Friday Offcuts – 10 July 2020

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From Australia this week we cover a couple of stories that reinforce what we’re all currently experiencing. It’s going to be a rocky road ahead – and for some time into the future - for the forest products industry with the impacts of COVID-19 and the summer bush fires still flowing through. The latest ABARES Insights report labels the immediate outlook as “challenging”. Some of the impacts can also be seen in the Australian Bureau of Statistics new building figures for the end of May that have just been released. There are though several more positive stories out of Australia this week as well, so read on.

On the other side of the Tasman, the forestry vs farming debate heated up again this week. The Labour Party announced that its going to get tough on forestry conversions if it wins the next election in September. They plan on introducing new legislation to revise the National Environment Standards for Plantation Forestry. What’s more, they plan on moving quickly (with their recent track record on speedy legislation and consultation, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise) with the change planned for the first six months of the next term of government. Local Council’s under the new scheme, if in- acted, will be able to determine what classes of land can be used for forestry and any conversion of "highly productive" farmland into forestry will require resource consent. Support understandably has come from most of the farming community with the announcement being widely criticised by the forestry industry. Further coverage on the issue is given below.

In addition to this weekly newsletter, three industry specific newsletters harvesttech.news , foresttech.news and woodtech.news were all sent out this week. Readership has really rocketed during the lockdown with the three monthly tech newsletters now boasting well over 17,000 subscribers. If you aren’t getting a copy each month, remember to sign up. They’re free. For our wood processing readers, the WoodTECH newsletter this month included a series of three short instructional videos that can be used by sawmill production staff and saw-doctors for on-site training and troubleshooting. They’re hosted by Josh Bergen of Precision Machinery who has presented at several recent FIEA wood processing events run in the region. The links to the three videos can be found in the story below.

And finally, in the wood processing space, we’re also looking forward to catching up (well – on-line anyway) with most wood processing and manufacturing operations from throughout Australasia over the next couple of weeks. Buy- in to this new interactive on-line webinar series has been amazing. The WoodTECH 2020 series starts on Monday of next week. During the week we’ll be bringing local companies up to speed on the deployment of robotics and automation into manufacturing operations, case studies on the first two installations of robotics into mills in New Zealand and Australia and we’ll be running a short 60- minute workshop on the use of in-mill dashboards to make much better use of the mountain of machine data that’s being collected in day-to-day operations. Late registrations can still be made on the event website. And on that note, enjoy this week’s read.



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Bushfires and pandemic spell tough road ahead

An easing in residential construction and increased export uncertainty loom as major challenges for Australian forestry and wood processors in the wake of summer’s bushfires and COVID-19, according to an ABARES Insights report released.

The analysis of Effects of bushfires and COVID-19 on the forestry and wood processing sectors has found that so far trade appears to have been relatively unaffected by either the bushfires or COVID-19. However, ABARES’ acting Executive Director Peter Gooday said that many of the impacts may take several months or longer to flow through.

“While the duration of the economic impacts of COVID-19 are uncertain, the bushfires could have lasting effects on domestic log supply for decades to come,” Mr Gooday said “In the medium to long term, the age profile of softwood plantations, particularly in New South Wales, will change significantly as fire-affected areas are replanted.

“In the shorter term, the expected decline in residential dwelling commencements due to COVID-19 related restrictions has fuelled concerns that demand for sawn-wood could decline significantly over the next six months.

“We know that several mills are reducing production and cutting staff, with demand for wood-based panels for interior use also likely to decline.” Potential reductions in domestic demand for wood products are likely to be compounded by an increased supply of logs over the next 12 months, as forest growers salvage fire-affected trees.

At the national level, around 8.3 million hectares of native forests and 130,000 hectares of plantations fell within the extent of the fires. This accounts for about six per cent each of the total native forest area and the total plantation estate.

Mr Gooday said there remained some uncertainty regarding the damage caused by the fires and potential salvageable volumes. “The extent to which fire affected trees can be harvested depends on the severity of the fires and the types of logs,” Mr Gooday said.

“For example, if they are not severely burnt, sawlogs may still be processed by domestic sawmills and pulplogs may still be chipped to produce packaging and industrial paper and paperboard products. With limited opportunities to sell additional logs in the domestic market, growers may look to export markets in the near future.”

Mr Gooday said that based on the latest statistics, trade has remained strong in recent months despite COVID-19 related restrictions. “While values of forest and wood product exports in January and February were low compared to the previous five years, exports recovered in March, and were still within the historic range,” Mr Gooday said.

“However, we may still see impacts on trade in the coming months as global demand for wood products falls and the effects of the bushfires on log supply are realised.” In the coming months, ABARES will undertake a comprehensive spatial survey of plantation growers which should provide a more accurate indication of the potential impacts of the bushfires on long-term log supply.

The analysis of Effects of bushfires and COVID-19 on the forestry and wood processing sectors can be accessed here. A downloadable infographic from the report is also available from the report’s website page.

Source: ABARES

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Boosting NZ’s primary sector by NZ$44b

The NZ Government plans to increase primary sector export earnings by NZ$44 billion over the next decade with a goal of getting 10,000 more New Zealanders working in the sector over the next four years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday released Fit for a Better World Roadmap – Accelerating our Economic Potential, a 10-year plan to unlock greater value from the “force” that is New Zealand’s primary sector.

The plan sets a target of lifting primary sector export earnings to NZ$10b a year by 2030 which would bring in a cumulative NZ$44b more in earnings in a decade. If successful, the plan would almost double the current value of the primary sector.

The plan includes an NZ$11.6 million investment in New Zealand forestry and wood processing to boost economic recovery and grow the sector. Te Uru Rākau will support the forestry and wood processing sector to develop a cohesive sector plan that assists transitioning New Zealand towards a more sustainable economy. This will include:

• Investigating opportunities to improve the profitability and resilience of the sector by co-locating complementary manufacturing facilities;
• Developing opportunities to utilise existing and emerging technology that make better use of wood waste and develop new markets for more sustainable products that help New Zealand meet its carbon reduction obligations.
• Supporting greater use of wood in buildings by developing and growing new domestic and export markets for timber products where the appearance, ease of use and sustainability of wood products is valued. This aligns with the ‘Building for Climate Change’ programme announced this week by MBIE which intends energy efficiency and carbon emissions to become core considerations for building in New Zealand.

This week’s investment is part of the NZ$480 million that Te Uru Rākau is investing over three years for projects to support tree planting, grants to landowners, and grants for partnership projects. Together these will deliver environmental, social, and economic outcomes across the country.

Fit for a Better World Roadmap provides strategic direction across the primary industries. The Roadmap centres on three themes: boosting productivity, sustainability, and jobs. You can read the full plan on the MPI website.

For further coverage on the announcement click here



Source: Te Uru Rākau, Stuff

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Bushfire submission highlights skills requirements

Understanding the specialist skill set needed to fight forest fires and investing in year-round land management and fire prevention activity is the best way to avoid the widescale loss of lives, property and biodiversity experienced last summer according to the Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG).

A submission from the organisation representing over 1,000 professional and scientific forest land managers was tendered as evidence at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (Bushfire) this week on Monday 6 July. Chair of the IFA/AFG’s Forest Fire Management Committee Gary Morgan AM AFSM appeared on behalf of the IFA/AFG and said it was critical the specialist skill set required to fight active forest fires and manage future fire risk was fully understood.

“When you go into a forest fire, the fuels that you have there are different to what we have in buildings, and they're different to the grasslands,” Mr Morgan told the Royal Commission. “We often see aircraft bombing fires, and people think that they put the fires out. They don’t put forest fire out. Forest fire require a lot of work on the ground to remove fuels so that the fire is actually stopped from moving by a mineral earth break. These are often enlarged using backburns to remove fuel between the active fire edge and the constructed fuel break”.

“It's the hard work, which most people do not see, on the ground which is where mineral earthen breaks are constructed to separate the fuels from the ground which stops the fire burning over it. It takes a lot of hard work with hand tools (axes, chainsaws and rakehoes, not water) and forest machinery (e.g. dozers) to construct fuel breaks.”

Mr Morgan said a greater focus on year-round management would ensure those equipped with the skills and resources to fight forest fires could mount timely and informed attacks on any new fronts. “Land managers are not just dealing with the response phase to the firefighting, they're actually dealing with the all year-round maintenance of our forested lands in national parks, State forest, reserves and commercial forests,” Mr Morgan told the Royal Commission.

“They're out there doing the roads and the tracks and they're making sure that there are the helipads that are there. They're building up the knowledge of where they would be able to put out fires. They do their prescribed burnings which reduce fuels. They do burning for ecological purposes and they do the high intensity forest regeneration burning, so they get a better understanding about fires and fire behaviour”.

“All that knowledge builds up over time. So, when the fire does come, whether it be from lightning or other causes, then they're able to go out there and put it out in the briefest possible time using their skills. An urban firefighter with an urban tanker is going to be no good 200 kilometres away from the nearest hydrant with their equipment. You've got to be there with the right equipment, the right personal protective gear, and being able to perform under those arduous conditions”.

“Afterwards, land managers go back and do the rehabilitation and then follow up with regeneration if appropriate. So, they're involved in it the whole way through, and that's a particularly important aspect.”

IFA/AFG President Bob Gordon welcomed the organisation’s opportunity to present to the Royal Commission but stressed the importance of its final recommendations being implemented. “The Royal Commission is a welcome opportunity for stakeholders to have some influence on long overdue improvements to forest fire management in Australia,” Mr Gordon said. “Unfortunately, you can’t minimise the impact of wildfire with words alone and It’s imperative that real action starts being taken now. IFA encourages and supports States and Territories to undertake full implementation of the COAG’s National Bushfire Policy Statement for Forests and Rangelands.

A full copy of IFA/AFG’s submission to the Bushfire Royal Commission can be viewed here

Source: Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers

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C3 ramps up operations in Portland

C3’s Portland log marshalling operation has increased throughput by 300% since the deal was completed despite C3 purchasing equipment and commencing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic

C3, one of Australia’s largest forest products logistics providers and part of the LINX Cargo Care Group of companies, has secured a multi-million-dollar deal to provide log marshalling services in Portland, Victoria. The deal with Pacific Forest Products (Australia) (PFP) sees C3 handling all log marshalling operations at the Port of Portland, having previously handled approximately 40 per cent of the volume exported through the port.

“We’re proud of the work we have already done in the region, and the work we’re about to do,” said Anthony Jones, LINX Cargo Care Group CEO. “We’re committed to the region and have hired an additional 30 people from the area.

In Australia, C3 offers both in-field chipping and cut to length harvest and haulage solutions, along with bulk and containerised export log marshalling and stevedoring services. The log marshalling contract was signed in March, and work commenced just prior to the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown measures. Jones said the importance of the region to C3’s operations and staff, as well the local economy, ensured that the deal could not wait until after the pandemic subsided.

“We made a significant investment in the region despite the economic headwinds and concerns the world was facing,” said Jones. “Portland, as part of the Green Triangle, is vitally important to the economy. This has been proven with an incredible ramp up in operations and productivity since the contract was signed, driven by customer demand and our ability to quickly adapt and cater to those demands.”

Since work commenced, C3 increased throughput in Portland by 300 per cent despite facing significant constraints in relation to COVID-19, such as limitations around securing medical clearances to onboard new staff.

“C3 took over the receivals in the thick of COVID-19 and have done a fantastic job to adapt and manage with the available resources and additional restrictions brought on by the pandemic.” said Andy Bell, Regional Manager Australia, Pacific Forest Products. “The Portland Operation is fast becoming a flagship operation for PFP and as we come out of the other side of COVID-19, we remain focused on continuing to provide our suppliers with great service.”

Source: LINX Cargo Care



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Moves to protect NZ's productive farmland

New Zealand’s Labour MPs say they will require any conversion of highly productive farmland into forestry to have a resource consent to ensure rural communities are well supported during our economic recovery. “While we will continue to plant the right tree in the right place to meet our climate change challenges, our food producing soil will be our number one priority,” Labour Party Forestry spokesperson Stuart Nash said.

“Within the first six months of the next term of Government, we will revise the National Environment Standards for Plantation Forestry to enable councils to once again determine what classes of land can be used for plantation and carbon forests.

“Resource consent would be required for plantation or carbon forests on Land Use Capability Classes 1-5 – often known as elite soils – above a threshold of 50 hectares per farm to allow farmers flexibility in creating small plantations to support environmental goals,” Stuart Nash said.

“While 90 per cent of forestry planting for ETS purpose happens on less productive soils in classes 6-8, we want to ensure all planting happens away from our most valuable soils 1-5,” Labour Party rural communities spokesperson Kieran McAnulty said.

“Forestry is not bad: we need the right tree in the right place, but we also need the right mechanism to ensure this. This move builds on Government work to protect our elite soils – which make up about 14 per cent of our New Zealand soil – including protecting elite Pukekohe soil from urban sprawl”.

“Communities know best about their local sectors and should be able to determine whether forestry should be happening on their productive pastoral land. People always have a choice about who they sell their farms to, and foreign investment has always been part of our landscape – forestry has been two-thirds foreign owned for many decades”.

New Zealand has approximately 12.1 million hectares in farmland and 1.7m in forestry, following a decline in forestry which was at 2m hectares in 2002. Planting the right tree in the right place has seen 22,000 hectares of farmland converted to forestry in 2019, some through the OIO special forestry benefits test, with up to 43,000 hectares estimated to be planted some years to reach the 1 Billion Trees target in 2028. In the past decade, 70,000 hectares of forestry was converted mostly to dairy.

In response, the Forest Owners Association said that it was startled that the new Federated Farmers Meat and Wool Chair was asking the government to restrict the right of farmer members to plant trees or sell their land for forestry. Recently elected Meat and Wool Chair, William Beetham, issued a media release calling what he says is the announced intention of the government to restrict forest planting as a ‘step in the right direction’.

Read more.

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Remsoft adds GM for Asia Pacific

Remsoft has announced the appointment of Corinne Watson as General Manager, Asia Pacific. In her role, she will support customer success on the ground and drive growth within the Australasia region.

A seasoned business leader with a track record in delivering innovative solutions for complex problems, Corinne brings more than 20 years of experience in leveraging software and analytics to fuel efficiency and performance improvements within government, transportation, and logistics industries.

Prior to joining Remsoft, Corinne was General Manager of New Zealand-based CCS Logistics, a company she founded in 2005 and later sold to IAG, the largest insurance company in Australasia.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been successful in extending our customer base and partnerships to Australasia,” said Andrea Feunekes, Remsoft CEO. “Having experienced, on-the-ground leadership will deepen our understanding of client needs and strengthen our ability to meet growing demand for technology solutions that optimize regional forest management planning.”

“Corinne brings new energy, and a mix of innovation and pragmatic problem solving to this role,” said Feunekes. “She’s smart and strategic, having grown her own business, and passionate about helping businesses improve decision-making and drive results through technology.”

Based in New Zealand, Corinne will lead Remsoft sales and account management across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, working with clients and partners to maximize value from Remsoft software and services.

Source: Remsoft



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Saw-shop instructional videos available

This week we’ve included three short instructional videos aimed at sawmilling and wood manufacturing operators, both saw-shop and production staff. They’re part of a series of Tech Tips brought to you by Josh Bergen of Precision Machinery.

The company is well known to wood processing companies in this part of the world with Josh having presented at recent sawmilling and wood manufacturing tech events organised by the Forest Industry Engineering Association. They’re short, to the point and easy to follow.


They cover;

1. How to measure saw guides

2. The selection and use of micrometres in the mill

3. Measurement of saw temperatures in real time

All have been uploaded into the recent issue of WoodTECH.News that was sent out to local mills this week and all three Tech Tip videos can be accessed here. For further information, visit www.pgmr.ca.

Source: Precision Machinery



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Construction policy points to more timber use

New Zealand’s Forest Owners Association says the MBIE announcement of ‘Building for Climate Change’ will mean more timber is used in New Zealand construction.

FOA President Phil Taylor says he’s been waiting three years for the government to announce a wood preference, or wood first policy, for new government buildings, since it was part of the 2017 Labour Party Manifesto.

“Even though the MBIE announcement, just out, doesn’t mention wood at all, the inevitable result of a government attempt to drive down the use of carbon emitting building materials, will mean more wood is used in construction overall. So, it’s potentially better than having ‘wood first’ which would have been restricted to just the government sector.”

The MBIE announcement identifies a change in construction materials as one way to reduce the carbon footprint of New Zealand buildings to combat climate change.

“Iron and concrete are carbon emitters - wood on the other hand locks up carbon for the life of the building,” Phil Taylor says. “We don’t imagine for a moment that every construction in every town and every city will be all wood, but we do expect the ratio of wood use to markedly increase as this policy works through into building codes.,” Phil Taylor says.

Source: Forest Owners Association

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10 years promoting timber benefits

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) WoodSolutions program has reached an exciting milestone, as it celebrates 10 years of providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information about the benefits of timber to the development, design and build sectors.

Initially designed to support FWPA’s mission of increasing demand for and acceptance of timber in construction, the program has proven successful in demystifying timber and educating those involved in building-material specification about how it can be most effectively used. The information provided supports the construction sector when making important decisions around appearance, strength, workability, durability and fire-resistance.

Eileen Newbury, National Program Manager WoodSolutions, reflected on the program’s 10th year anniversary by saying: “The design and build industry has always had thirst for knowledge. Designing and building with timber is our future, not only for the forest and wood products industry, but also for the planet. We will continue to devise and collate resources that inform, inspire and add value to all practitioners in the design and build industry.”

At present, one of the world’s leading timber websites and a seminar and on-line presentations channel, WoodSolutions has helped educate tens of thousands of designers and building professionals on the best use of timber.

Among its impressive and ever-expanding list of resources, the website includes over 50 technical design guides, which enable engineering and design professionals to easily build their knowledge of timber-related requirements in construction and design.

While WoodSolutions initially focused on providing online and written content, over the past 3 years it has broadened the way it delivers information to include a podcast series, called TimberTalks. The very popular episodes are available here.

In addition to all these resources, the launch of WoodSolutions Campus, a collaboration between FWPA and the University of Tasmania’s Centre for Sustainable Architecture with Wood is a demonstration to FWPA’s commitment to provide available-on-demand timber education and skills development opportunities to those who design and build with timber, study related courses or work in Australia’s timber and wood products supply chain.

Eileen said the organisation is incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of industry bodies and technical associations during this past decade. “This support has helped ensure our WoodSolutions program goes from strength to strength. We will continue investing time and energy to create and provide freely available, relevant and accurate resources and source the best speakers, nationally and internationally. It is our mandate to support the design and build sector professionals to realise the full potential of working and building with wood.” Ms Newbury said.

More information can be found at woodSolutions.com.au

Source: FWPA



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Building approval data shows COVID-19 impacts

The number of dwellings approved in Australia fell 16.4 per cent in May, in seasonally adjusted terms, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last week.

"The decline was driven by private sector dwellings excluding houses, which fell 34.9 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms. The number of dwellings approved in apartment buildings fell sharply, to an 11-year low," said Daniel Rossi, Director of Construction Statistics at the ABS. "Meanwhile, private sector houses fell modestly in May, by 4.4 per cent."

"While minor effects of COVID-19 are apparent in the headline Building Approvals results, the fall in apartment approvals was broadly expected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Dwelling approvals fell across all states, in seasonally adjusted terms. Double-digit falls were recorded in Tasmania (23.3 per cent), Victoria (14.3 per cent) and New South Wales (11.3 per cent), while South Australia (9.3 per cent), Western Australia (8.9 per cent) and Queensland (7.4 per cent), also declined.

Approvals for private sector houses fell in Queensland (9.9 per cent), Western Australia (7.9 per cent) and Victoria (3.9 per cent), in seasonally adjusted terms. South Australia bucked the national movement in May, increasing 7.1 per cent, while New South Wales rose slightly (1.0 per cent).

The value of total building approved fell 13.5 per cent in May, in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of residential building fell 17.3 per cent, while non-residential building declined 7.1 per cent.

Further information is available on Building Approvals, Australia Source: the Australian Bureau of Statistics

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Site of new freight hub revealed

A regional freight hub for the lower North Island in New Zealand will be built just northeast of Palmerston North, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has announced. The Government is investing NZ$40 million through the Provincial Growth Fund to designate and buy land and design the planned intermodal freight hub to deal with growing freight volumes in the lower North Island.

“KiwiRail has looked at a range of potential sites around Palmerston North, considering a range of factors. Building the 2.5km long road-rail hub between the airport and Bunnythorpe makes sense,” Shane Jones says. “New Zealand’s freight volumes are forecast to increase by more than 50 per cent in the decades ahead and Manawatu’s role in this is nationally important.

“Palmerston North is already a key logistics and distribution centre for the lower North Island and the regional freight hub will help take that to a new level – attracting more distribution businesses and helping create jobs while reducing congestion from heavy trucks in and around the city.

“The regional freight hub will bring a log yard, a container terminal, warehousing for freight businesses, and KiwiRail’s operations and maintenance facilities, together in one place,” Shane Jones says. “It will make the transfer of domestic and export goods between road and rail safe and easy, and create an ‘inland port’ that will attract more logistics businesses to the area.

“This is the kind of big picture view we need to take across our transport system. It’s not about road versus rail. Innovations like this hub are about making the best of all transport modes, which sets our regions up for economic growth while minimising the impact on our people.” KiwiRail will be seeking public feedback as it finalises the design of the hub, including mitigating environmental effects.

Source: Scoop, Photo: Stuff/Kiwirail

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Tasmanian Forestry Supply and Infrastructure survey

A consultation process is underway to identify challenges experienced by the Tasmanian forestry industry with regards to its supply chains and supporting infrastructure, the impact of recent national and global events, as well as the potential avenues for improvement.

The consultation is being led by the ELogistics Research Group at the University of Tasmania, who have been appointed by the Northern Tasmania Regional Forestry Hub to undertake an assessment of the key challenges and growth opportunities related to forestry supply chains and infrastructure.

The consultation process is being conducted in two stages; a survey followed by stakeholder consultation workshops held in Launceston and Burnie in August this year.

The survey contains 7 questions and takes 5 minutes to complete. The survey can be found here and is accessible until the 14th of July 2020.

This project supports the Commonwealth’s National Forest Industries Plan, Growing a Better Australia – A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth. The information provided will support the development of policies and initiatives to grow the Tasmanian and Australian forestry industry.

Source: University of Tasmania

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Victorian Hardwood Sawmillers Association launched

Victoria’s processors of hardwood timber have formed a new association, the Victorian Hardwood Sawmillers Association (VHSA). Spokesperson Leonard Fenning said their purpose is to fight the Victorian State Government’s decision to shut the native forest industry. You can read a story on the VHSA here.

Source: VAFI, gippslandtimes

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Jobs



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... and one to end the week on ... lest we forget the last 8 weeks

















And on that note, enjoy your weekend. And for our Victorian readers, it's been a tough week, with more to come. Our thoughts are with you. Stay safe. 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: www.fridayoffcuts.com


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

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