New Zealand plans “more sustainable forestry industry” via biomass investment
“The Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use recognised current forest harvest practices are not sustainable. In some parts of the country, like Tairāwhiti, there is an urgent need to create a commercial use for harvest residues, such as forestry slash and other woody debris,” said Henare.
Alongside the NZ$10 million (€5.6m) to immediately clean up slash and debris in Tairawhiti and other weather-affected areas announced ahead of the 2023 Budget, New Zealand's government is investing a further $10.4m (€5.8m) into woody biomass research.
“We want to look at how we can better manage slash through the forestry process and whether it can be used in bioenergy generation locally in Tairāwhiti,” Henare added.
“One of the aims of the research is to maximise the management of woody debris, including slash. This includes a study into better slash recovery methods, transportation, processing methods and market options so the resource is used rather than left to cause issues in our communities.
“The research will build an evidence base for investing in woody biomass supply, and help government and the sector chart a sustainable way forward.”
Two other projects are underway that the government said will aid the consenting of a bioenergy plant in Tairāwhiti to increase the productive use of slash, and also the development of business models for ‘continuous cover forestry’ in New Zealand. This means trees will be cut down on a rotation, as an alternative to ‘clear-felling’ or cutting them down all at once.
“Through MPI, the government is supporting the consent activity of a collective in the Tairāwhiti-Hikuwai region to develop a bioenergy plant that turns woody debris into a mix of biodiesel and electricity to support their local community,” Henare said.
“This project is designed to provide a self-sufficient slash management process to reduce the impact of slash on the community and environment. The plant is a pilot and if successful will become a model for other forestry regions across New Zealand.
“The inquiry also recommended restricting the practice of clear-felling of plantation forests in some areas, particularly on steep country with highly erodible soils. For this to be successful, new models need to be developed to ensure there is a viable alternative.
“That is why I am keen to look at continuous cover forestry initiatives that limit the volume of trees cut down in order to maintain canopy cover and protect soil from erosion.
“This project, and the bioenergy plant – which are part of seven projects funded to the tune of $1.35m (€764k) by the government – will help with building resilience in regions like Tairāwhiti where forestry is a significant contributor to the local economy.
“We are investing across the supply chain and looking at the whole system, so we can make changes for the better in this region and across New Zealand,” he added.