Biochar Network NZ AGM Update


The Biochar Network New Zealand AGM will be held online via Zoom on May 13th 2020 beginning at 8:00pm.

We welcome everybody to our meeting, and encourage members to consider standing for the committee. If so, please register your interest and include a brief bio.

Sign up online to attend the AGM

The agenda and meeting documents will be circulated approximately a week before the meeting.

If you are unfamiliar with Zoom we can provide support ahead of time.

These are clearly very difficult times for most people, and are causing many of us to reflect on our future. Biochar will be a part of that future, and this organisation is here to promote and support its uptake.

So please come along to our AGM and support us in whatever way you can.

Best regards,

Dennis Enright
BNNZ Chair

John Allen

We would like to acknowledge the sudden passing of John Allen on 2nd November 2019. John was a founding member of this organisation and a passionate and energetic advocate for biochar as a means of mitigating the impact of climate change. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill

The Oral Submission

Explaining biochar to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Zero Carbon Bill is a big ask when you’ve only got 10 minutes. 

But BNNZ committee members Phil Stevens and Damian Richardson did this on August 19. The speech was good. Phil even came up with pitches like ‘biochar turns farmers from environmental villains to climate heroes’. Were we successful? Not really. 

What is interesting is why. 

Firstly, it’s worth getting a handle on the Bill itself. The basic purpose of the Bill is to meet targets consistent with the Paris Agreement. Or to meet our obligations under the agreement.

This means that the Bill has set itself the IPCC’s aspirational reduction target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. It is also consistent with the IPCC in that it will need to draw down existing CO2 in the atmosphere alongside phasedown of emissions. So, while there are a few parts to the Bill, there are 2 sides. Reducing CO2 emissions and removing existing CO2.

The problem is that the emission phase down side of the Bill is weaker in the 2nd draft than the first one. And the other side of the Bill, removing existing CO2, is vague and loosely defines ‘CO2 removals’, and has a general mention of NET’s (negative emission technologies).

This is why there is such an opening for biochar in the Bill. Because we all know that the process of pyrolysis changes the molecular structure of carbon so that the bonds are strong enough to last 1000 years, right? Wrong. 

As it turns out, the connection between biochar and its ability to sequester CO2 in a way that other modes of NET’s can’t, is lost on many people.

Also, there’s a million things to say about biochar, and just coming out and summarising some of these things too early might not get you anywhere. In fact, even talking a little about the many benefits might start sounding like snake oil to some people if the penny hasn’t dropped first. So, a different approach is needed when talking to an audience about biochar.

Here’s an idea below:

1. Summarise global warming. And this should be quick. But here’s where you first engage your audience. Pass them a bag or small basket of biochar but tell them its coal. You might like the biochar damp, so it has weight and is more consistent to coal. Let them pass it around while you explain that global warming is caused by transferring carbon, like the black stuff they are holding, from the earth’s crust to the atmosphere.

2. Create the importance of NET’s. The planets temperature is on route to be trending at 1.5 degrees by the late 2030’s but will have breached that in an El Nino event sometime before then. This isn’t far away, yet we are already deviating from the 1.5 degree track. So realistically, there is not too much chance of limiting the temperature to 1.5 degrees (or NZ’s contribution to it) if we are modest with NET’s, and there is no chance if NET’s are weak. Therefore, the Bill needs to be more serious about NET’s than it is now. And when you factor in the difficulty of addressing emissions from our agriculture sector, NET’s start to become critical.

3. Briefly comment on the different types of NET’s and their limitations. Example, pest, disease and fire risks associated with over reliance in forestry. Most land use changes can get saturated. And they still require maintenance to keep the carbon stores in place. Which means they become potential future liabilities. Even before they become saturated.

4. Go back to the coal that the audience has. Tell them that everything you have told them is true except one thing. The bag of coal they are holding is not coal, but reverse coal. AKA biochar. Quickly revisit the process of burning fossil fuel before explaining the process of pyrolysis. Hopefully at this stage, the penny dropped and there is full engagement with the audience. Differentiate biochar as a NET from the other NET’s in terms of its stability, irreversibility (bar fuel additive) and so its accumulative carbon negative effect.

5. A summary of some biochar benefits can now come in. For example, ‘there are a hundred benefits in dairy, x, y and z are just 3’. ‘There are a hundred benefits in….’ and so on. Compelling generic arguments can also be discussed at any stage. Especially business activity, the economy and the environment.

6. Come back to the purpose of the discussion. In this case the Bill. Close by presenting logic – biochar is a solution to the problem that also carries significant other benefits.

Why your soil needs biochar (plus two ways to make it).

Here’s a link to a great article written by Sharon Stevens recently published in NZ Lifestyle Block magazine. Sharons partner Phil Stevens ( in the photos) is a member of BNNZ’s working committee. Phil is very focussed on NZ Climate Change Policy and how Biochar should be a key part of this.

Turning trash into treasure ‘Parengarenga Incorporation’ is not just focused on producing quality sheep and beef.

Turning trash into treasure

Parengarenga Incorporation is not just focused on producing quality sheep and beef. 

General manager Jon Brough, assisted by farm manager Kathryne Easton and others, has wide-reaching visions of what the future holds to make the best use of the land. 

One initiative they are investigating is the use of a carboniser machine to turn forestry waste into charcoal, BioChar. 

They have researched what is happening in Australia with the technology where the product produced can be used to offset carbon emissions. 

All going well, Parengarenga would like to see the same results on this side of the Tasman. 

The machine is fed with slash and waste from a forestry skid site, which is then turned into something far more useful. 

“Basically, it’s a cooking process where we load it to a certain temperature and then hold it at that temperature till it pyrolyses and produces a carbon product. From there we’re going to look at options around utilising the carbon either by applying it to the pasture or using it as an animal feed in terms of an animal lick,” Easton said. 

She suggests they will look at adding molasses or something similar to encourage stock to eat it and by offering the stock access to the mix they could reduce the need for drenching. 

The carboniser they are trying is a small machine but if successful they will look at bigger machines that could also provide usable energy to power houses. 

For environmentally focused Easton the project fits well within her mantra and the incorporation’s values of doing the right thing by the soil. 

“You’ve grown a tree, you’ve got a waste product. We turn that waste product into a valuable product, add it back to our pasture and the cycle continues. The land becomes more effective on the next forestry rotation as well so you live with a minimal amount of trash. 

“So, it’s a really nice cyclic evaluation of a product that would otherwise just been waste. 

“We see this project as an exploration into our future as we analyse our own capability to head towards a carbon-neutral, methane-reduced future. This is a unique part of the country with a Maori incorporation on a journey with their whenua with aspirations to make a difference in the national and international agricultural market arena.”