Nelson Forests exploring wood processing options

Friday 9 Aug 2019

Nelson Forests Ltd is exploring new ways to meet wood export market demand that will create jobs, increase domestic processing of logs in the Marlborough region, and add value to the Top of the South economy. Nelson Forests and Kaituna Sawmill are owned by Australian company OneFortyOne. OneFortyOne Executive General Manager - New Zealand, Lees Seymour, says the company is exploring opportunities to process more logs on shore and to develop alternative wood chip markets.

Seymour says that Nelson Forests has hired a project manager to do a feasibility study on a number of projects, with one being investigating the building of a facility that would enable the export of wood chips from Port Marlborough. The process involves chipping logs and forest residues, resulting in higher-value woodchip being exported, greater returns to Marlborough forest owners and improved environmental outcomes for the region. To increase volumes available, woodchip from sawmills could be added to the mix, including woodchip produced by the Kaituna Sawmill.

Another project is investigating debarking export saw logs that are not suitable for processing in domestic mills. The de-barking process removes the need for fumigation of whole logs for the export market.

Nelson Forests Ltd and Port Marlborough have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines how the two companies will work together through the feasibility phase and if successful through to implementation. “The relationship we have with Port Marlborough is outstanding and we are very happy to be able to work with such a professional team,” says Seymour.

Rhys Welbourn the CEO of Port Marlborough says he is “delighted to be able to work with Nelson Forests to develop the feasibility and business case – this is good news for the port and good news for Marlborough”.

The Kaituna Sawmill currently processes about 115,000 tonnes of logs per annum and is investigating options to increase the scale of the operation; again this will create jobs, increase domestic processing of logs and add value to the Top of the South economy. Seymour says that “in order to increase sawmill capacity there is the need to develop new woodchip markets, you can’t do one without the other.”

Port Marlborough exports approximately 700,000 tonnes of logs a year at Picton, with the capacity to export a million tonnes. There is an opportunity for other forest owners to supply logs for chip export and woodchip producers to supply woodchip, and it is not limited to the wood from the company’s own estates or Kaituna Sawmill. “If we could do it, it would be helping other forest owners as well, adding more value to the regional export pipeline.”

If the feasibility study is positive, Seymour says the company believes it could start exporting chip by the end of the 2020.

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