Growing and planting techniques
Nurseries had been established at Whakarewarewa (near Rotorua), Tapanui (Southland) and Eweburn (Otago) in 1898, and carried out germination and transplanting experiments. These trials were extended under the Forest Service in the 1920s. Concerns about the cost of planting led to the development of new techniques at Waiotapu, which lowered costs from £9 to £2 per acre (0.4 hectare).
The early stands of trees were not thinned or pruned. It was another 40 years before these techniques were used to produce higher-quality wood.
In the 1800s there were a few paper mills in New Zealand, which used waste paper, rags, sacking, rope, sails and flax to make paper pulp. By 1900 they were running out of raw material, and had to import timber for making wood pulp. Large quantities of paper were also imported. It was hoped, after the 1920s discovery that newsprint could be made from radiata pine pulp, that one day New Zealand could meet its own paper needs and develop an export industry.
Researching pulp and paper making
For radiata pine to be a financial success, the industry needed to learn how to make it into wood pulp and paper. In 1928 forest products engineer Pat Entrican was sent to the US Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, to study the wood’s pulping properties. Successful commercial tests were later carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.
Canterbury University College appointed a lecturer in forestry in 1921, and in 1924 forestry schools opened there and at Auckland University College. Forestry was then seen as a distinct science and it was thought necessary to train foresters who understood New Zealand conditions. The New Zealand Institute of Foresters was founded in 1927, indicating a growing sense of professionalism.
Many of the university forestry schools’ graduates found employment with the Forest Service. However, resources were thinly stretched across the two schools, and by 1934 both had been closed as part of depression economy measures. Until a forestry school was reopened at the University of Canterbury in 1970, New Zealand foresters had to go overseas to obtain professional qualifications.
The organisation that later became known as the Forest Research Institute was set up at Rotorua in 1946. Its first task was a national survey of native forests. The institute’s research programmes broadened over time to include silviculture (forestry science), soils, pathology, genetics and forest products. Pest control research was also critical to combat threats such as the wood wasp Sirex noctilio, which was rife in the Kāingaroa State Forest during 1945 and 1946, before biological control methods were introduced.