Thursday 23rd June 2011 1 Comment
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United States-based forestry giant Rayonier is seeking Commerce Commission permission to buy more than 5500 hectares of Canterbury forest, farmland and forestry rights from the Christchurch City and Selwyn District councils.
Rayonier's local arm, Matariki Forests, is the country’s third-largest forest owner and has targeted the land and forests of the Selwyn Plantation Board in an application to the Commerce Commission.
The Selwyn District Council owns 60 million shares in Selwyn Investment Holdings Ltd, which has a 60.68% stake in the plantation board, alongside Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (39.32%).
They control 6217ha of land, including 4856ha freehold. The 4657ha stocked with maturing forest in the foothills of the Southern Alps includes 3526ha freehold and another 1132ha are on the fringe of Christchurch, under city council deed of licence expiring in 2020.
Most of the trees are radiata pine, with 15% of the plantations in douglas fir, and have been managed by P F Olsen since 2008.
Matariki Forests - the third largest forestry company in New Zealand with more than 128,000ha of plantations - is owned by Rayonier with two Australian operations, Matariki Forests Australia Pty Ltd and Waimarie Forests Pty Ltd Selwyn Investment Holdings.
Matariki said most of the Selwyn forests would mature in the short- to medium-term as they had a median age of 21.1 years, which would be handy as its existing share of Canterbury forests has been declining since 2006.
Matariki's present forests in the region are less mature, with a smaller proportion of trees ready for harvest, and the company's hand-back to Ngai Tahu of the Eyrewell and Balmoral Forests was brought forward from the originally-planned date of 2020.
In addition, Ngai Tahu had called back up to an additional 5% of the stocked plantation, plus other trees (3000ha in 2010 and 220ha so far this year). The Journey’s End block of Ashley Forest would also be handed back by 2019.
The significant decline in Matariki's harvest volumes would make it difficult to supply existing customers such as Mitchell Brothers Sawmillers and Stoneyhurst Timbers which were both boosting their processing capacity, while McAlpines was also considering increasing capacity in Canterbury.
In the absence of the Selwyn Forests acquisition, Matariki would have a hard job to maintain a market presence in the Canterbury region, the company suggested.
If the deal was not approved, Matariki predicted that the Selwyn forest estate would be sold to a third party, a buyer based out of Asia, which was likely to export most of the logs rather than process them in Canterbury.
The Selwyn board noted in a 2007 statement of intent that some areas on its land had been set aside from planting because of their ecological values. The Selwyn plantation board and its legacy companies have been growing timber trees since 1874.
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