Friday Offcuts – 18 July 2014

growing trees cutting and milling timber forest products
“Unbelievable” is how the Australian Forest Products Association greeted the news earlier in the week that CSIRO are indeed going to cut 33 scientists (could be up to 40 positions – see story below) from the national science and research organisation’s ecosystem sciences division. This covers research in Australia into bio-fuels and bio-products, forestry management, bushfire dynamics and reducing animal pests and environmental pests.

The CSIRO took a AU$110 million funding hit in the May budget and unions are projecting 500 job losses over four years, with some already announced. As pointed out by AFPA’s CEO Ross Hampton, it was just four months ago that the Prime Minister at a major industry gathering in Canberra was extolling just how important the timber industry is (not was) to the country’s economic future.

The repealing of the carbon tax yesterday though wasn’t a political back pedalling. It was way back in February 2011 that the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled her plans for a carbon tax from July 2012. The Opposition leader, Tony Abbott said that the Coalition would be repealing the carbon tax if it won the next election. True to his word, after winning the Federal election on 7 September last year, Tony Abbott said legislation to abolish the carbon tax would be before Parliament within 100 days. Late last year, legislation was introduced to axe the carbon pricing scheme and it’s taken until now for the votes to be secured. It was repealed yesterday afternoon.

Finally, some more good news to finish on. Earlier in the year we reported on how Latrobe City Council was following in the footsteps of a number of other countries implementing a 'Wood Encouragement Policy' for their region. It was the first wood encouragement policy of its type in Australia – and like others – was aimed principally at tackling climate change and generating new business investment. This week, Rotorua District Council (with forestry and wood products currently contributing around 15 per cent of the region’s GDP) became the first local authority in New Zealand to encourage wood as a building material of choice by adopting its own ‘Wood First’ policy. The plan to implement the commitment by Councillors this week will follow.



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Rotorua council first to adopt a ‘Wood First’ policy

Rotorua District Council is to become the first local authority in New Zealand to adopt a ‘Wood First’ Policy. The policy would be acknowledgement of the importance of the forestry and wood processing industries to district, regional and national economies.

Rotorua’s decision to develop a Wood First policy was made at a meeting on Wednesday of the council’s Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee. It complements a proposal by the New Zealand Wood Council encouraging central government to adopt a similar policy at a national level.

A report prepared for the council by business consultant Bryce Heard and presented at the committee meeting, noted that Rotorua sits at the heart of the country’s forestry industry. It said almost half of New Zealand’s wood total was harvested from central North Island forests within a hundred kilometres of Rotorua.

Forestry and wood processing accounts for approximately 15 per cent of Rotorua’s GDP, with around 11 million cubic metres of logs harvested each year from around Rotorua, four million of which was exported in raw log form, mostly to China. The remaining seven million cubic metres of timber was processed into higher value products.

The report indicated that the logs currently exported represented an opportunity for greater economic growth if more wood could be processed into local products to compete in national and international markets.

Mayor Steve Chadwick said a Wood First policy would support the council’s and community’s recently adopted Rotorua 2030 vision and goals. The unanimous committee decision was to develop a Wood First policy for adoption by the council and to prepare a plan for implementation of the policy. More >>


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New vehicle takes drug testing into the forest

Moves to help keep New Zealand workplaces safe and drug free have been given a boost with a new state-of-the-art, 4WD mobile drug testing van in Northland.

The new van makes mobile drug testing easier for The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA) - which specialises in workplace drug tests – particularly in some of the more remote areas of forestry in Northland.

Workplace drug testing is on the rise in New Zealand as employers realise the crucial safety and productivity benefits of a clean, healthy workforce, and with the forestry industry working particularly hard to improve its safety record, TDDA CEO Kirk Hardy says the need for the new, improved vehicle quickly became apparent.

“Deb Gurr, TDDA Northland General Manager raised the idea at our national conference last year and put the wheels in motion. After a lot of planning and designing the van first hit the road in January with great success, joining our fleet of 40 plus mobile drug testing vans operating in New Zealand and Australia.”

The Ford Ranger van features an independent power supply so testing facilities don’t drain the vehicle battery, external tanks for larger amounts of fresh and grey water, and a clinical interior for easier cleaning and maintaining IANZ standards.

But most importantly the new van is 4WD, making it much easier for drug testing teams to reach work crews in challenging terrain in Northland’s forests. With forestry companies a key employer in many parts of Northland the new, hardier purpose built mobile testing facility gives TDDA better access to a large part of the region’s workforce. More >>

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Australia repeals controversial carbon tax

Australia's government repealed a much-maligned carbon tax on the nation's worst greenhouse gas polluters on Thursday, ending years of contention over a measure that became political poison for the lawmakers who imposed it.

The Senate voted 39 to 32 to axe the 24.15 Australian dollar ($22.60) tax per metric ton of carbon dioxide that was introduced by the centre-left Labor government in July 2012. Conservative lawmakers burst into applause as the final tally was announced reports the NZ Herald.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's conservative coalition government rose to power last year on the promise of getting rid of the tax, assuring voters that removing it would reduce household electricity bills. He plans to replace the measure with a taxpayer-financed AU$2.55 billion fund to pay industry incentives to use cleaner energy.

If interested in a short “potted history” on the history of the Carbon Tax in Australia click here

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3D printing focus for after-dinner MobileTECH 2014 event

MobileTECH 2014 – the event for forestry and other primary industries which will be exploring an array of new and innovative mobile communications technologies runs in just over two weeks. It runs in both New Zealand and Australia – with around 300 expected to attend this year’s series.

3D printing or additive manufacturing as we all know is taking the world by storm. Complex finished products, not possible to create using conventional manufacturing methods are now being produced changing the game for creative industries and providing new directions for designers and new business models for both manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

Opportunities for local companies and the technology involved will be the theme for the two after-dinner presentations for the MobileTECH 2014 events this year. Presenters include;

Dr Jennifer Loy, Griffith University will be speaking in Brisbane on Tuesday 5 August. Jennifer is Program Leader of Industrial Design and 3D Design Digital Media at Griffith University on the Gold Coast in Australia and teaches 3D printing into both programs. She has been an invited speaker around the world on designing for 3D printing.

Johan Potgieter, Associate Professor in Mechatronics and Robotics, School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, Massey University will be speaking in Auckland on Tuesday 12 August. He has been an avid user of additive manufacturing since the mid-90s and is passionate about the potential it offers for innovation and how it allows small businesses to much more easily reach the world market. He has a well established reputation for his work in educational robotics and has been inducted into the World Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation Hall of Fame. He is currently conducting consulting research with HIEFF Engine and Chrysler in Detroit.



Full details on this programme can be found on www.mobiletech2014.com.
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Timber trade negotiations approved

Solomon Islands is the first country in the world to receive approval to trade timber products to Australia under new timber legality guidelines. The Ministry of Forestry and the Australian High Commission announced that Solomon Islands had received approval from Australia for country-specific guidelines used to verify legal origin of Solomon Islands sawn timber exported to Australia.

This will enable exports of Solomon Islands timber to Australia to meet new import requirements for timber, which are due to come into effect on 30 November of this year. Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne said sawn timber exports to Australia are worth SBD$28 million annually and the industry directly employs more than 1,000 people in Solomon Islands.

He said the new guidelines will help protect these exports and jobs. He noted that the Australian Government intended to use the guideline developed by Solomon Islands as an example in its negotiations with other trading partners.

International markets, such as the USA and European Union, now require that all imported wood products can be demonstrated to have been legally produced. Australia has followed this market trend with implementation of similar requirements.

Source: http://www.islandsbusiness.com/

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85 years of forest science chopped to meet budget

In Australia on Monday night on ABC Lateline*, DLP Senator John Madigan revealed secret CSIRO communications indicating that CSIRO management has reportedly axed the last remaining 33 forest scientists reports AFPA.

The CSIRO has been conducting research in this area since 1930 increasing our knowledge in water management, productivity (rates of tree growth), pest management, biodiversity, new uses for fibre, silviculture, climate science and many other areas.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) CEO Mr Ross Hampton said, “Scarcely 4 months ago the Prime Minister called for a renaissance in forestry at an industry dinner for 600 people in the Great Hall of Parliament House. The Prime Minister said, “We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history. That is what this Government wants.”

Mr Hampton said, “It is unbelievable to the 80 000 people who work in this industry that today the Government is standing by in silence as CSIRO management reportedly takes the axe to forestry research, ending 85 years of world leading, productivity-driving breakthroughs”.

“Our competitor nations understand that in a carbon constrained global economy, with a global population forecast to grow to 9.5 billion in a few decades, we need to develop new uses for our renewable, recyclable and carbon neutral timber. While our competitor nations are backing forestry R&D, Australia is seemingly backing out. It makes no sense,” said Mr Hampton.

Senator Madigan told Lateline of the amazing research being done in New Zealand into alternative uses of timber such as biofuels and bioplastics. He said, “These people (CSIRO forestry scientists) are the world leaders in their field. Now what I fear is going to happen is that these people are going to places like Chile, Vietnam, China, possibly Canada and New Zealand.”

* Lateline - Click here

Source: AFPA


Further details on the cuts can be found by clicking here



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New Zealand log market update

Export log market

Export log prices have sunk further in the past month but are thought to be at least near the bottom of the price fall. The increase of the NZ dollar would have taken about another $3/ JAS off the export price as well during the past month. A-grade logs ex-Tauranga currently average NZ$79/t, which is NZ$11/t less than last month, and NZ$47/t lower than the peak in March. Overall, export log prices are now at a 26 month low. Average K-grade prices in the Southern South Island are now less than half of the March price, and NZ average A-grade prices are down 38% in the past four months.

Exports to China showed the first signs of slowing in May, with just less than 900,000t being exported there. This was 13% less than a year ago and 22% lower than deliveries in April. The overall export level didn’t drop as far, with a 7% year-on-year drop, which was likely a result of greater volume being pushed to India, while there was an increase in volume to South Korea during April.

The largest reductions in exports came from Tauranga and the Gisborne/Napier area. During May exports from Tauranga reached 470,000t which was the lowest monthly export volume since April 2013. Canterbury and the Southern South Island area are still exporting at a greater rate than a year ago, though the volume from Canterbury is likely to slow in the coming months as the wind throw supply stops.

China

China’s log imports fell in May, but the largest reduction in deliveries came from Russia, which does less to ease pressure on ports. Total log imports were down 14% month-on-month in May, and down 4% year-on-year. Imports to Nanjing and Shanghai, two major supply areas for NZ, were down from April, but still 28% and 25% higher year-on-year. Imports to Qingdao also a key supply area for NZ actually increased from April. The Manzhouli region, however, which is on the northern border with Russia reported the lowest imports since October 2012. Overall there was an 11% reduction in imports to port areas, but a 26% reduction in imports to inland areas.

There was a reduction in imports from NZ of 200,000t in May, and reductions of 185,000t from Russia, and 145,000t from Australia. Supply from the Pacific North West increased by 60,000t due to steady supply from Canada and an increase from the US. Reports of declining supply in late June and July suggest that the US and Canada supply is now also correcting downward.

Domestic log market

As expected the domestic log market dropped this month in response to the falling export prices. Utility prices had the largest drops, with falls of up to NZ$25/t recorded in the South Island. The export price reduction was exacerbated in the South Island with the Southern Cross Forest Product mill closures meaning that there’s been little options for this type of wood and it’s resulted in oversupply.

NZ average structural log prices fell an average of NZ$7/t, with the largest drop in the Southern South Island easing NZ$12/t on average. The slowing harvest kept a floor on the market, as dropping prices further would have meant an under supply to the domestic market. The market was able to absorb some of the slowdown in supply due to reduced demand for the finished product during winter as building slows. However, once the cold weather clears up building will ramp up again and these prices are expected to increase in the fourth quarter.

Pruned log prices are flat this month and there are reports of very tight supply in some cases. Reduced harvesting has meant that some mills are coming up short for supply. There may have been some re-directed supply from the export market as prices fell there, but this will all be cleared out by now. With strong demand in this sector supply is expected to be very tight for the rest of this year.

Source: www.nzxagri.co.nz/agrifax

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China's economy - what's really happening

BIGGER is not always stronger. China just notched up its third-largest quarterly trade surplus on record: a whopping $86 billion, equivalent to roughly the entire output of the Danish economy over the same time. But if you look a little bit closer at the seemingly impressive performance, the view is unsettling.

China’s exports grew 4.9% in the year to the second quarter; that was only the 29th-fastest pace of the past decade and not the source of the big trade gains. For that, turn to imports. They rose 1.3% in the year to the second quarter, the fifth-slowest of the past decade. Put simply, this was a trade surplus from a position of weakness – a reflection of the sluggish domestic economy rather than voracious global demand.

Here’s a chart showing how unusual it is for large Chinese trade surpluses to coincide with such middling export growth:



China’s massive trade surpluses used to inspire equal parts admiration and anger about its export juggernaut. This past quarter is more likely to add to concerns about its slowing economy. But in the world of GDP accounting, a trade surplus is still a trade surplus. Regardless of the root cause, net exports add to growth.

In the first quarter, China’s trade surplus was 62% smaller than a year earlier, lopping about 1.5 percentage points off first-quarter growth (GDP grew 7.4% year-on-year in the first quarter). But the trade surplus widened by 31% in the second quarter from a year ago, promising to give a little lift to the overall GDP growth rate, which is due to be reported on July 16th.

This helps explain why Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister, said this week that although growth had sped up in the second quarter, more policy measures were needed to support the economy. The trade surplus is a nice cushion but not a substitute for domestic strength.

Source: The Economist


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HARVESTNAV app released to the forest industry

The Future Forests Research Limited (FFR) Harvesting programme has now released the HARVESTNAV on-board navigation app and has made it available to the whole industry free of charge. HARVESTNAV is a software application designed to enable harvesting machine operators to track their position in the block on a graphical harvest plan displayed on a computer tablet mounted in their machine.

Forest owners and managers spend significant sums of money accurately mapping forests and using that data to create detailed harvest plans. Most often these plans are provided to harvesting contractors as paper maps. These are commonly kept by contractors in their vehicles or left in the logging crew’s smoko hut. HARVESTNAV puts all this valuable terrain information contained within these plans into the hands of the workers who are tasked with fulfilling these plans (the harvesting machine operators).

HARVESTNAV has been designed to run on any Windows 8/8.1 tablet utilising either an internal or external GPS receiver to monitor the machine’s position on the terrain. It also uses the digital accelerometers in the tablet to measure the pitch and roll of the machine. It has been programmed to warn the machine operator when the maximum allowable slope of the machine is about to be exceeded. The application can also utilise LIDAR data to better visualise the terrain surrounding the machine’s current location through the use of improved digital terrain and hill shaded models.

HARVESTNAV also displays other mapping data in real-time in the on-screen map such as boundaries, riparian zones and other protection areas (such as waahi tapu). It uses this data to warn the operator if the machine is operating either outside a harvest boundary or within an exclusion area. Providing boundary, water course and road information in such a visual form to the operator could potentially minimize environmental and legal issues that can arise during harvesting operations. HARVESTNAV continuously logs the machine position (track) in a form that can be easily downloaded and used by logging contractors and forest managers to monitor harvesting progress and daily productivity.

Comments gained from harvesting machine operators during FFR field trials of HARVESTNAV have given clear evidence that this application will improve both safety and productivity. For this reason the FFR Harvesting members decided to make the current version of HARVESTNAV freely available to the whole industry. All that is needed to start using this new application is a Windows tablet, GPS receiver and a mount for the tablet. A number of forest managers and owners are now purchasing tablets for the purpose of trialing and demonstrating the advantages of HARVESTNAV within their own company and to their harvesting contractors. HARVESTNAV can be downloaded free from www.interpine.co.nz. If you would like more information please email Hamish Marshall at harvestnav@interpine.co.nz or call on +64 21 677 720.

This year, FFR Harvesting plans to support the wider implementation of HARVESTNAV into the industry and the further development of the HARVESTNAV application. The focus of this year’s development project with HARVESTNAV is to add additional external tilt sensors so that the application can be used on self-levelling harvesting machines. In addition, new technology will be investigated to allow multiple machines in the crew to communicate their current position to each other as well as back to the ‘office’. We’ll keep you posted.

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3D-printed composite is lighter than wood

Researchers at Harvard University have developed a way to 3D-print a cellular composite with record lightness and stiffness using an epoxy resin. This marks the first time that epoxy is used for 3D-printing, and the advance could lead to the development of new lightweight architectures for more efficient wind turbines, faster cars, and lighter airplanes.

Scientists at Harvard have come up with a way to manufacture a cellular composite that's even better than balsa wood, doing away with the occasional structural defects in the wood that can make it less reliable as a building material.

The researchers took inspiration from the microscopic structure of balsa, which is mostly hollow and in which only the cell walls are carrying the load. Their built their new composite using an epoxy-based resin containing nanoclay platelets to increase viscosity, as well as two types of fillers – silicon carbide "whiskers" and discrete carbon fibres.

One very interesting feature is the fact that the researchers can control the exact stiffness of the material by changing the orientation of the fillers as needed. This tuneable property means that designers can digitally integrate into the composition the stiffness and toughness of an object from the very beginning, and have it comply with the desired specifications.

According to principal investigator Prof. Jennifer A. Lewis, their research is a significant step because it paves the way for 3D-printing using materials, such as epoxies, which can be used for structural applications, as opposed to the thermoplastics that your standard 3D printer uses. Using this resin, Lewis and colleagues obtained composites that are as stiff as wood, up to 20 times stiffer than commercial 3D-printed polymers, and twice as strong as the strongest printed polymer composites up to that point.

Applications for this technology could include more efficient wind turbines and perhaps innovative architecture for building lighter but safe cars that increase mileage. Below, you can watch a short clip of the composite being printed. For more information on this story, check out this months R & D Works.

Source: Harvard University



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Guidance for Australian Forest Operations

Safe Work Australia has released nine packages of national guidance material to support the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and WHS Regulations.

This includes guidance for Forest Operations. The national material provides practical advice for conducting a business, and how to manage risk at the workplace. The material also includes information sheets to assist small businesses and workers meet WHS obligations.

Read more at the Safe Work Australia site.

Source: VAFI, The News Mill

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Wood building reaches for the sky in Prince George

Canada's biggest foray into tall wood structures, the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, is nearly complete. At 90 feet tall, it will be the tallest modern all-wood building in North America.

One of the final stages, commissioning of the building systems, is expected to finish next month. Construction completion, turnover and occupancy should be done in the fall. Except for the concrete foundation, the slab for the mechanical penthouse and the glazing, only wood materials are used.

The building will include research facilities and classroom space for the University of Northern B.C.’s new program in wood engineering, and office space for industry organizations. The building is part of a growing movement to build bigger and taller with wood.

According to Wood WORKS! B.C. in the past five years, 17 wood buildings, eight storeys or taller have been built in Sweden, the UK, Germany, Austria, Norway and Australia. More>>

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Jobs


Buy and Sell


...and one to end the week on ... an unusual pet

This guy was lonely and he decided life would be more fun if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store and told the owner that he wanted to buy an unusual pet.

After some discussion, he finally bought a centipede (100-legged crawler), which came in a little white box to use for his house.

He took the box back home, found a good location for the box, and decided he would start off by taking his new pet to the bar to have a drink.

So he asked the centipede in the box, "Would you like to go to Frank's with me and have a beer?" But there was no answer from his new pet. This bothered him a bit, but he waited a few minutes and then asked him again, “How about going to the bar and having a drink with me?” But again, there was no answer from his new friend and pet.

So he waited a few minutes more, thinking about the situation. He decided to ask him one more time; this time putting his face up against the centipede's house and shouting, “Hey, in there! Would you like to go to Frank's place and have a drink with me?”

A little voice came out of the box:...........



"I heard you the first time! I'm just putting my ******* shoes on."



One more - an image recently sent in by a reader concerned about rising house prices in his neighbourhood.




And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
PO Box 904
Level Two, 2 Dowling Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 470 1902
Fax: +64 3 470 1904
Web page: www.fridayoffcuts.com


This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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