at the field day.
Attendees will get to see a variety on Mr Hocking's Rangitoto Farm. As well as pines there are cypresses such as macrocarpa, blackwoods and high durability eucalypts.

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With eucalypts on the agenda, the new disease myrtle rust will have to be a topic. Mr Hocking's impression is that it is unlikely to affect manuka but could be hard on pohutukawa and rata, and on eucalypts such as regnans and pauciflora.

He's been told it's a tropical disease and less likely to be damaging in cooler and drier places but is still urging caution on eucalypts.

"I wouldn't make a big investment in eucalypts this year. We just don't know what effect myrtle rust is going to have on eucalypts in New Zealand."

Silvicultural contractor Gareth Hogan will be at the field day to talk about planting, pruning and thinning. John Turkington will talk about marketing and there will be a speaker on chainsaw and general safety. There will also be experienced farm foresters on hand to answer questions.

The field day will be well signposted in Brandon Hall Rd, off Parewanui Rd, which runs toward the coast from Bulls.

Those attending are asked to wear good boots and outdoor clothes. They should bring a helmet and hi-viz wear if they have it, and also their lunch and a friend.

On better sites with better stands, this equates to $40,000 a hectare after harvest and cartage costs.