QLDC sprouts local forester

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Queenstown Lakes District Council has hired a full-time staffer to swot up on alternative forestry uses.

Briana O’Brien stepped into the new role of district forester – managing wilding conifer control and strategy, noxious plant and animal control, and forestry – in November.

QLDC community services boss Paul Wilson says a big focus of O’Brien’s job is exploring ways to make the most of the district’s leafy resources.

“At the moment, it’s generally not economical to log [trees] for traditional purposes, so we’ve got to look at how to get the best value out of them going forward.”

QLDC owns about 80 per cent of Coronet Forest near Arrowtown – Central Otago District Council owns the rest. QLDC also has Ben Lomond Forest and other small tree clusters within parks and reserves.

Wilson: “We want to focus on getting in-house knowledge of all of the opportunities out there in terms of a forestation grant scheme and carbon trading.”

Christchurch-bred O’Brien studied forestry at Canterbury University and spent three-and-a-half years in the North Island with timber company Carter Holt Harvey and Hancock Forest Management.

She came to the job from five months with Lakes Environmental and says she’ll “definitely” stay in Queenstown for some time.

Her job includes accessing central government funding, investigating alternative forest uses, such as using firs for chip fuel – and ploughing through ever-changing government policy.

“[The emissions trading scheme] is a bit of a moving feast at the moment…and there are lots of opportunities in there that [QLDC] could very, very readily be missing,” Wilson says.

O’Brien – whose salary is “in the order of” $50,000 – fills the shoes of consultants and contractors who’ve been doing parts of her job for five years, says her boss.