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Northland Totara Working Group (NTWG)

As in many other regions of New Zealand, totara is a prominent feature of the rural Northland pastoral landscape typically regenerating on erosion-prone pastoral hill country as well as along riparian margins. Sometimes referred to as farm-totara, it colonises poor pastures and is relatively unpalatable to grazing stock. It regenerates so prolifically in these pastoral landscapes that many landowners have regarded it as a weed. However, over the last century or more, substantial areas of dense second-growth totara-dominated stands have developed with the potential to be managed as a sustainable resource to complement existing pastoral farming land use.

The Northland Totara Working Group (NTWG) was established in 2005 to promote the management and support the research of naturally-regenerating totara trees on farms for multiple purposes including sustainable timber-production and a wide range of environmental benefits. The group is represented by a wide range of stakeholders in Northland including Tane’s Tree Trust, the New Zealand Landcare Trust, landowners, New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, the District and Regional councils in Northland, wood millers and processors, research providers including Scion, and representatives of the Ministry for Primary Industries. A database of interested people (more than 350 nationally) is maintained.

Objectives

The NTWG has five broad objectives:

  • Quantify the resource of naturally-regenerating totara.
  • Demonstrate the growth response of naturally-regenerating and planted totara to silvicultural treatment (thinning and pruning).
  • Determine wood qualities and potential uses of farm-grown trees.
  • Investigate the feasibility of developing a supply-chain from resource to market.
  • Identify and overcome hindrances and disincentives to sustainable management of naturally-regenerating and plantation totara.

The NTWG has completed many projects over the last decade and has several projects currently underway aimed at addressing many of these objectives. Visit the NTWG projects page to find out more.

Economics of tōtara plantations in Northland

A report by the Northland Regional Council indicates that tōtara could be a viable land use option for marginal hill country in the region. It compares returns from pine, tōtara, and farming. In some scenarios plantation tōtara forestry could be more profitable than pastoral farming. This report should encourage land owners considering native forestry as an integrated land use option. Vist the NRC webpage for more information: https://www.nrc.govt.nz/resource-library-summary/publications/land/land-use-options-and-economic-returns-for-marginal-hill-country-in-northland/