Friday Offcuts – 7 July 2017

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If you were a betting person you’d have to have backed this horse. Some 250 jobs were on the line, a mill closure had been set down for August and suggestions had been made that the operation might just pack up and move across to Tasmania. The Labor Government on Monday announced that they’d reached an agreement with Australian Sustainable Hardwoods to buy the Heyfield Timber Mill. Whilst the news is welcome to the workers and to the small community, unfortunately, jobs may still be on the line. At this stage, they’ve indicated that they’re safe only whilst the current negotiations are taking place.

You’d still though have to question the viability of the enterprise. ASH, in its early discussions with the Government were pushing for a higher volume of logs than that being offered. They needed this to remain viable. As we’ve reported, bushfires and the reduction of timber available for harvest from setting aside habitat for the Leadbeater’s possum means that the mill in its current form might still struggle going forward. The industry is really looking to long-term resource certainty from the Victorian Government. As a punter, you’d bet that this won’t be the end of this particular story.

This week we have a bunch of stories around innovation and new technology that will get you thinking. Yesterday the America’s cup, sailors, team and supporters were paraded around Auckland's Viaduct Harbour in front of an estimated 80,000 fans. As an Australian reader, you’ll be saying right now – who cares – just bring on Origin game three. As we covered last week, the technology developed though to bring this particular cup home is something pretty special. Part of the kit was a drone specially designed to give the NZ team a significant edge (it was used in fact to improve the catamaran’s hydrofoils) when they were designing their craft. You can check out the story below.

OK, enough of the sailing. More aligned to forestry is the seeding of more remote or steeper terrain - also with drones. The company behind the new system claims its quick, 10 times the rate of hand planting and it can be done at 20 per cent of the cost. What’s more, it’s already been through its paces in NSW rehabilitating land once used by coal mines.

LiDAR has been a focus for most forestry companies and we’ve seen rapid improvements in the collection of forest inventory data using this technology for a few years now. Updates are regularly being supplied to ForestTECH news( subscribers (with the latest issue being sent out to local resource managers and inventory foresters yesterday). We’ve got a story this week on a specially designed laser system that’s based on digital holography. A new method has just been developed that gives LiDAR an enhanced ability to see through and behind foliage or a tree canopy. Researchers from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. presented this work for the first time at a Congress last week in San Francisco, California. Details are contained below. Enjoy this week’s read.

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Victorian Government agrees to buy hardwood mill

The Victorian government has signed an agreement to buy the Heyfield timber mill, one month after its operator, Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, rejected a AU$40m offer from the government to buy it. The agriculture minister, Jaala Pulford, announced the deal on Monday, and said all 250 jobs at the mill would be safe while negotiations took place.

Last month the Hermal Group, owner of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, rejected the government offer saying “no fair commercial offer has been forthcoming”.It said it would begin shutting down the mill in August, with job losses to follow.

The sawmill is the largest employer in Heyfield, a town of about 2,000 people in Gippsland, 200km east of Melbourne. “Importantly, the Hermal Group has confirmed there will be no job losses while contractual negotiations are finalised,” Pulford said on Monday.

In March, the Hermal Group announced the mill would close, saying the government had reduced its sawlog quota to a point where it was no longer viable. The sawmill relies on hardwood from Victoria’s state-owned mountain ash forests, which are home to the endangered Leadbeater’s possum. The forests have also been devastated by successive bushfires, reducing both the Leadbeater’s possum habitat and timber available for harvest. In response, the state’s forestry manager, VicForests, reduced the number of forestry coupes available for harvesting.

It cut Australian Sustainable Hardwoods’ sawlog quota from 150,000 cubic metres a year to 80,000 cubic metres this year and 60,000 cubic metres for the next two years. Australian Sustainable Hardwoods said it needed to process at least 120,000 cubic metres a year to remain viable. Without intervention the mill would close by mid-2018.

Pulford said the Victorian government’s purchase of the mill was subject to due diligence checks. The Nationals MP Tim Bull, whose Gippsland East electorate includes Heyfield, said the announcement that no jobs would be lost in transition to the new ownership structure was no comfort to workers. Bull said workers had been told job losses would be linked to the dwindling timber supply, even if the mill remained open.

Source: the

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A new foliage penetrating LiDAR system

Shortly after lasers were first developed in the 1960s, LiDAR—whose name originated as a combination of "light" and "radar"—capitalized on the newly unique precision they offered for measuring both time and distance.

LiDAR quickly became the standard method for (3-D) land surveys and is now used in a multitude of sensing applications, such as self-driving cars. By scanning areas of land with lasers, often from airplanes, LiDAR's travel-time measurements for light reflected back from the scanned area provide the distances that make up a resulting high-resolution topography.

As laser and electronic technology evolved, LiDAR's abilities adapted to overcome several limitations and obscuring effects unavoidably produced by real environments, like dynamic weather patterns.

With a specially designed laser system and a new methodology based on gated digital holography, research from the Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C., now provides a method to give LiDAR an enhanced ability to see through otherwise obscuring elements of terrain like foliage or netting.

Paul Lebow, from the Naval Research Laboratory, will present this work at The Optical Society's Imaging and Applied Optics Congress, held 26 -29 June, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

"This was an attempt to address one of the problems with something called foliage-penetrating LiDAR," Lebow said. "You can actually use it to detect three-dimensional images behind an obscuration such as a tree canopy, for instance, in a disaster relief situation where you wanted to find people in trouble. You can illuminate using LiDAR through the leaves and get enough light coming back through to be able to recreate a three-dimensional, topographic view of what's going on beneath."

Until now, LiDAR measurements of surfaces hidden behind foliage have been difficult to acquire. A majority of the original light in these cases gets thrown away, as far as the camera detecting light from the ground is concerned, since the light hitting the leaves never reaches the ground in the first place. Moreover, the light blocked, and therefore reflected, before getting to the ground often overpowers the signal hitting the camera and hides the fainter signal that does make it to the ground and back.

"We have been working with a process called optical phase conjugation for quite some time and it dawned on us that we might be able to use that process to essentially project a laser beam through the openings of the leaves and be able to see through a partial obscuration," Lebow said. "It was something that until maybe the last five years was not viable just because the technology wasn't really there.

The stuff we had done about 20 years ago involved using a nonlinear optical material and was a difficult process. Now everything can be done using digital holography and computer generated holograms, which is what we do." This new system uses a specially designed laser that alone took a year and a half to develop, but was a necessary component according to Lebow and his colleague, Abbie Watnik, who is also at the Naval Research Laboratory and another of the work's authors. Read more.

Photo: Specially designed laser system and a new methodology based on gated digital holography enable LiDAR to see through obscuring elements like foliage and netting. Credit: US Naval Research Laboratory


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Rubicon buys out ArborGen partners

Rubicon has taken full ownership of forestry biotech firm ArborGen, buying out its partners for US$29 million, having raised money from a new US investor to help fund the deal.

The NZX-listed forestry firm will pay International Paper and WestRock a total of US$14 million in the first tranche of the deal, followed by a US$5 million payment on Dec. 31 and US$10 million on June 30 next year, it said in a statement.

The deal follows Rubicon's scaled back exposure to the Taupo-based wood processor Tenon, where the local business was bought by a consortium including Rubicon, albeit with a smaller stake.

In its first-half earnings review, Rubicon said one of its immediate priorities was to agree with its fellow ArborGen shareholders "the appropriate funding and value extraction plan forward", with the unit seen generating more than US$40 million of annual revenue in the current financial year as rapid growth in Brazil offset a largely flat US market, and broke even on an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation basis.

Rubicon and its partners had planned to float ArborGen, raising between US$82 million and US$92 million, but that shelved in 2011, with the owners saying market conditions on Wall Street at the time were too weak.

Source: Scoop

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Drones - NZ’s America’s cup team secret weapon

As we reported last week, some pretty innovative technology and sailing smarts brought the America’s cup back to New Zealand. The parade for the team was held on Thursday in Auckland. For those in the forestry industry – or for all of you who dabble in drones - you’ll be interested to hear that the crushing of Oracle Team USA in the Cup final in Bermuda was assisted by a drone.

The New Zealand Herald reports that the team signed up professional kite surfer Nick Bowers as a performance analyst about 2 years ago. Bowers was not only an extreme athlete, but a drone designer – and it was his use of the drone that gave the team a significant edge in designing their craft.

Bowers was working as a video production engineer in Wisconsin, specializing in drone footage, when he was recruited by the team to run their entire video program – including drones. He designed a drone fast enough to keep up with the boat and able to fly right alongside. The footage he obtained allowed Team New Zealand to improve the catamaran’s hydrofoils, displaying their function in a way that no other video could.

Drones have been used before to analyze performance in boat races, but most are unable to keep up with the boat, deal with strong winds, or to fly low enough over the water to get a view of the boat from underneath. Bowers has built a drone that can go from 0-85 kmph (about 0-52 in mph) in a second. It can withstand significant wind. And with a special wide-angle lens he can achieve clean, professional footage.

It isn’t only the drone that is specialized for the purpose. Bowers has developed his flight skills to deal with winds that would ground most pilots and to get the right angles of a boat on the water. He flies less than a meter off of the water, able to stay remarkably close to the boat while avoiding a collision despite the boat’s speed.

Bowers couldn’t film the final because of Bermuda’s drones laws. Instead, he’s headed back to Wisconsin to build more drones.


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Latest quarterly Timber Market Survey report released

March quarter 2017 price movements in Australia for untreated structural softwood products MGP10 and MGP12 ranged between - 0.2% and 1.0%. Price movements for treated structural F7 products were more stable, remaining within +/- 0.2%.

Outdoor treated products showed mixed results, with treated decking products recording upward price movements of around 1.5%, and treated sleeper products recording downward price movements of around 0.5%.

Price movements for panel products were generally upwards, with only a small number of products showing negative price movements. Particleboard products recorded the highest nominal price growth over the period, with price movements of around 1.0%. Plywood and MDF products showed marginal price movements within +/- 0.5%.

Prices for LVL and I-joist/I-beam engineered wood products were largely stable over the March quarter. LVL product prices showed marginal price movements ranging between - 0.1% and - 0.5%, while I- joist/I-beam product prices remained at around the same nominal price point as in the previous quarter.

The TMS collects price data through quarterly surveys of a representative sample of timber market participants in eastern Australia. All quarterly TMS reports contain price movement information for softwood timber, panel and engineered wood products. The June and December quarter editions also include price movement information for hardwood timber products surveyed over a six-month period.

The TMS is prepared by Indufor and funded by nine major Australian forestry organisations: Forestry Corporation of NSW; VicForests; Hancock Victorian Plantations; HQPlantations; OneFortyOne Plantations; Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; Green Triangle Forest Products; AKD Softwoods; and Forestry Tasmania.

Further information and the latest Timber Market Survey report is available at:

Source: Indufor Asia Pacific (Australia)

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Sawn Timber & Log export report released

The latest export reports for New Zealand sawn timber and logs have been published and are available from Champion Freight’s website. Please click here to view and download.

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Steepland harvesting demo heading South

As part of the HarvestTECH 2017 event run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association a couple of weeks ago, Forest Growers Research (FGR) ran a very successful field tour on Monday 19 June for delegates to a site in the central North Island. Some of the in-field action from the one-day tour was covered by TV1. If you haven't already, you can check out the details and some of the equipment that was on display.

Because of the demand and as the event was booked out well in advance, FGR (formerly Future Forests Research) has organised another field demonstration of steepland harvesting equipment at the harvesting operation of Wood Contracting Nelson Ltd in Moutere Forest, Nelson, New Zealand on Thursday 3 August, 2017.

As with HarvestTECH 2017, a wide array of innovative products and equipment will be demonstrated that has been developed by equipment manufacturers and logging contractors in conjunction with Forest Growers Research and the Primary Growth Partnership.

Equipment to be demonstrated has been designed to improve both safety and productivity on steeper slopes, including:

• Teleoperated feller buncher and teleoperated mobile tail hold (Applied Technology Ltd)
• Skyshifter twin winch tail hold carriage (Awdon Technologies Ltd)
• New model CutoverCam hauler vision system (Applied Technology Ltd) • Alpine Grapple Carriage (Logpro Ltd)
• HarvestNAV machine navigation system (Margules Groome Ltd)

If you would like to attend this field demonstration, click on the following link to register.

For all HarvestTECH 2017 delegates, details on how you can download presentations given during the course of the two days that you were in Rotorua were sent out to all of you last week. A number of photos taken during the event have also been uploaded to the website,

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7 ways to stay safe tree falling

Want to know how to stay injury-free? Who better to ask than a bunch of people who’ve done just that for many decades. Seven Canadian tree-fallers have offered their seven top tips for staying injury-free.

These guys really know what they’re talking about – together they have 280 years’ experience falling trees. Their stories were collected by, which has agreed to share them with Safetree in a poster and booklet.

Download the poster (PDF 4.7MB)

Download the booklet (PDF 5.8MB)

While Canada’s not New Zealand, these fallers have a track record that makes them worth listening to. Print out the poster and booklet and put them around your sites. They could make a great topic for discussion at your next safety meeting. Try reading out a couple of the stories and see what people think about them.

Or see what you think of their seven top tips for staying injury-free:

1. Stay focused, head in the game. If anything is o¬ff, stop and walk away
2. Plan well; site assessment, tree by tree
3. Always keep your eye on the tree; have an escape route; and a Plan B
4. Learn the basics and learn them well
5. Only use good equipment; sharp chain, no worn out bars
6. Ask for a second opinion; use machine assist
7. Be fit for work; well rested, clear mind, sober, good nutrition and hydration.


Forestry Tasmania's sale of pulpwood plantations

The Tasmanian State Government and the state-owned company formerly known as Forestry Tasmania are remaining tight-lipped on the sale of the state’s public forest plantations reports The Mercury. As of 1 July, Forestry Tasmania became known as Sustainable Timber Tasmania under a State Government restructure.

The restructure was part of the Liberals’ promise to make the entity sustainable and free of public subsidies, and a key element was the sale of Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s pulpwood plantations. The sale of the plantations was flagged by then resources minister Paul Harriss in April 2015 as a way of keeping Forestry Tasmania solvent without continued public subsidies.

In October, Resources Minister Guy Barnett said only the pulpwood plantations would be sold under a further tweaking of the restructure. In State Budget Estimates last month, Mr Barnett said final bids for the plantation sale had been received and were being considered. Mr Barnett said this week that he hoped to have news on the plantation sale “in the near future” but would not give a date for the process to be finalised.

Source: The Mercury

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Remotely planting nearly 100,000 trees a day

Deforestation and forest degradation make up 17 per cent of the world's carbon emissions — more than the entire world's transportation sector, according to the United Nations. Burned or cleared forests release their stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and land restoration experts say technology must play a big part in addressing the problem.

Dr Susan Graham has helped build a drone system that can scan the land, identify ideal places to grow trees, and then fire germinated seeds into the soil. Drones can plant in areas previously impossible to reach, like steep hills.

The planet loses 15 billion trees every year and much of it is cleared for farmland to feed the world's booming population, but it's feared this could be exacerbating climate change. "Although we plant about 9 billion trees every year, that leaves a net loss of 6 billion trees," Dr Graham said. "The rate of replanting is just too slow."

Now based in Oxford in the United Kingdom, she is working with an international team including an ex-NASA engineer who worked on the search for life on Mars. Their company, BioCarbon Engineering, is backed by one of the world's largest drone makers. Bulldozers and tractors can clear land rapidly — and replanting efforts haven't caught up. Dr Graham is hoping to change that with a system that plants at "10 times the rate of hand planting and at 20 per cent of the cost", she said.

BioCarbon Engineering's CEO Lauren Fletcher said the drone could currently carry 150 seed pods at a time. "We're firing at one a second, which means a pair of operators will be able to plant nearly 100,000 trees per day — 60 teams like this will get us to a billion trees a year," he said.

Mr Fletcher worked at NASA for two decades on projects including the International Space Station and with robotic technologies used in the exploration of Mars. "I worked specifically on the intersection between biology and engineering on the life-sciences programs on the Space Station, so this has given me a lot of knowledge of how you take smart, cutting-edge engineering systems and apply it to a biological system," he said.

The firing drone follows a pre-set planting pattern determined from an algorithm, which uses information from a separate scanning drone. To work out the best possible place to plant, the team uses the drone to map the area, looking to create a 3D model of the land. "The data gets downloaded and we've developed the algorithms that use that data to make smart decisions about exactly where to plant and how to manage that ecosystem," Dr Graham said.

The team has tested its drone technology around the world and was recently in Dungog, in the New South Wales Hunter region. This involved trialling their seed-spreading drone to rehabilitate land once used by coal mines. This drone — while not as efficient as the firing drone — spreads seeds over a far wider area.

"Coal mines have an enormous amount of land that they need to restore, both on the active mine site, once they've recreated a land form, as well as their offset areas ... around the mines," Dr Graham said. "We've had quite a lot of interest in Australia and they see such a benefit in terms of saving cost, saving time, and being able to do a better job of restoring their ecosystems, and getting data to actually show what they've done."

"The way we plant trees today is very similar to how we planted them hundreds of years ago," she said. "So there's major room for innovation in increasing the success rate of tree planting and also in improving the maintenance and monitoring of the restored land."

Source: ABC News

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Australian Paper announces major feasibility study

Victoria’s largest base load generator of renewable energy will be investigating a major new energy from waste project in the Latrobe Valley. Australian Paper has received AU$5 million in combined financial backing from the Federal and Victorian Governments for a full-scale feasibility study into a base load energy from waste plant at its Maryvale paper mill.

“Australian Paper greatly appreciates the support of the Federal and Victorian Governments for this major study. Generating energy from municipal waste at Maryvale would help address SE Melbourne’s long-term landfill issues, and also create valuable new construction and manufacturing jobs in the Latrobe Valley,” said Mr Peter Williams, Chief Operating Officer Australian Paper.

Australian Paper will be contributing AU$2.5 million to the feasibility study which will cost a total of AU$7.5 million and is expected to take 12 months to complete. If the project proceeds to construction it could divert approximately 650,000 tonnes of waste from landfill in SE Melbourne and Gippsland, converting it into base load energy.

“With a capital cost of around AU$600 million the project would support up to 800 jobs in the construction phase and more than 40 jobs ongoing. This project would be a major boost for regional paper manufacturing and we are excited to be investigating this important opportunity,” said Mr Williams. Photo: Australian Paper

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New Forests announces management changes

New Forests announced this week changes to its management structure. Director of Operations and Co-Portfolio Manager of the three Australia New Zealand Forest Funds, Keith Lamb has agreed to take on a Non-Executive Directorship role with several New Forests managed companies.

Mr Lamb joined New Forests with its founder David Brand, having previously served with Hancock Natural Resources Group Australia in the carbon program. While at New Forests, Keith has overseen a large and rapid growth in assets under management in the company’s Australia and New Zealand operations, from approximately AUD 50 million in 2005 to more than AUD 2.5 billion of operational assets today.

New Forests’ CEO David Brand said today, “Keith was here from the start of the business and has made a significant contribution to its success today as a leading investment firm in the Australia and New Zealand forest sector. His early work was especially important in providing a platform for growth and expansion of the company, and his leadership in the forestry sector has been pivotal in rebuilding confidence in the period since the Global Financial Crisis.

Source: New Forests

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Solution sought for treated timber waste

Scion is to investigate the feasibility of remediating treated timber with NZ government funding of NZ$163,000, Associate Environment Minister Scott Simpson has announced.

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a preservative for timber that has been commonly used in New Zealand since the 1950s. However, CCA-treated timber becomes a hazardous waste material when sent to landfill, that can leach arsenic into the ground.

“To date, there have been no practical remediation options available to this problem, so I am delighted that Scion believes they may have one and that I am able to support them in testing its feasibility,” Mr Simpson says.

“This study could provide New Zealand with an opportunity to divert CCA-treated timber from landfills and offer an environmentally friendly solution reusing both the wood fibre and the extracted metals.”

A 2013 report suggested that currently between 12,000 and 42,000 tonnes of treated timber could be sent to landfills nationally per annum, not including the significant estimated nationwide contribution of rural waste. The grant, provided through the Waste Minimisation Fund, will fund a two-year project, based in Rotorua.

Source: Scoop

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Chinese timber truck used by North Korea

Now for one out of left field. Reuters and other media have reported that North Korea appeared to use a Chinese truck originally sold for hauling timber to transport and erect a ballistic missile that was successfully launched on Tuesday, highlighting the challenge of enforcing sanctions to curb its weapons program.

North Korea state television showed a large truck painted in military camouflage carrying the missile. It was identical to one a U.N. sanctions panel has said was "most likely" converted from a Chinese timber truck.

Since 2006, U.N. sanctions have banned the shipment of military hardware to North Korea. But control of equipment and vehicles that have "dual-use" military and civilian applications has been far less stringent.

The vehicle was imported from China and declared for civilian use by the North Korean foreign ministry, according to a 2013 report by the U.N. panel. Tuesday's launch was the first time the truck had been seen in a military field operation in pictures published in state media.


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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on .... 160 years old!

A plumber (the Royalty of all Trades) dies in a car accident on his 50th birthday and finds himself at the Pearly Gates.

A brass band is playing, the angels are singing, there is a crowd cheering, and everyone wants to shake his hand.

Saint Peter himself runs over, apologizes for not greeting him personally at the Pearly Gates, shakes his hand, and says, "Congratulations son, we've been waiting a long time for you."

"Totally confused and a little embarrassed, the plumber says, "Saint Peter, I tried to lead a God-fearing life, but congratulations for what? I honestly don't remember doing anything special. Is it because I'm a plumber?"

"Congratulations for what?" says Saint Peter, totally amazed at the man's modesty. "We're celebrating the fact that you lived to be 160 years old! God himself wants to see you!"

The plumber is awestruck and says "Saint Peter, but I only lived to be 50."

"That's simply impossible," says Saint Peter, "We've added up all your time sheets since you have been in business."

Ok, one more. A Geordie and an American aid worker are helping out in Africa.

Yank says, "You from round here, buddy?"

"No," he replies, " Newcastle "

"What State's that in?" asks the Yank.

"Pretty much the same as this place!"

And on that note, enjoy your weekend - and go the AB's!!!! 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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