NZ Bio Forestry: Maui.Tech case study

An iwi/Māori-led climate change case study, produced as part of the Maui.Tech project

NZ Bio Forestry: Ngāhere Korokoro

In this video case study from the rohe of Te Tai Hauāuru, representatives of NZ Bio Forestry Limited discuss the company's commitment to promoting sustainable forestry practices, bio-based materials, and energy generation from trees while preserving biodiversity and mātauranga Māori. It emphasises the need for a more sustainable and innovative approach to forestry, including co-planting, increased biodiversity, and ensuring that carbon farming includes native bush.

This video case study was produced as part of the Maui.Tech project. Read more about Maui.Tech.


  • Wayne Mulligan (Taranaki, Maniapoto) – Director, NZ Bio Forestry

  • Prof. Johan Potgieter – Professor of Robotics, Massey AgriFood Digital Lab Research Centre

Click to read transcript

Wayne Mulligan   00:00 
In a hundred years’ time, you will see Māori are saying “we helped the globe move from fossils. We helped the globe understand that there's huge value in forests – from a recreational point of view, from a carbon capture point of view, from a commercial point of view, and from a societal point of view.    

Nō Taranaki ahau, Ko Taranaki te maunga, ko Kurahaupō te waka, ko ngā māhanga a Tāiri ngā hapū, Ko Ōākura, Mā tā nihinihi ngā awa, ō tōku nei ingoa Ko Wayne Tamarangi Mulligan ahau, nō reira tēnā koe. [I am from Taranaki. Taranaki is my mountain, Kurahaupō is the vessel, Ngā Māhangiri a Tāiri is the sub-people, Ōākura, Matanihinihi are the rivers, I am Wayne Mulligan, greetings to you all.]

Trevor Moeke [Narrator] 00:52 
Working to produce greener wood products, Bio Forestry Limited is a company with big plans to diversify Māori forestry.  

Wayne Mulligan   01:04 
In simple terms it's a company, and it's going to become a group of companies, established here in New Zealand, but we're setting up offices in Singapore in Taiwan. And its mission is to be a global leader in developing intellectual property and methods in the conversion of soft woods into biomaterials, and biochemicals to replace fossils. Part of our model is built on understanding the mauri of the rākau. What we want to do is prove that there's multiple value out of a whole forest. Everything that grows captures energy. So, let's really look at the tree from an energy point of view, as part of its mauri. The heat sources that grow, and the movement – what can we do with that?  

Trevor Moeke  01:58 
For Māori, everything in nature has a mauri. Bio Forestry are looking through the trees to identify the life-giving properties important for sustaining native bird life and the green halo of Tāne-te-waiora. 

Wayne Mulligan   02:16 
We have between thirty-five and forty-five percent of forest and wood products – when they’re manufactured or harvested – is wasted. And we don't see the point in letting that waste, wash down into rivers and slash and all that. Nor do we see the point in logs being directly exported when we can actually bring high value manufacturing and new markets to New Zealand. And we're working with a group of Māori from Tūwharetoa, who own forests – a lot of Māori own land, but not necessarily the forest, so that we can actually start the process. 
Johan Potgieter  02:55 
Forests are more than just things that grow. They can actually sustain communities. We can extract chemicals out of forests. We can extract products out of forests. We're even looking at the opportunity to tune forests for the products we want one day. 

And these products could be anything from not just bio plastics, but biofuels, bio adhesives, and then we can move away from a fossil based economy. And then the final big opportunity for us is to keep all our forests and wood in New Zealand. We don't have to ship them overseas anymore as a low commodity price. And we can add real value to local communities. 

Another great initiative is we're looking at harvesting energy from trees, so electricity. We could potentially one by one day power entire communities based on energy out of a forest. And that's one of the big projects I'm working on at the moment.  

Imagine we can extract energy out of the forest by just the trees moving and swaying and the natural rhythms. We will change the landscape in terms of manufacturing opportunity potential for New Zealand people. And we are going to put New Zealand on the map. We will create products that the world has not, has never seen before. And if we can do that, while learning from indigenous knowledge, that will be a great opportunity for us. 

Wayne Mulligan   04:29 
Climate change, biodiversity – taiao is the center right, the mauri. So, the biggest impact we can have is to make sure that with everything we're doing; land is put aside for native regeneration. And in another area that we're talking to with a lot of the scientists is to say, well, why can't we create co-planting value in Pinus Radiata? At the moment we plant because it's an industrial mindset.  

Part of climate change and degradation, and soil degradation is – what can we do in there to improve the soil and the soil health – by co-planting by looking at more biodiversity, and by actually changing people's behavior.  We believe that the best play, is to play a big global game and be a solutions provider to all those global companies that made pledges to get out of plastics. And then what we're doing is saying ‘most non-plastics and biofuels and biomaterials are made from food sources, and it’s taking foods away’. So, every facility they have, they take food away from 2.8 million people, usually in third world countries. That's not good enough. Because that's creating other problems – we can do things better. 
Johan Potgieter  05:49 
Indigenous forests, I think, play a massive part for that carbon capture. But when we look at your monotype growing, your plantation type forests – we don't encourage that. We think there should be other crops in there. So, I think ‘mono’ has to stop being ‘mono’, I think there's an opportunity for a bit more biodiversity, and what we actually grow in those plantation type forests. Because at the end of the day, it is about making that forest healthy. 

Wayne Mulligan   06:16 
Our biodiversity is wonderful – So, if we don't control that, who does? We just have to be really innovative, because it's not one big policy that's going to make it work. And at the end of the day, the government owns one third of this country in Doc estate. And actually enabling Māori to better plant on those things would be a no brainer. Carbon farming has its merits, but it would have a hell of a lot more merits if we could carbon farm native bush.  

Johan Potgieter  06:45 
Be brave. Come and talk to the researchers, engage with those communities, bring them together. Know when to step aside, let business and science lead the way here. There's been enough policy made. We understand the policies, we understand the need for climate change. Let the people who wear the lab coats, let the people who switch on the machines, let the people who drive the economy come together and actually build this opportunity for a greater New Zealand. 

Wayne Mulligan   07:16 
In a hundred years’ time – tribal communities and families would be in the best status anywhere in the world, in terms of biodiversity and landcare and kaitiaki of the whole business.