New Zealand museum gives serious tree-hugs
18 May 2012
Telling the story of New Zealand’s early timber trade, which consumed vast tracts of native forests, has seeded a 21st century world-first in carbon neutrality for a popular Northland tourist attraction.
The Kauri Museum at Matakohe is the first museum to achieve carboNZero certification - an internationally monitored standard recognising the museum’s energy use reductions and carbon off-sets programme that takes ‘tree-hugging’ to a new level.
The carboNZero certification is part of a worldwide project linking almost 100 organisations and audited by Cemars - the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme.
A community project that has grown into a significant and engaging collection, the Kauri Museum is dedicated to recording the history of the colonial timber milling industry which brought early European settlers to Northland - a coastal region covered in towering kauri forests - to harvest what appeared to be an endless resource.
Northland’s giant kauri trees, many hundreds of years old, were felled and milled to satisfy a world hungry for quality timber for ship building and construction - exported to Australia and as far afield as England - until the dangers of diminishing resource were recognised and placed under conservation protection.
Ancient kauri remains were also the source of prized petrified ‘kauri gum’, a form of amber which was turned into varnish or fashioned into jewellery and ornaments. In the late 1800s, kauri gum was one of New Zealand’s largest exports.
The museum tells the story of the pioneering communities of ‘bush men’ and ‘gum diggers’ - tough, resourceful individuals who made their living in the remote forests.
Realising the goal of becoming the world’s first carboNZero certified museum was driven by a desire for integrity and as a demonstration of forward thinking, Kauri Museum chief executive Bet Nelley said.
"It’s our answer to long distance travellers who find the story of the demise of the kauri tree sad."
"And, as environmental responsibility is one of our core values, it made sense for us to get a recognised measure of our carbon emissions that we could work to reduce and offset."
While she’s happy to leave the climate change debate to the scientists, the decision to go for carboNZero has been "a no brainer", Ms Nelley says.
"If the majority of scientists and our government are right and global warming is taking place, then every day is urgent and I would hate to have to explain to my grandchildren that we had the opportunity yet did nothing.
"If the sceptics turn out to be right, then in 20 years’ time we will simply have a better planet for our grandchildren to inherit."
The Kauri Museum also provides a base for a scientific research project into dendrochronology - or tree-ring dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings.
Dendrochronologist Dr Jonathan Palmer, supported by Exeter University (UK) and University of Auckland, is developing an archive of ancient kauri samples to help unlock secrets from the past, and museum displays to chronicle scientific research into kauri.
The carboNZero certification has been developed by the New Zealand-government funded Crown Research Institute, Landcare Research.
Certification demonstrates that the GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions associated with the Kauri Museum have been measured and independently verified in accordance with international standards.
CarboNZero chief executive Graham Carter said the certification was "not just about hugging trees. It’s really about how do we drive efficiencies in businesses — and by the way it’s really good for the planet."
The carboNZero website also offers a 'travel & tourism calculator' allowing travellers to calculate greenhouse gas emissions for their domestic and overseas travel, and New Zealand-specific accommodation and recreational activities, and to offset with purchase of carbon credits.
Background: The Kauri Museum, Matakohe
Nestled in the picturesque coastal village of Matakohe - 90 minutes north of Auckland and close to the Twin Coast Discovery Highway - The Kauri Museum is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed heritage museums, and receives up to 90,000 visitors annually.
The museum tells the fascinating story of the region’s pioneering days through the use of kauri timber and gum.
The collections, spanning 4500sq metres, include antique kauri furniture, the world’s largest collection of kauri gum, restored machinery, a turning steam sawmill and life-size replicas of a period boarding house, pioneer school and the historic Matakohe Post Office with its collection of telephones.
Background: Kauri (Agathis australis)
The majestic kauri tree is the only member of this coniferous genus that is endemic to New Zealand. A kauri tree can grow to 60m tall with an impressive trunk girth of up to 16m, and live for as long as 2000 years.
New Zealand's largest kauri tree is found in the Waipoua forest, in Northland. The giant specimen is named Tāne Mahuta after the Māori god of the forest, and local tourism operator Footprints Waipoua offers guided evening tours interpreting the forest and Māori legends.
Kauri forests once covered most of the land between the Waikato and New Zealand’s northern tip, but largely disappeared during the 19th and 20th century due to forestry, exploitation of kauri gum, clearing for agriculture and fire.
Of the original 1.2 million hectares of native kauri forest, only 80,000 hectares remain. All mature kauri trees, whether in the wild or on private land, are now protected by conservation legislation in New Zealand.
Māori legend of Tane Mahuta
New Zealand flora
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