Our History

From the small beginnings of a Marlborough-based project has emerged New Zealand Dryland Forests Innovation, one of the most significant and exciting R&D projects happening in New Zealand forestry today. The NZDFI has an exciting vision and now has a number of high-calibre teams to progress its work over the next few years.


Paul Millen and brother Ash identify potential for naturally durable eucalypt vineyard posts as an alternative to treated radiata pine and establish Vineyard Timbers Ltd. First eucalypt trials planted in conjunction with Marlborough District Council and local landowners.

Proseed NZ Ltd imports durable eucalypt seed; more trials planted in Marlborough to test 25 eucalypt
species. The Millens seek R&D support from Marlborough Research Centre and University of Canterbury’s
School of Forestry.

New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative established at the Marlborough Research Centre.

AGMARDT funding supports planting of first breeding populations.

MAF Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) fund, supported by multi regional and industry supporters, enables
NZDFI to extend programme to North Island east coast regions.

Extensive breeding populations and demonstration trials planted with many new landowners providing
diverse sites. First assessments of 2009 breeding populations reported.

Further breeding populations planted and 2011 trials maintained in conjunction with landowners.

First assessments reported on 2011 breeding populations and demonstration trials and successful
completion of first SFF project. Second MPI Sustainable Farming Fund grant won to measure and manage
demonstration trials with technology transfer to landowners.

Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funds sought to support development for genetic tree improvement programme within our breeding populations and development of novel techniques for testing wood quality by the University of Canterbury School of Forestry.

NZDFI receives a $50,000 donation from a Marlborough beekeeper, to support its work. An AGMARDT grant is also awarded to fund more intensive monitoring of trial sites. Five post-graduate students at the University of Canterbury School of Forestry receive funding from the Forest Growers Levy Trust for work on a range of  research projects focusing on ground-durable eucalypts.

NZDFI wins Supreme Award at the 2015 Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards. The University of Canterbury School of Forestry PhD Research team grows to six. Proseed opens its new propagation facility at Amberley, near Christchurch. NZDFI enters into a new seven-year research partnership as part of the MBIE and industry-funded Specialty Woods Products Research Partnership (SWP).

Two of NZDFI's first cohort of PhD candidates, Huimin Lin and Yanji Li, successfully defended their PhD theses. Huimin's research was into family variation in insect defoliation of Eucalyptus. See NZDFI's first PhD success.  Yanji's thesis was entitled: Use of near infrared spectroscopy to predict wood traits in Eucalyptus species. Yanjie developed a method to quickly screen durable eucalypts for natural durability and used it to assess NZDFI's first breeding populations comprising approximately 100 E. bosistoana families.

NZDFI released its Regional Strategy 2020-2030 'Durable eucalypts: A multi-regional opportunity for New Zealand's Drylands'. The strategy includes details of focus areas and goals 2019-2022, and more general plans for the period out to 2030.

NZDFI receives a $539,000 One Billion Trees Partnership Grant from Te Uru Rākau: Forestry New Zealand. The money will support work to accelerate the production of genetically improved planting material, including the innovative cloning work being carried out at Proseed NZ Ltd.


The first generation of improved durable eucalypt planting stock is produced; a launch event is held in Marlborough, home of the NZDFI. Paul Millen, NZDFI Project Manager, is named 'Forester of the Year' by the NZ Institute of Forestry.


NZDFI is awarded $262,300 from the Ministry of Primary Industry’s Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change fund (SLMACC) towards a $387,500 project to evaluate how new investment in naturally durable eucalypt hardwood forests could contribute to sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Marlborough’s wine industry. Other contributions come from the Marlborough Research Centre, the University of Canterbury, and four Marlborough landowners on whose properties case studies will be carried out.


The NZ Dryland Forests Initiative evolves to become NZ Dryland Forests Innovation. Our by-line changes from ‘Breeding Tomorrow’s Trees Today’ to ‘Breeding durable heartwood’ along with the Māori translation ‘Whakatipu taikākā mauroa’. These changes acknowledge that our project initiative has been successful.

A separate commercial company, XyloGene/NZDFIP Ltd, is established to handle seedling sales.