After farming activities, forestry is the second largest land use of the Wairakei Estate, accounting for 29%. This percentage will increase even more with future development changes to forestry areas.
Initially, the focus of Wairakei Pastoral Ltd had been to convert existing forestry land into higher value pastoral land, in particular dairy units. However, as the existing forestry crop has been harvested and subsequent conversion operations have progressed, it has become evident that this is not the right direction to take for the all of the land. There are areas of Wairakei Estate that are either impractical, or environmentally too risky, to convert into farm land and therefore it is best they remain in land use as forestry.
Retention of these forestry areas, (including pine production forest areas), ensures Wairakei Estate can achieve the appropriate balance between commercial outcomes and environmental sustainability. The protection of these areas is central to future development plans for the Estate. All retired areas on the Estate are used for ecological and landscape protection, for example through riparian margins, and to safeguard slope stability on land prone to erosion.
Pinus radiata is the dominant forestry species with minor plantings of Douglas Fir and Cypress. There are also small stands of specimen Californian Redwoods and Larch trees, planted for the long-term beauty they will contribute to the natural landscape.
Wairakei Estate forestry areas are divided into two distinct categories:
Forestry blocks – these are the larger more contiguous forestry areas usually greater than 15ha in size, which are outside farm boundaries.
These forestry blocks are managed to:
- Grow trees to produce logs (for local and international markets) with a focus on site species matching and regime choice, to provide the best possible economic return on investment.
- Ensure environmental values are identified and maintained.
- Ensure all forestry operations on Wairakei Estate follow current industry best practice in terms of health and safety, as well as environmental management.
- Ensure that the productivity of the land does not decline.
Farm woodlots – these comprise isolated forest blocks of retired farm land, and/or unfarmed steep escarpment areas, located within farm boundaries. These woodlets are generally less than 15ha in size. When selecting appropriate species and regimes for farm woodlots the potential aesthetic and biodiversity contribution to the Estate is taken into consideration.
The woodlots are managed to:
- Utilise land that is not being farmed, thereby controlling weeds as well as an increase in biodiversity, as well as soil conservation benefits.
- Ensure the forestry crop contributes aesthetic value to the land.
- Ensure the forestry crop has a low impact on farming infrastructure and operations.
- Grow trees to produce high value logs that will provide revenue in the future.
Forestry and carbon offsetting
Wairakei Estate is aware of how the activities on the Estate contribute towards the company’s carbon footprint. With the planned retirement of large sections of Wairakei Estate and the re-establishment of pine production forestry, the volume of carbon being sequestered from the atmosphere is projected to significantly outweigh the (equivalent) emissions from the pastoral operation.
This outcome is achieved while WPL satisfies its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) obligations. The opportunity to use the Offset Planting method, whereby Wairakei Estate creates a new forest, planting a hectare for every hectare deforested, is the preferred method of satisfying ETS obligations.