Friday Offcuts – 24 March 2017

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This week the International Day of Forests was celebrated around the world. Tuesday – or 21 March – is the one day each year that’s set aside to recognise and promote the many benefits that forests bring to our lives. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012 and the theme this year was Forests and Energy. Releases sent out by key industry associations, research organisations and forestry companies on both sides of the Tasman have been picked up by most mainstream media during the week. The day was also used to launch a new report (download in this week’s story) by Planet Ark highlighting the benefits of the interior use of wood to the occupants of a building.

As forestry’s value to the economy and to the environment was being promoted, workers at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods’ Heyfield sawmill were still reeling from the announcement made late last week. After protracted negotiations with the Victorian State Government, an agreement to keep the mill open through ongoing timber supplies just didn’t stack up. ASH announced that they plan on closing the mill in September 2018 and are now looking at “recommencing” talks with the Tasmanian Government to move their milling operations South.

In New Zealand, this week the first of three regional launches ran in Rotorua to showcase the results from a new report on the country’s plantation forest industry. It highlights the true value of the industry to the national and regional economies. Forestry and logging are now estimated to be now worth NZ$1.4 billion to the national GDP, making it now a substantially larger contributor than either the sheep-meat or beef sectors. A copy of the report can be downloaded from the lead story this week.

On Thursday, the hard-working team at Red Stag Timber along with the Prime Minister officially opened the Southern Hemisphere’s first ‘super-mill’. The mill and site upgrade programme is valued in excess of NZ$100 million. The new sawmilling plant was installed during 2016 and is now fully operational, cutting around 550,000 cubic metres of lumber annually. The story behind this remarkable transition from the old mill purchased by Phil and Marty Verry back in 2003 is contained in a story this week.

Also in Rotorua this week, the MobileTECH 2017 event has just wrapped up. Over 300 technology developers and early adopters of new technology from across the primary sector have been meeting in Rotorua. Every year, the tech programme is run to share results on a raft of new innovations being developed, adopted and used out in the field. The event, now well and truly established on the calendar for the country's primary sector, also provides developers and researchers a unique opportunity to set up longer term strategic alliances across a number of land-based industries.

Finally, you’ll remember we covered a story a few months back of a teenager who thought it would be interesting to connect a flamethrower to a drone. It didn’t take long for the local police and the State to react to a YouTube posting by the youngster. Let’s say they weren’t quite as enamoured on the plan as the young inventor. A Chinese Utility company though has now run with the idea. They're using an airborne flame thrower to remove trash caught in their power lines. You can check out the video below. Enjoy this week’s read.

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NZIER Report just out on NZ forest industry

A report on the plantation forest industry has highlighted its value to national and regional economies, as well as forestry’s beneficial effect on New Zealand’s ecology. The NZIER Report was commissioned by the New Zealand Forest Owners Association and Farm Forestry Association. A copy of the NZIER report is attached here.

The Report has found the forestry and logging sector is worth NZ$1.4 billion to the national GDP, making a substantially larger contribution GDP than either the sheep-meat or beef sectors. Forestry is hugely important for many provincial economies, such as Gisborne – Tairawhiti, where it contributes nearly 5.5 per cent of the region’s GDP.

The Chair of the Forest Owners Association Peter Clark says the public has underestimated the forest sector’s role and importance. “Knowledge of our sector has generally gone under the radar. This report will redress some of the lack of understanding. Our sector is growing faster than horticulture.”

“For the first time since 1882 if old records are accurate, the value of our forest product exports is now exceeding the total value of red meat exports. That represents a step change in our primary export mix. The Report details that our production has gone from 10 million cubic metres of timber in 1989, to 28.7 million cubic metres last year,” Peter Clark says.

MPI forecasts New Zealand forest product export returns to reach NZ$6.15 billion by 2020, from the current $5.14 billion in 2016, with increasing returns from sawn timber, wood panels pulp and paper all contributing.

But NZIER says the fact that the very significant environmental contribution of forestry is not usually factored into its economic value, is a constraint on the industry. NZIER suggests that the lack of a ministry or department dedicated to forestry is a constraint on the industry. NZIER also recommends the establishment of a satellite account to reflect the growing importance of this sector. Satellite accounts extend existing information on industries to include social and environmental values.

The Report cites a Bay of Plenty 2014 study into ecosystems services (for example; carbon storage, erosion control, water quality, biodiversity and recreation) which if generalised across New Zealand, would provide NZ$9.6 billion of ecological and social value from plantation forestry to New Zealand every year.

“At the moment” Peter Clark says “everyone, including NZIER, is making assumptions based on some studies in some regions. We really do need much better information on the national environmental and social benefits of forestry, even if there’s reasonably good information on carbon capture for instance.”

“The government’s Biodiversity Action Plan 2016 – 2020 set 2017 as the target date to ‘investigate the need and potential to produce New Zealand environmental-economic accounts’,” Peter Clark says. “So, in implementing this undertaking, we’d love to see the government put the environmental ruler across our forest sector.”

Source: Forest Owners Association

Further coverage on the Rotorua launch and new report can be viewed here.

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Bill to unlock Tasmanian forests passes first hurdle

The Tasmanian Government used its numbers in the Lower House to pass the contentious forestry bill after a debate that stretched to almost 3:00am last Friday. Labor and the Greens voted against it. The bill now will be scrutinised closely in Parliament's Upper House, with many of the independent Members of the Legislative Council indicating they are not sold on the legislation.

The State Government's plan will allow logging in 356,000 hectares of land otherwise protected under a moratorium until 2020. The legislation has been widely opposed, with even the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania promising to campaign against the move.

The Greens attempted to move more than 200 amendments, including one that sought to change the title of the legislation — Forestry (Unlocking Production Forests) Bill 2017 — because they believed it to be overtly political. The mostly independent Upper House will debate the bill when Parliament resumes.

Source: ABC News

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New report showing health and wellbeing benefits of wood

A new report by Planet Ark – Nature Inspired Design – was launched on March 21st, World Wood Day. The report highlights the benefits of the interior use of wood to the occupants of a building. World Wood Day 2017, held in Long Beach, California, is the fifth international celebration of this cultural event.

Incorporating wood in the interior design, construction and fitout of buildings in which we live, work, learn, play and heal will lead to improved health and wellbeing according to international evidence presented in Planet Ark’s new report.

The use of wood, especially in conjunction with the principles of ‘nature connected design’ (also known as biophilic design) has significant health and wellbeing benefits including lowering heart rate and stress response for students and workers, speeding recovery after surgery and encouraging greater interaction between residents in aged care facilities.

The results are important news for Australians who, on average, spend over 90 per cent of their time indoors . The report also states that in a single generation, children’s play has moved from outdoors to indoors, backyards are shrinking or unavailable, working hours and stress levels have risen, and technology (especially screens) has encroached on almost all areas of life.

“We know that workers are less stressed and more productive, students learn better, patients heal faster, and people are generally happier and calmer in indoor areas which contain wooden elements,” concludes David Rowlinson, Planet Ark’s Make It Wood Campaign Manager.

World Wood Day is a cultural event celebrated annually on March 21st to highlight wood as an eco-friendly and renewable biomaterial and to raise awareness on the key role wood plays in a sustainable world. Through a variety of activities, this unique celebration reminds us of the importance and true value of wood and its responsible uses. It also serves as an important platform for international wood-related artisans and experts to explore the beauty and benefits of wood in different aspects of life.

“It is appropriate to launch this important report on World Wood Day, which is also the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s International Day of Forests,” said Eileen Newbury, marketing and communications manager at Forest and Wood Products Australia, “this exciting new information, combined with the increasing structural use of wood in mid-rise residential projects will drive growth and open new opportunities for both the timber industry and the design and construction sectors.”

Ms Newbury explained that an increasing number of architects and building designers whose work includes residential, commercial, health, aged care and education projects are incorporating significant amounts of wood into their structures to capitalise on its health and wellbeing benefits.

Australian buildings that showcase the use of wood and nature connected design, that are featured in Planet Ark’s report, include the Dandenong Mental Health Centre, the Marist College Bendigo Montagne Centre, Tempe House, NSW, the Library at the Dock, Victoria Harbour, Melbourne, and the Melbourne School of Design.

Copies of the report are cab be download here.

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Largest Sawmill in Southern Hemisphere opened

The worlds most advanced sawmill and the first ‘super-mill’ in the Southern Hemisphere was opened by New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Bill English, in Rotorua on Thursday. A ‘super-mill’ is a sawmill that processes over one million tonnes of logs per year. There are a number in North America and Europe, but the Red Stag Timber mill is the first of this scale in this hemisphere.

Having grown from the ashes of the Central North Island Forest Partnership receivership over a decade ago, the company has quietly been re-investing and building capacity.

Initially purchased in 2003 by Phil and Marty Verry, the company has remained in private ownership under directors Marty Verry and Louise Dinmore, and managed by General Manager Tim Rigter. With its structural timber market share topping out at around 25 percent, Red Stag made the decision in 2014 to commit to a new sawmilling line and upgrade programme, valued in excess of NZ$100 million.

“We could see the current construction boom coming back in 2012”, explains Red Stag Group CEO Marty Verry. “The bottleneck was the sawmill line. We were tapped out on the two lines we used then, so set about planning for a new line.”

That planning resulted in selection of a state-of-the-art line from North American manufacturer, USNR. “The timing was fortunate, as the industry got short of timber for a month or two last year, but with the new capacity the industry is in balance. We will be bringing on sufficient timber volume in the next year or two to meet the market demand. It’s going to become very competitive as the demand slopes off in the medium term.”

The number of sawmills in New Zealand decreased from 101 in 2003 to 53 in 2016, and forecast to decrease to 39 in the next five years. The rationalisation is an international trend driven by automation, economies of scale and unavailability of logs in some regions.

“A major reason for the new technology was also the desire to produce higher quality timber”, Verry adds. “The scanning and optimising technology allows us to cut with the grain of the timber, and eliminate stresses in the timber. This results in very straight timber.” That’s important as the markets move more towards prefabrication and off-site construction.

The building was constructed by Hawkins in 2015 and the new plant was installed during 2016 and has recently passed commissioning tests and is fully operational, cutting at a rate of 550,000 cubic metres of timber annually.

“We have had excellent support from our supply chain partners to underpin this project. The large timber investment management companies, particularly Timberlands and Hancock Natural Resources, were key enablers by providing assurance of log supply. We commend and appreciate their recognition of the importance of a strong domestic sawmilling sector.”

“But what really gave us confidence in embarking on what will prove to be one of the milestone projects in the forestry industry was the track record our staff had generated in delivering successful projects. In the board’s view, they had earned the right to complete what for most will be a career-defining project, and so we backed their teams, led by sawmill manager Steve Roberts and project manager, Mike Carlton.”

Source: Scoop
Image: From L to R: Tim Rigter, General Manager, Red Stag Timber; Marty Verry, CEO; Prime Minister Bill English at the official opening of Red Stag’s new $100 million Supermill in Rotorua

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Joint Australian & NZ research to extract LiDAR information

Scientists from several Australian research agencies and NZ’s SCION are collaborating in a multidisciplinary FWPA project titled “Optimizing remotely acquired, dense point cloud data for plantation inventory”. This collaborative Australian/New Zealand project brings together experts across a range of disciplines that do not reside collectively in any one institution.

The project team has internationally recognised expertise in LiDAR & UAV technologies, software engineering and sophisticated modelling approaches. Participating research groups include the Forest Informatics team at SCION, the Terra Luma and photogrammetry research groups at the University of Tasmania, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney and the NSW Lands Forest Science team, as well as two high profile forest service providers, Interpine and Indufor Asia Pacific.

This collaborative Australian/New Zealand project brings together experts across a range of disciplines that do not reside collectively in any one institution. Significant progress has been made in the operational adoption of remotely acquired data, in particular LiDAR data, by plantation growers both in Australia and in New Zealand for the assessment of plantations. Two previously funded FWPA projects have helped drive this paradigm shift in company awareness and their decision to integrate this new technology into their planning management systems.

The modelling and data workflow processes developed in these projects utilise data acquired by established, commercial LiDAR sensors. The rapid advances in this technology present numerous, potential applications for improved cost efficiencies and assessment precision for timber plantation growers. New sensors can now generate 3D datasets with densities greater than 100 points/m2 including the Riegl VUX-1 LiDAR scanner (with 10mm survey-grade accuracy) and the Velodyne Lidar for UAV platforms. Datasets acquired by both these new sensors have been acquired for the project and future UAS acquisition campaigns are scheduled for both Tasmanian and NZ study sites.

The overall aim of this project is to develop and evaluate robust, optimal workflow solutions for the processing and analysis of dense point cloud datasets acquired from both LiDAR airborne and multi-rotor UAV systems flown over Pinus radiata plantations. An important component of this process is evaluation of the geometric precision of these dense point cloud datasets in order to determine if the point location accuracies are comparable with estimates derived from the manually measured trees.

The researchers will compare a suite of 3D visualisation software packages for their potential for on-screen individual tree assessment. As part of this process, collaboration with the University of Tasmania’s virtual reality laboratory is being considered. Another objective is to develop reconstructed 3D models of individual trees to estimate log product outturn. Programming techniques developed within the robotics sector will be explored as part of this objective. Finally, by December 2017 the project intends to deliver recommendations to the plantation sector that will identify cost-effective options for the practical utilisation of this technology. Photo: Interpine.

Source: IFA, The Forester, February 2017. Authors: Dr Christine Stone – Leader NSW Forest Science (Dept of Industry –Lands) and Dr Michael Watt –Research Leader Geometrics (SCION)

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NZ log prices hit new record highs

The average price for roundwood logs used in the NZ horticultural sector rose to $92 a tonne in March, up $2 from February's average price and at the highest level since AgriHQ began collecting the data in early 2002, according to AgriHQ's monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and saw millers. Structural log prices also increased, with S3 logs hitting $114 a tonne, the highest since AgriHQ began collecting the data in early 1995, while S1 logs rose to $122 a tonne, the highest since mid-1994.

Record high net migration and low interest rates are putting pressure on the nation's housing market, driving up prices and stoking construction activity. A booming horticulture industry is also spurring investment activity in that sector, helping drive demand for roundwood.

"The NZ domestic log market has maintained its incredible strength in recent weeks," AgriHQ analyst Reece Brick said in his report. "Orders were flowing into sawmills at a constant but rapid rate, mainly underpinned by the ever-present housing construction sector, especially around Auckland. This procurement competition between mills meant the AgriHQ price for the majority of key domestic log grades lifted."

Brick said demand remained firm in the pulp, pruned and roundwood markets. "There’s been little sign of any stagnation in the roundwood trade," he said. "Reports suggest many mills are running at or near their maximum capacity as orders keep coming in, and log supply is too tight to prevent any prices increases."

Brick said there was some concern about whether structural log prices may soften as inventory levels increased at North Island mills heading into winter when construction demand tended to slow.

Meanwhile, export prices for New Zealand logs softened by about $2 a tonne across the range of logs measured by AgriHQ.

"The key factor behind the weaker wharf-gate markets was the sudden increase in shipping rates," Brick said. "Unlike other months, it was not oil prices that created this small surge. Instead, an increase in commodity shipments to China, such as iron ore from Australia, has been the key factor. This has engaged a significant amount of previously idle shipping capacity in the Pacific, shifting the market in shipping companies favour."

Brick said exporters were watching the situation closely to see if the change was short-term, or part of a longer-term trend. "From a domestic mill’s perspective, this softening is a step in the right direction, as it may entice more logs to stay within the NZ market," he said. "That said, a number of logs are still making premiums over domestic trading at the wharf gate, so any change in trading patterns is unlikely to be major for now. Additionally, exported pruned logs tend to be of lower quality than locally traded product, so not all of these logs would be sought after by NZ mills."

Shipping rates to China edged up to US$20/JAS from US$19/JAS last month and US$15.50/JAS a year ago, while rates to South Korea advanced to US$19.10/JAS from US$17.80/JAS last month and US$15.20/JAS a year ago, and rates to India lifted to US$26.30/JAS from US$23.60/JAS last month and US$20.90/JAS a year ago.

Source: Scoop

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High speed gene mapping to improve disease resistance

FWPA-funded research has used newly developed genome sequencing techniques to find trees in large populations of plantation Blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) in Tasmania and Western Australia that have genetic differences (i.e. alleles) that give them resistance to Teratosphaeria leaf disease (TLD).

The genetic sequencing process, Marker-assisted selection (MAS), will accelerate breeding programs by allowing breeders to screen large numbers of trees to identify better parental genotypes for crossing and superior genotypes arising from crosses. Thus reducing the timeframe for identifying superior cultivars and the associated operational costs in not growing inferior material.

The incidence of TLD (a type of fungi) is increasing, particularly in plantations due to trees being of uniform age and having a reduced genetic diversity. As resistance to TLD has moderate to strong genetic component, selecting the trees with the most resistant genes has an important economic advantage for tree breeders and growers.

Using the MAS process, the research team found 69 genetic markers that were significantly associated with TLD resistance, with each marker indicating a small increase in a tree’s resistance to the disease. Trees with more markers were more resistant to the disease. Such results suggest that TLD resistance is complex with many genes contributing to the resistance.

Markers identified in this very successful study can be combined with markers developed for other commercial traits, such as wood quality and growth, to select tree lines that contain favourable alleles for other traits.

A webinar presentation on the report and it findings will be held on 5 April.

See more in the March issue of R&D Works.

Source: FWPA

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Heyfield timber mill to close

Hundreds of Victorian timber jobs are likely to be handed to Tasmania after Premier Daniel Andrews’ last-ditch bid to buy the Heyfield mill backfired. Australian Sustainable Hardwoods says it does not want to sell the mill to the State Government and will instead “recommence” talks with the Tasmanian Government to move its milling operations to that state.

ASH plans to close the mill in September 2018, and its 260 workers were told late last week that they would lose their jobs. Up to 7000 jobs are at risk because the company supplies timber to some of the biggest retailers in Victoria including Bunnings.

ASH will look at moving its componentry from the Heyfield mill to a new operation in Tasmania and is already in discussions with the Hodgman Government. It is understood the company would offer workers in Heyfield the opportunity to continue working in Tasmania, and also wants to continue supplying its Victorian clients.

ASH rejected the state-owned VicForests’ offer of a three-year contract of one year’s timber supply at 80,000 cubic metres and two years at 60,000 cubic metres, as well as a $4.75 million support package from the government. ASH says it needs at least 130,000 cubic metres of saw logs a year to continue operations, which VicForests and environmental groups say is unsustainable.

Mr Andrews yesterday said the government’s offer was “fair and reasonable”. “We believe it is viable, even at those lower volumes,” Mr Andrews told ABC radio.


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NZ & Australia partnering leading satellite trial

New Zealand will join Australia in a world-leading satellite technology test-bed, Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced. The New Zealand and Australian Governments will be partners in a two-year trial of Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS), and an associated programme of trials.

SBAS is expected to improve air navigation, smartphone-based services, asset management and precision agriculture, and is expected to be needed for the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles.

“This is a world-leading trial that will allow us to investigate how New Zealand might benefit from the added precision SBAS adds to current and future global navigation satellite systems such as the widely used Global Positioning System (GPS),” Mr Bridges says.

“Essentially, SBAS is expected to help ready us for technologies that need more precise and reliable positioning data. While current GPS locations are accurate to within 5 to 10 metres, the SBAS test-bed could improve positioning to within as little as 10 centimetres. This means that a vehicle will recognise the road it is travelling on, but also which lane it is in, and its distance from surrounding objects”.

“The test-bed and trials will be the first in the world to utilise next-generation SBAS technology, putting Australasia ahead of other parts of the world, and showing again why New Zealand is an ideal place to test new technologies.”

The New Zealand Government will contribute AU$2 million towards the test-bed and trial programme. The SBAS test-bed will contribute to the initial work programme of the Australia – New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement that has been signed in Queenstown.

Source: Scoop

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Anxious investors want to see price on carbon

Australia should put a price on carbon or risk investors moving their money out of the country, says a group representing more than $1 trillion worth of investment in New Zealand and Australia reports Carbon News.

Australia’s carbon tax and plans for an emissions trading scheme were scrapped in 2013 and replaced with a system in which the Government buys emissions reductions from companies in a reverse auction. The Investor Group on Climate Change – which includes the New Zealand Superannuation Fund among its members - says that institutional investors are moving money out of Australia.

“Institutional investors are recognising that reducing the emissions exposures in their portfolios is increasingly a strategic investment priority,” it says in a submission to a review of the country’s future electricity security.

“While local investors favour local opportunities to increase these allocations, if Australia’s energy markets remain on a higher emissions profile with a poor policy environment, the only alternative to reduce emissions will be to diversify away from this market.

“In recent years, IGCC members have already shifted capital to offshore infrastructure funds and private equity funds. Others are seeking renewable energy and technology exposures through fixed income instruments (green bonds), which provide stable investment settings and high confidence in a lower emissions footprint.”

Confusion over Australia’s climate change policy is also putting off overseas investors, the IGCC says. “Confusion on the Australian approach to climate and energy policy is the typical response presenting a clear indication that Australia’s risk rating on climate change has increase in the minds of international institutional investors.”

The IGCC says that putting a price on carbon again would send the signal investors need. “Market-based responses allow business and the market to respond flexibly and effectively,” it says. “They support greater innovation and competitiveness. They promote the efficient allocation of capital and investment and generate longer-term prosperity.

“Policy responses which are short-term, fixed and finite, or which have involved direct intervention in the market by Government, have usually proven to be less effective in supporting longer-term structural change.” The global green bond market is currently worth more than $100 billion a year.

Source: 2017 Carbon News
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Australian pine log price index data released

The Australian Pine Log Price Index is compiled by KPMG using data provided by Australian softwood growers. The Index documents changes in pine log prices achieved by large scale commercial plantation owners selling common grades of plantation softwood logs to domestic processors. Details for the six-month period ending December 2016 have just been released.

KPMG updates the Index biannually, with the two reporting periods being January to June and July to December. Contributions to the Index are made by major growers who are involved in the growing and management of softwood plantations in southern and eastern Australia.

KPMG acts as the independent Index manager and collects confidential data on log volumes and stumpage values for all sales, including long and short-term contracts and spot transactions, at the end of each reporting period. Quantity information on export saw logs and export pulpwood is also provided.

Click here for a copy of the latest report.

Source: KPMG

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Forest Owners want Vivid Economics Report implemented

The Forest Owners Association says policy makers must decide soon on which option to adopt from the just released Vivid report recommending various scenarios for making New Zealand carbon neutral.

The President of the Forest Owners Association, Peter Clark says the means to achieve a reduction in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions have been well known for a long time.

“It’s quite simple. Our landscape needs to have fewer livestock and more trees. The report from the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment last October stated there are no other immediate options but to put more trees into the ground to soak up agriculture’s greenhouse gasses.”

Peter Clark says it is not up to forest owners or farm foresters to tell the government what ultimate degree of stock reduction there ought to be. “We do know that there are too many dairy cows in an environment which cannot sustain them without a severe destruction of water quality, such as in the Central North Island. This land is far better in trees, which enhance water quality.”

“With a parliamentary cross party accord developing we look forward to seeing what the policy goals will be. We have been anticipating this since New Zealand signed on to the Paris Agreement.”

“But if the afforestation is anywhere near the degree of Vivid’s scenarios it will represent a massive increase in planting trees, up to nearly doubling our plantation forest cover in little more than 30 years.” Peter Clark says.

“If we are to achieve this, we need support. We need the nurseries to escalate production. We need workers to plant the seedlings. We need to be able to develop a local processing industry to cope with the volume.”

Peter Clark says farmers should welcome a forest option on their properties. “Returns are comparable to drystock farming. The price of carbon credits is increasing. Growing trees is another income stream when meat and wool prices are in the doldrums.”

Source: Scoop

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Advanced Timber Manufacturing Scholarship offered

Timber systems to meet new NCC provisions: The ARC Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing (CAMP.H) based at the University of Melbourne together with Forest & Wood Products Australia is offering a PhD scholarship within Melbourne School of Engineering. The Training and Research Centre was awarded AU$4 million in funding by the Australian Research Council to transform the construction industry towards an advanced manufacturing future.

The aim of this project is to investigate design options and develop guidelines for structural and non-structural elements in modern timber framed residential buildings which will lead to the development of Australian design guidelines. Through the ARC Centre’s partnership with Forest & Wood Products Australia the PhD candidate will spend time working closely with multiple companies manufacturing various products that supply the residential timber market.

Deadline: 14th April 2017.

Further information can be found on

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Global softwood lumber trade up 66 percent in 7 years

Global softwood lumber trade increased 12 percent year-over-year to reach a new record high of 121 million m3 in 2016, according to WRI. Since the global financial recession in 2009, there has been a steady climb in international trade of lumber, with shipments over the past seven years having increased as much as 66 percent. While it is no surprise that China is a major driver for the dramatic rise in lumber shipments worldwide over the past seven years, it is interesting to note that the US has actually increased softwood lumber imports more than China.

Lumber market – North America

Lumber exports from British Columbia reached their highest levels since 2006 in 2016. Lumber shipments from the province to the US were up 25% year-over-year, while export volumes to Asia have fallen about eight percent. Shipments to China were up in the 4Q/16 after having reached a six-year low in the 3Q/16. Export volumes to the US in December 2016 accounted for 63% of BC exports, up from 55% two years ago.

Lumber market – Northern Europe

Lumber prices in the Nordic countries have been at historically low levels during most of 2015 and 2016. Although prices increased in both Finland and Sweden during the spring and summer of 2016, this upward trend was short-lived and prices fell during the fall, and in the 4Q/16, were back down to about the same level as in the 4Q/15. During the first ten months of 2016, Finland increased lumber exports by ten percent as compared to the same period in 2015 and the country is on pace to reach a record high in 2016. It is interesting to note that the three biggest export markets for Finnish sawmills are all outside Europe; Egypt, Japan and China.

Lumber market – China

China imported record high volumes of softwood lumber in 2016. Despite relatively pessimistic forecasts for wood demand early in 2016, China’s need for imported wood picked up during the summer and fall with import volumes in the 4Q/16 being up about 20 percent as compared to the 4Q/15, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ). Import values for lumber to China rose during most of 2016 with average prices in December 2016 being about six percent higher than in December 2015. The increases during 2016 came after two years of sharply declining prices.

Lumber market – Japan

Japanese softwood lumber imports in 2016 were the highest they have been in three years as total wood demand in the country picked up 3.6% from 2015. There has been a slow but steady shift in the sourcing of lumber away from North America to Europe and Eastern Russia the past few years. From 2015 to 2016, the North American market share fell from 39% to 35%, while the market share of lumber from Russia and the Nordic countries increased from 39% to 42% year-over-year. Both domestic and import prices (in US dollar terms) have fallen in Japan during the second half of 2016, mostly because of a weaker Yen.

Lumber market – Russia

The weak Ruble continued to be a boon for Russian lumber exporters during 2016, with shipments jumping over ten percent from 2015. During the past three years, export volumes have increased 26% with China being the destination for more than half of the shipments from Russia. China and Japan were the shining lights for Russian lumber exporters in 2016 as they were the only two markets of the top ten markets that imported more lumber in 2016 than in 2015.

Source: Wood Resources International LLC,
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Tenon shareholders back sale of Taupo mill

Tenon shareholders have overwhelmingly backed plans to sell the firm's Taupo wood processing mill in New Zealand to a consortium of US and New Zealand investors and wind up the business.

At a special meeting in Auckland, investors were almost unanimous in their support of measures to sell the Clearwood mill in Taupo to interests led by Tenon's controlling shareholder Rubicon for US$55 million, which would then see two capital returns expected to generate $2.12 per share for investors, followed by a de-listing from the NZX and ultimate liquidation of the business.

"If shareholders approve the resolutions put to the meeting today, there can be no doubt that the strategic review will have delivered considerable value to our shareholders," director Mark Eglinton said in speech notes published to the stock exchange. "More than US$125 million (including dividends) will have been returned to shareholders, which will equate to a total shareholder return in US dollars of approximately 50 percent since we started the strategic review process in 2015."

Last November, shareholders approved the US$100 million sale of the US operations to New York-based buyout firm Blue Wolf Capital, allowing the company to make a US$71 million capital return via a share cancellation. The Rubicon-led purchase of the Clearwood mill in Taupo trumped seven other competing offers.

Tenon started turning a profit in 2014 after more than a decade of losses as the US home-building sector began to recover, supporting demand for its wood mouldings which it largely sold into the world's biggest economy via Home Depot outlets. The company looked at other ways to cash in on the US housing market, before attracting bidders when it ran the ruler over its businesses.

Source: Scoop

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That flamethrower drone might actually be useful

You’ll remember a wee while way back we ran a story where Connecticut police weren’t that happy when a teenager rigged a drone with a flamethrower and took YouTube videos. In fact, the state made efforts to outlaw weaponized drones completely. But a Chinese utility company in Xaingyang thinks differently.

Refuse caught in power lines is a problem everywhere, and in China they’ve come up with an innovative way of dealing with it. The trash is generally floating garbage such as plastic bags; in some cases, trash stuck in power lines can cause outages. Formerly, the Xaingyang power company sent employees up in a cherry-picker to remove trash caught in power lines, a time consuming and sometimes dangerous job.

Now, the company uses modified DJI S1000+ drones to do the job. Apparently, the drones are equipped with a flamethrower device that uses pressurized fire to target the trash, burning it off of the wires effectively. The drone operator stays on the ground, allowing the company to cover more ground safely.

Source: dronelife

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Northern Timber Association in NZ resurrected

The Timber Associations of the past may have vanished but some of the foundations they laid are still supporting the timber industry in New Zealand. Take the example of the Northern Timber Association (NTA) which has largely been “in recess” since around 2000.

While NTA has led a name-only existence since then, the Directors have met annually and in November 2014 decided to consider an alternative pathway forward. The selected new direction was to establish a charitable trust, and in January 2016 the Northern Timber Association Charitable Trust was formally registered as a charity with the former directors of NTA being appointed Trustees.

Armed with the remaining funds of the former NTA, this Trust will provide funding support to approved applicants from the geographical region previously covered by NTA, with some particular emphasis on assisting educational opportunities for those actively working in the timber industry or seeking to do so.

The geographical area is described as being bounded in the North by the North Cape, and in the South by a line drawn east-to-west from Opotiki through Turangi to Taumaranui and then to Awakino in the west. For further information on the application criteria for funding support, contact details or on the trust itself, click here.

Source: NTA

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... the fire truck

A fire-fighter was working on the engine outside the Station, when he noticed a little girl nearby in a little red wagon with little ladders hung off the sides and a garden hose tightly coiled in the middle.

The girl was wearing a firefighter's helmet. The wagon was being pulled by her dog and her cat.

The firefighter walked over to take a closer look.

'That sure is a nice fire truck,' the firefighter said with admiration.

'Thanks,' the girl replied.

The firefighter looked a little closer. The girl had tied the wagon to her dog's collar and to the cat's testicles.

'Little partner,' the firefighter said, 'I don't want to tell you how to run your rig, but if you were to tie that rope around the cat's collar, I think you could go faster. '

The little girl replied thoughtfully, 'You're probably right, but then I wouldn't have a siren.'

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

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
Web page:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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