US company snaps up farmland for forestry plantation

A large-scale land purchase by an American forestry company west of Taupō will see 1148ha of farmland converted into a redwood forest.

The $7 million purchase north of Taumarunui, near Matiere, by The New Zealand Redwood Company was approved by the Overseas Investment Office in July.

The venture was likely to create six full-time jobs and increase New Zealand’s export returns because the bulk of the timber will be exported to the United States in a processed form, the OIO consent said.

Taupō-based NZRC was formed in 2001 by the Soper Wheeler Co of California, a 100-year-old forestry firm.

NZRC specialises in redwoods, which are the world’s tallest trees and are found naturally in a coastal strip in Oregon and California. It has so far planted 3000ha of redwood and intends to keep establishing forests in New Zealand.

In the US, these trees can grow to 110 metres and have an average lifespan of 600 years. However, they can survive for over 2000 years.

NZRC chief executive Simon Rapley said the company plans to plant redwoods on 650ha, retain the 270ha of native forest and leave the balance in pasture on the sheep-beef farm.

“We will plant over 400,000 trees on the property,” Rapley said in an emailed statement.

The trees will be harvested between 35 and 40 years of age and will almost certainly be processed locally.

It will take 100 workers for the log harvest and wood processing.

“The processed wood will most likely end up in California, which is the only existing market until other markets can be developed.”

Some of the wood will also be available for the domestic market.

“New Zealanders will have access to decorative, durable and dimensionally stable wood that is sustainably grown and has had 40 years of absorbing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” he said.

Redwood is an “appearance wood” and is used for interior panelling, cladding, decks and fences.

The planting would also advance the Government’s plan to plant a billion trees over the next 10 years and create a walking access route across the land.

As of August 27, 60.055 million trees had been planted since the policy was announced and a further 67.475m seedlings had been sold for planting this year, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Rapley said NZRC plans to create esplanades to provide public access along the Ōhura River, even though it’s unlikely people would want to fish on the river due to its high sediment load.