Friday Offcuts – 15 November 2019

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The “catastrophic" fires that have ripped through NE New South Wales and Queensland this week have dominated news. The country has faced a horror few days mid-week that saw firefighters battle an “unprecedented” number of emergency level fires on multiple fronts. At least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed on Tuesday alone. Wednesday brought some reprieve after Tuesday’s catastrophic fire danger, but there are still dozens of blazes keeping firefighters and residents busy. Yesterday morning, 61 fires were still burning in NSW, while 80 were still alight in Queensland. Unfortunately, conditions are expected to worsen over the coming weekend.

Almost one million hectares of land have been scorched so far across NSW this fire season - almost more than the last three fire seasons combined. In fact, fire-fighters in NSW and Queensland have been battling severe bushfires since early September and we’re only at the start of the fire season. Warm dry conditions over the last three years is really driving the severity of the current bushfires and as predicted earlier in the year by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, the remainder of the season continues to show above normal bushfire potential along the east coast of Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as parts of southern Western Australia and South Australia. Our thoughts are with those fighting the fires and individuals and communities across the country that have been impacted. It’s going to be a long and exhausting summer ahead.

Also in Australia this week, resource managers, remote sensing GIS and mapping specialists, inventory foresters and key technology suppliers have been meeting in Melbourne. As well as Australian companies, this time the annual FIEA technology event has drawn in forestry companies and key tech providers from New Zealand, the USA, Germany, South Africa, Chile, Spain, Indonesia, Japan, Mauritius and Latvia. The annual ForestTECH event has now well and truly established itself on the international forestry calendar.

The second leg of the ForestTECH 2019 series is being run for New Zealand foresters next week with three-half and one-day workshops, a conference and trade exhibitions included as part of the event. A raft of new data collection and inventory tools (including virtual, augmented and mixed reality being applied in forestry applications) were unveiled, discussed and demonstrated this year. Some of the new innovations, results from operational trials and research together with stand-out technologies covered over the last two weeks we’ll be building in to future issues of the monthly newsletter, foresttech.news.

As an extension to work already undertaken on using Virtual Reality technologies for forest inventories, we’ve included some details this week on the hardware and software requirements that are needed to run this new application. The VR Forest Inventory software is now available to the wider industry and links have been supplied in the story this week for those interested in trialing the technology. Also, in the ForestTECH space, DJI drones, manufactured in China and run by many local forestry companies, have finally been hit by the ongoing US-China trade-spat. The U.S. Department of Interior has recently announced that it’s going to be grounding its fleet of DJI drones. Enjoy this week’s read.



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Commitment to training and people top priority

Rosewarne Cable Loggers (RCL) was one of the big winners at the recent 2019 Northland Forestry Awards taking out the UDC Training Company/Contractor of the Year crown. Company health and safety coordinator Kerry Pellegrom says that the win demonstrates RCL’s successful and purposeful commitment to people development through industry training.

“Our aim is to have a multi-skilled workforce as training leads to a higher quality workforce, which is a benefit to both our workers and the forestry industry in general,” she explains. RCL employs its own in-house trainer assessor, Karl Bowman, and training is embedded in everyday workplace activities.

Kerry says that RCL works with its crews to develop training plans for new workers as well as up-skilling existing workers who wish to further their knowledge and practical experience. In 2013 RCL changed the way it handed out their National Certs and certificates to greater acknowledge the achievement: they are now presented at the Safe Start breakfast.

As well as NZQA unit standards the company also assists it crews with Health and Safety training, helping them to develop a system that is not only compliant but easy to understand and user friendly. Kerry says that RCL is innovative in its work practices, adopting new work methods for the safety of its people and the benefit to production.

For example, she says that being the manufacturers of ROB (Remote Operated Bulldozer), RCL has up-skilled not only its own mechanical faller operators but those of other contractors who have purchased the machines. Other training initiatives include RCL foreman and crew leaders participating in leadership courses run by forest owners and over the past two years, three of the company’s foremen have become crew owners and five of its tree fallers have become contract cutters working in the Northland region.

Rosewarne Cable Loggers was formed when Lars and Fiona Rosewarne secured key supplier contract to Carter Holt Harvey in 1997. In 2006 when Carter Holt Harvey put their forest up for sale RCL remained with the new forest owners Hancock Forest Management and Rayonier NZ Ltd and split their crews between them.

RCL is headed by Lars and backed up by his brothers, Colin and Brian who own their own hauler crews. Lars’ son Luke has recently come into the family business, initially as a foreman and this year owning his own swing yarder crew.

“RCL has a strong mix of practical management and business skills coupled with modern leading-edge machinery. As a package, this gives us a high level of performance in all aspects of the harvesting operations,” says Kerry. Currently RCL consist of 12 logging crews, predominantly hauler crews with a couple of fully mechanised ground-based crews.

RCL acknowledges the important contribution that contractors play in the success of their business. Kerry says it was gratifying to see Paton Logging winning the AB Equipment Individual Harvesting Excellence Award and Phillips Logging securing the Wise on Wood Outstanding Environmental Management Trophy at the 2019 Northland Forestry Awards.

Photo: Training Company/Contractor of the Year: from left - Rosewarne trainer assessor Karl Bowman, Alistair Doyle (Northern Regional Manager UDC), and Lars Rosewarne, Photo: Jess Burges Photography Gallery

Source: Business North newspaper, Issue 4, 2019 - Published by Waterford Press



VR software application for forest inventories

Rapid developments in VR (Virtual Reality) technology make it timely to explore the potential of advanced 3D visualisation to support forest inventory. VR offers the potential for field staff to transfer their skills to within a 3D and 1:1 scaled immersive environment and to use VR tools to measure tree dimensions within a point cloud dataset.

The technology has been demonstrated at recent ForestTECH events and further trials towards operational implementation of the tools has just been outlined to inventory foresters at the Australian leg of the ForestTECH 2019 series in Melbourne over the last couple of days.

In this project, Enhanced Forest Inventory Practice using Immersive Visualisation and Measurement of Dense Point Cloud Data (2018-2019), one of the aims has been to develop methods to support VR visualisation and measurement of plot-level point-cloud data in plantation forests.

The image here illustrates an internal view within the VR environment of a user interacting with point cloud data.

In the attached PDF you will see further details and links for the hardware and software requirements to run this VR software application. The application comes with a cruising dictionary (text file) and a sample LiDAR point cloud plot, provided by Interpine Group Ltd. The application will also output a text file formatted to be reminiscent of the format of the PlotSafe table data, containing tree measurement made inside the VR environment.

Full details on the completed project can be accessed here.

The VR Forest Inventory software application is now available for public trial. Please email Winyu Chinthammit ( winyu.chinthammit@utas.edu.au ) to obtain the download link to the VR software.

Source: University of Tasmania
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DJI drones banned by U.S. Government

The U.S. Department of Interior has announced that it would ground its fleet of DJI drones. The decision, which is the result of congressional pressure, is the latest move in the argument over banning government use of technology based solely upon “country of origin”: a direct blow to Chinese manufacturers.

The proposed ban on Chinese-manufactured drones stems from legislation currently under discussion in Congress. As the U.S. trade war with China heats up, legislation has appeared proposing that no drones manufactured in countries deemed “non-cooperative” may be purchased by the U.S. government, citing data security concerns.

The two pieces of legislation proposed are the American Drone Security Act in the Senate, and the Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act in the House. The Senate version would limit all government agencies from purchasing Chinese drone technology, the House version refers only to the Department of Homeland Security.

Chinese-founded DJI, the largest global drone manufacturer, denies strenuously that data gathered by DJI drones is at risk: and has struggled to respond to security concerns which do not refer to any technical standards or specific technology gaps. The legislation represents a move by the U.S. government that the U.S. press largely refers to as “getting the Huwei treatment,” a reference to the blacklisted Chinese telecom company.

In a statement concerning the American Drone Security Act, DJI officials said “banning or restricting the use of drone technology based on where it is made is fear-driven policy not grounded in facts or reality.”

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Source: dronelife.com

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Emissions from tropical rainforests damage underestimated

Greenhouse gas emissions caused by damage to tropical rainforests around the world are being underestimated by a factor of six, according to a new study. Research led by the University of Queensland finds the climate impact of selective logging, outright clearing and fire in tropical rainforests between 2000 and 2013 was underestimated by 6.53bn tonnes of CO2.

The numbers are likely conservative, and also did not include emissions from other woodlands or the massive boreal forests in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Study co-author professor James Watson of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society said: “We have been treating forests as pretty one-dimensional, but we know degradation impacts carbon. The bottom line is that we knew the numbers would be big, but we were shocked at just how big.”

Watson said the numbers used for tropical rainforests were “conservative”, adding, “this is a carbon time bomb and policymakers have to get to grips with this”. When countries declare greenhouse gas emissions from changes in forests, they do not account for the CO2 that forests would have continued to soak up for decades had they not been cleared or damaged. This is a measure known as “forgone removal”.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, also accounted for those emissions up to the year 2050 – a timeframe relevant to the global Paris climate change agreement. The study found 6.53bn tonnes of CO2 for foregone emissions and the impacts of other damage that wasn’t being counted.

In comparison, for the year to March 2019, Australia’s emissions are at 538.9m tonnes CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) – or 0.54bn tonnes of CO2e. Global emissions from burning coal in 2017 were 14.6bn tonnes of CO2.

“Frankly, inside the environment movement there has been a huge push to get a handle on coal-based emissions, and the role of transport and airplanes. That’s important, but the forgotten child has been forests and woodlands,” Watson said.

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Source: The Guardian

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GTFIH releases Statement of Commitment

The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub* (GTFIH) is a group of nine companies invested in the future of the regional forestry and wood fibre sector. GTFIH covers 90% of the region’s forest industry and represents a unique cross-section –growers and processors, both softwood and hardwood located in south east South Australia and south west Victoria.

On 23 September 2019 the GTFIH launched an AU$1 billion sustainable growth plan in which an extra 200 million trees will be planted by 2030, sequestering 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. The plan means the GTFIH will contribute 20% of the national growth target outlined in the Federal Government’s Forests for Future initiative.

The new ‘Green Triangle Forestry Industries Hub Action Agenda’ outlines how the industry will increase its economic output by more than 65% to meet projected local and global demand for wood and fibre products, making it an AU$2.5 billion industry for the region. The Action Agenda can be found via the website www.gtfih.com.au.

The GTFIH will support the Green Triangle with a focus on developing skills for the future ensuring a sustainable local wood fibre supply for construction of homes, furniture and household products, and contribute to South Australia’s and Victoria’s s economy and exports. On 1 November, the GTFIH released its Statement of Commitment which is being shared with the Green Triangle Community to demonstrate how the GTFIH will hold each other to account.

Linda Sewell, Chair of the GTFIH said “Our industry is the legacy of many of our second, third and fourth generation workforce. This legacy is one we want to protect and build upon as we think about what forest industries in the Green Triangle will produce and contribute for decades to come. Our goal is clear: to grow the right trees in the right place, at the right scale, with no waste and to support a world leading local processing and manufacturing industry.”

Tony Pasin, Federal Member for Barker said: “The Green Triangle’s contribution to Australian forestry is significant and it’s a vital part of our Government’s National Forest Industries Plan, which includes establishing and supporting Regional Forestry Hubs like the GTFIH to help boost the growth of our forest industries and create more regional jobs. I welcome the Hub’s Statement of Commitment as a positive step towards this goal,”

Source: GTFIH

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NZ ETS Forestry Regulations open for consultation

The proposed changes to New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Forestry Regulations 2008 are now open for consultation. The Regulations are being updated and will provide the operational detail behind the major changes to the ETS for forestry - for example how averaging accounting will work in practice or how penalties for clear-felling permanent forests will be set.

To help interested stakeholders engage with the proposals three public meetings are being held in Christchurch on 27 November, Rotorua on 9 December and Nelson on 12 December. There’ll be presentations about the proposed Regulations as well as the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the Regulations. You’re welcome to attend and no RSVPs are necessary.

Web resources

MPI has a Forestry Regulations consultation page on the MPI website. Here you will find a detailed Discussion paper outlining the proposals and an online submission form. You can also email your submission to etsforestregs@mpi.govt.nz or post your submission directly to MPI.

Submissions close at 5pm on 20 December, 2019.

Climate Change Bill introduced

Alongside the Regulations consultation, the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill 2019 is progressing through Parliament. The Bill covers the major decisions about changes to the ETS, such as introducing averaging accounting for newly registered forests. If you are interested in submitting about policy changes, there will be an opportunity at the Environment Select Committee.

Important links - ETS Forestry Regulations Consultation page (contains the Discussion paper and link to the online submission form)
- Questions about the Regulations consultation – etsforestrychanges@mpi.govt.nz
- Proposed policy changes in the Bill - ETS Forestry Reviews page - Submissions to Environment Select Committee – watch this page the opening of submissions to the Amendment Bill.

Source: MPI

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Open Letter on Wood First to NZ Government

All New Zealand wood processing and forestry companies are invited to add their name to an Open Letter to Government calling on it to implement its promised ‘Wood First’. The policy requires favourable consideration to building in wood up to 10 storeys for all government buildings. This has been an election policy promise by all 3 coalition parties, and with election year next year we want a show of support from the whole industry to push for the policy to be implemented.

If you would like your company and name added to the signatories to the letter, simply email nikki.corbett@redstagtimber.co.nz with your name, role, company and total number of employees including full time contractors.

For further details on the letter itself, click here

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Competenz gets major funding boost for training

New Zealand’s Industry training organisation (ITO) Competenz has secured a NZ$300,000 grant from the Wood Industry Development and Education (WIDE) Trust, to increase and improve training opportunities across the country’s forestry and wood manufacturing sectors. Competenz CEO Fiona Kingsford said the funding will be applied to three key areas, with delivery across 2020.

“We are delighted to have the WIDE Trust’s backing and will use this funding to grow apprenticeships through one-year scholarships and technical training support grants across both sectors. We have begun work on these already, and we look forward to sharing application details for this financial assistance in early 2020.

“In addition, we will target upskilling, coaching and training of assessors in forestry and wood manufacturing, most likely in partnership with other like-minded organisations. This will be rolled out in the later part of next year,” she said.

The WIDE Trust is a charitable trust formed in 2018. Its focus is on supporting development and education in the forestry and wood industry sectors through the provision of grants and scholarships to New Zealand students and institutions. WIDE Trust Fund Manager Sue Patterson said the Trust is pleased to support Competenz in its bid to address the skills gap in New Zealand.

“The Trust is aware of the shortage of skilled trades people in the forestry and wood sectors and is keen to encourage young people into these industries. We look forward to seeing the proposed initiatives come to fruition,” she said.

Source: Competenz

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Durable properties for radiata outdoor uses

Scion has developed a new biobased treatment technology that can give softwood radiata pine durable properties. The treatment increases the performance of radiata pine timber in outdoor uses including decking, cladding, outdoor furniture and exterior joinery.

Unlike conventional preservative treatments, which generally contain heavy metals, their new stability treatment technology is eco-friendly, using renewables obtained from processing agricultural wastes.

Wood modified with the new treatment has considerable advantages for consumers, industry and the environment. The treatment adds hardness and stability (resistance to shrink/swell) as well as some durability (resistance to fungi) that rival and outperform some popular naturally durable hardwoods.

This technology creates an alternative for customers who do not want threatened tropical hardwoods, or wood treated with heavy metals. It also offers a range of natural wood colours providing options for designers and architects wishing to profile wood in their designs.

The potential to increase export value with this technology is significant. For example, adding treatment before export of New Zealand’s sustainably grown radiata is projected to add 3 to 4 times the value of the timber product. Scion is now working with partners in New Zealand and beyond to bring this technology to commercialisation.

Treatment is applied by soaking and impregnating the wood with patent-pending biobased aqueous formulation. Once heated it forms long molecules (polymers) in the wood to enhance wood stability with benefits to hardness and durability.

New Zealand’s sustainably grown radiata pine is well suited to this process. It readily absorbs the formulation treatment and is processed as long clear lengths of wood that are internationally sought after for appearance timber applications.

New Zealand would benefit from a greater range of sawn timber export products if onshore production of modified radiata was embraced. If a production plant using this new technology were built in New Zealand, it could create up to 20 direct jobs and generate indirect benefits to wood product manufacturers.

Source: scionresearch.com



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Pine needle blight pathogen gets weaker

New Zealanders are used to hearing about plant diseases that arrive here and wreak havoc. But for the first time, a New Zealand study has revealed that one introduced plant pathogen appears to have become weaker since it arrived here 50 years ago – possibly to make sure it doesn’t kill off its host.

The Dothistroma septosporum fungus, which infects pine trees, first appeared in New Zealand in the 1960s. It causes Dothistroma needle blight, one of the worst foliar diseases of pine trees worldwide. Infected trees lose their needles, grow more slowly, and can even die.

In other parts of the world D. septosporum can reproduce sexually, with two individuals mating to produce genetically different offspring. However, only one mating type exists in New Zealand – like having just males or just females – so the fungus reproduces asexually, effectively cloning itself.

Stringent New Zealand biosecurity regulations have helped to ensure that no more introductions of D. septosporum have occurred since the 1960s, so the current pathogen population is essentially a clone originating from that first introduction.

This provides a unique environment for studying its evolution, free from “confounders”, or complicating factors outside the study. Lead author Prof Rosie Bradshaw, from the Bio-Protection Research Centre and based at Massey University’s Manawatū campus, said that while D. septosporum, like all fungi, reproduced rapidly, the pine trees they lived on were slow-growing and long-lived.

“If the fungus is too virulent, it will kill off its host trees and decrease its chances to move to other host trees, similar to people destroying their own houses,” she said. In the study published in the scientific journal Microorganisms, researchers compared four isolates of D. septosporum collected in the 1960s with four isolates collected between 2006 and 2013, and two collected in 1991 and 1994. They then infected one-year-old Pinus radiata seedlings with the different isolates.

The fungal strains collected in the 1960s were much more virulent than the strains from the 1990s or 2000s. “The four isolates collected in the 1960s produced higher levels of the known virulence factor, dothistromin, than any of the isolates collected from the 1990s onwards,” they wrote. “The effect of decade group on dothistromin levels was highly significant.” This was opposite to what the researchers expected to see from isolates that had been in storage for so long.

Researchers also tested how the fungal strains reacted to copper (the main control method in commercial plantations), and found they had not developed resistance.

“Given that in New Zealand pine forests, trees are sprayed with copper fungicide sprays at most every two to three years, and only when certain thresholds of disease symptoms are exceeded, the selection pressure exerted by these antifungal compounds in the forest environment may be minimal compared to frequently sprayed agricultural crops,” co-author Lindsay Bulman, a science leader at Scion and the Bio-Protection Research Centre, said.

Prof Bradshaw said this was all good news for New Zealand foresters. “It means the disease is not as destructive here as it can be elsewhere, or as it was when it first arrived, and also suggests that copper spray is still an effective control.”

The finding also has significant global implications for forest health, suggesting the potential for incursions of some highly virulent clonal forest pathogens to become less virulent over time, regardless of human intervention, Prof Bradshaw said.

The implications for practical resistance breeding are that, in some situations, even low levels of resistance or tolerance might be sufficient to improve the long-term health of trees.

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Carlsberg closer to its paper bottles

The Danish beer company, Carlsberg, has revealed two new recyclable prototypes of the sustainably-sourced wood fibre bottle it hopes to eventually bring to market. One version is lined with a thin film of recycled PET plastic to keep beer from seeping out. The other uses a bio-based lining. The prototypes will be used to test the linings.

For Carlsberg, the innovation is a way to lower its impact on the environment and present consumers with an interesting new option. Fibre bottles are better for the environment than aluminum or glass because they are sourced in a sustainable way, and because the material has a "very low impact on production process," explained Myriam Shingleton, vice president of group development for Carlsberg.

Carlsberg started working on the new type of packaging in 2015, and is still a few years away — at least — from selling the bottle to customers. One reason that it's taking so long to develop an effective paper bottle is because Carlsberg needs to make sure that the new package doesn't alter the taste of its carbonated beverage, and because the types of materials it's seeking, like the bio-based polymer lining, are not commercially available.

To move things forward, Carlsberg has been partnering with packaging experts and other companies. Carlsberg said that Absolut, Coca-Cola and L'Oréal are joining its efforts to develop effective paper packaging. More partners can help drive up mainstream demand for the type of materials it needs.

Shingleton noted that Carlsberg isn't hoping to replace its cans and bottles with the new model. Instead, the company wants to offer its customers another option. Carlsberg is not the only company getting creative about its packaging.

Source: edition.cnn.com

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China’s tree-planting drive could falter

China has planted billions of trees over the past four decades as part of its fight against expanding deserts, mostly in its north. Each year, the country sows’ seedlings over an area nearly the size of Ireland. It is even sharing its desert-control methods with others as part of its massive Belt and Road trade initiative.

The trees have held back China′s deserts. But some scientists worry that the planting could worsen water scarcity. Many of the trees are not native to the regions where they have been planted, and they use a lot of water — despite being placed in areas that are experiencing less rainfall due to global warming.

“The idea is nice, but it’s kind of foolish to plant trees in a desert,” says Troy Sternberg, a geographer at the University of Oxford, UK. Chinese scientists say there are good reasons to plant vegetation in barren areas but that the programme needs to take into account local conditions. They say local and national governments are already planting more shrubs, herbs and other forms of native vegetation that need less water.

The Gobi Desert and similarly arid regions in China are expanding as processes such as overgrazing deplete vegetation on their borders, allowing wind and gravity to erode soil. China’s largest tree-planting drive, the Three-North Shelter Forest Program, also called the Great Green Wall, is designed to halt that encroachment. The government says that it has planted more than 66 billion trees across 13 provinces in the country’s north since the programme began in 1978.

Around the year 2000, deserts across the country were expanding by 10,400 square kilometres a year, says the government. But in 2017, the State Forestry Administration reported that China’s deserts were shrinking by more than 2,400 square kilometres a year.

A 2018 study analysing satellite data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found there has been an increase in forest cover consistent with government statistics, but suggested that changes in logging policy were more important factors than afforestation — planting forests where none had grown before.

In 1999, the Chinese government began planting millions of trees in its Grain for Green Program, intended to repair damaged farmland in key agricultural in the northern Loess Plateau, which is roughly the size of France. “I was there two years ago, and it is indeed amazing that once bare landscapes are now almost fully covered by plants,” says Philippe Ciais, a climate researcher at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences in Gif-sur-Yvette near Paris.

And the afforestation drive is continuing apace: in 2018, the State Forestry Administration announced a target of 30% forest coverage by 2050. At the moment, the coverage is around 22%.

More >>

Source: nature.com

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...and one to end the week on ... Never mess with a Rhino

Seeing is believing in this one. As this rhino attacked this keeper's car at a safari park in Germany. The worker was bruised but not badly injured, the same cannot be said for the car though.







And on that note, enjoy your weekend and we look forward to meeting up with many of our NZ readers in Rotorua next week for the second leg of the annual ForestTECH 2019 series. 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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