Friday Offcuts – 20 October 2023

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We've got plenty for you this week in forest technology news. Only fitting, as local foresters make their plans to head into either Rotorua or Melbourne in November for the annual get- together, the ForestTECH 2023 forest technology series. Firstly, in Australia, ABARES latest stats tell us that Australia’s plantation estate has continued to decline, reducing by more than 28,000 ha with the country’s total plantation area now currently at its lowest since 2003-04. Details and the link to the full report are contained in the story below.

In remote sensing, in a major development for forest biosecurity and conservation, researchers at Scion have unveiled a new automatic forest health monitoring system capable of detecting disease outbreaks in planted forests. The innovative new system combines free imagery sourced from ESA's Sentinel-2 satellites with high- resolution imagery from commercial satellites. It’s been developed in collaboration with Indufor and has already proved effective in identifying and monitoring red needle cast outbreaks on the East Coast of NZ. Links to both Scion’s Digital Twin project and automated forest health monitoring system for red needle cast have been supplied.

Wood markets continue to be challenging. The ANZ Export Log Price Index fell 17.5% in June 2023 (measured in US dollars) falling to its lowest point since the series commenced in January 2017. The combined index value for April trade showed that the average log price was 28.2% lower than the index starting point in January 2017. The drop is largely put down to deteriorating conditions in the Chinese economy, New Zealand’s principal market for its export logs compared to India, where the majority of Australia’s softwood logs are currently being directed.

Forest360’s October NZ log market update paints a similar picture. Concerns around the China’s residential construction sector still continues to impact demand for NZ log exports. It’s estimated that China’s outstanding mortgages now amount to 31% of GDP. As reported, there are significant numbers of houses and apartment’s’ across the country (enough to easily house 1.4 billion people) with no one in them. They’re empty. And as a consequence, new builds and construction activity in NZ’s main log export market, is expected to remain subdued for some time yet.

Finally, at the this week's 2023 ANZIF conference, a series of major awards and honours were presented to outstanding members. The NW Jolly Medal, the highest honour for outstanding service to the forest science profession in Australia, was awarded to Dr Kevin Tolhurst who recently passed away. Rowan Reid, forestry scientist and world renowned agroforester joined Dr Tolhurst in receiving the 2023 N.W Jolly Medal and Tasmania’s Jenna Hammond was awarded the Prince of Wales Award in recognition of her achievement as an outstanding young forest professional. The prestigious Forestry Australia Fellow status was also awarded this year to a record nine forest sector leaders who’ve each made an indelible contribution to forestry. Details can be found in the story below. And that’s it for this week.

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Forestry Australia awards inspiring individuals

The largest ever cohort of forestry experts have been awarded prestigious Forestry Australia Fellow status at a special ceremony at the 2023 ANZIF conference on the Gold Coast.

Forestry Australia CEO Jacquie Martin said the Merit Awards Committee was thrilled with the calibre of forest sector leaders who were nominated for the award.

"This record number of recipients is a sign of the growing strength of Australia’s sustainable forestry sector, and the incredible forest scientists, managers and growers involved."

The 2023 Forestry Australia Fellows are: Bob Gordon, TAS; Dr Kevin Harding, QLD; Dr Lachie McCaw, WA; Dr Michelle Freeman, VIC; Dr Stuart Davey, ACT; Ruth Ryan, VIC; Penny Wells, TAS; Peter Fagg, VIC; Rob de Fegely, NSW.

In addition, the late great Dr Kevin Tolhurst has been awarded the N.W. Jolly Medal. This is the highest honour for outstanding service to the forest science profession in Australia.

Dr Freeman said the award was a timely opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Dr Tolhurst, following his sudden passing this month.

"The loss of Kevin has been felt deeply by many in our community and beyond," Dr Freeman said. "Kevin’s contribution to forest and fire management has been phenomenal, and his knowledge and passion were truly awe- inspiring.

"It speaks to Kevin’s intellect that he was nationally and internationally recognised as an expert in a wide range of areas – fire ecologist, fire scientist, professional forester, lecturer, practitioner, academic and collaborator."

Two other awards were also announced. Forestry scientist and world-renowned agroforester Rowan Reid joined Dr Tolhurst in receiving the 2023 N.W Jolly Medal.

"Rowan is a visionary, and an exceptionally deserved recipient of the highest honour in the forestry profession," Dr Freeman said.

"He has put his knowledge into practice with his family farm in the Otway Ranges, Bambra Agroforestry Farm, a 42-hectare outdoor classroom visited by more than 12,000 farmers, scientists, students and tree lovers."

The Prince of Wales Award was awarded to Jenna Hammond (photo) at the conference. This award is a recognition of the achievement of an outstanding young to mid-career forest professional.

"Tasmania’s Jenna Hammond is a forest steward standout and an exceptionally worthy recipient of the Prince of Wales Award," Dr Freeman said.

Source: Forestry Australia

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Continued decline in Australia’s plantation estate

Australia’s plantation estate is still on a worrying downward trajectory, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics (ABARES) figures. Australia’s total plantation area contracted to 1.716 million hectares in 2021-22 - a reduction of more than 28,000 hectares.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Product Association (AFPA), Natasa Sikman said, “This continued decline in Australia’s plantation estate is extremely concerning and is a reminder that collectively, industry, federal and state governments and other decision and policy makers need to work together to get more timber trees planted for the future.”

“In the same reporting period, there was a small increase in new plantations of 2,300 hectares (hardwood, 1,181 ha and softwood 1119 ha) but these new plantings will not be enough to meet future demand.

“Australia’s national plantation estate has fallen by more than 250,000 hectares from 1.973 million hectares in 2014-15 to 1.716 million hectares in 2021- 22. Australia is currently importing over 6 billion worth of wood products and we already rely on imports for up to 25 per cent of the timber needed to build Australian houses. As the Government looks to build 1.2 million new houses over the next five years, our reliance on imported timber will dramatically increase.

“We know that global demand for timber and wood fibre products is forecast to quadruple by 2050 and it is why we see countries such as the United Kingdom including timber use into their Net-Zero Strategy. The key element of the UK strategy is to increase public demand for sustainably sourced timber through procurement policies and encouraging research into barriers to the uptake of timber. Indeed, recently King Charles visited James Jones and Sons where he discussed the significant benefits of productive forestry a company which partners with Australian based Hyne Timber and XLam.

“AFPA supports the Federal Government’s commitment to plant one billion new production trees and Australia’s forestry sector recognises the work and investment by the Albanese Government, but more is needed to reverse this downward trend in our plantation estate while also increasing the use of timber in the construction sector.

“An increased plantation estate alongside a strong native sector will be critical for Australia to meet its own net zero goals while also contributing to the global climate change fight,” Natasa Sikman concluded.

Source: AFPA

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Automatic forest health monitoring system unveiled

In a major development for forest biosecurity and conservation, researchers at Scion have unveiled an automatic forest health monitoring system capable of detecting disease outbreaks in planted forests. This cutting-edge technology, which uses high-resolution satellite imagery, has recently proven its effectiveness in identifying and monitoring red needle cast outbreaks, raising alarm bells for the East Coast.

The innovative system was developed with collaboration partner Indufor as part of Scion’s remote sensing and GIS team’s mission to map, measure, and monitor the nation's forests. Red needle cast, an unyielding fungal-like disease that has been impacting pine trees in New Zealand since at least 2008, served as the primary case study for this system's development.

The innovative system at its core combines free imagery sourced from ESA's Sentinel-2 satellites with high-resolution imagery from commercial satellites. During the last four years, extensive mapping and analysis of East Coast pine forests have been carried out using the high-resolution images to pinpoint regions impacted by red needle cast disease. These results have undergone verification by collaborating pathologists. These disease-affected regions are essential for training a multi-temporal model, which leverages more frequent but less detailed imagery from Sentinel-2.

This year, the success of the monitoring system has been bittersweet for Scion researchers, who have progressively seen large swaths of East Coast forests change colour from green to brown since March 2023. This illustrates the severity of the disease’s impact as well as providing major validation of the system’s effectiveness in detecting disturbances and large-scale forest health issues.

Scion team lead for remote sensing and GIS, Grant Pearse, says what sets this system apart is its ability to automatically monitor only forest areas by combining the detection routine with the high-resolution forest maps Scion is producing for their Digital Twin project. This dramatically reduces the amount of computation required.

“This targeted approach ensures that alarms are only triggered when there's a real threat to the forest's health, eliminating false positives caused by unrelated changes in the landscape. It’s ability to target specific areas and bypass irrelevant data or landscape disturbances, makes it a very precise and cost-effective monitoring tool.”

While the system has demonstrated its capabilities in monitoring large outbreaks, the team is keen to receive more on-the-ground intelligence from industry sources. These tips from foresters can further enhance the system's accuracy in detecting and responding to forest health threats.

“Ongoing collaboration between scientists and industry players is crucial in enhancing this biosecurity tool's capabilities,” adds Pearse. “Having more accurate data means we’ll need to investigate fewer false positives. Ideally, we are looking for larger areas of trees affected by red needle cast as satellites struggle to detect a few roadside trees, for example.”

The success of this system has raised hopes for its expansion to a national system once all New Zealand’s planted forests have been mapped by Scion’s team. While the focus has primarily been on disease outbreaks, the system has the potential to serve as a general disturbance detector. By targeting specific areas for monitoring, it can effectively identify and respond to various threats that might affect planted forests.

Additionally, the team wants to use the system to study areas within affected forests that remain healthy, potentially due to disease resistance or other factors. This knowledge could provide valuable insights into forest resilience and contribute to more effective forest management strategies.

“The benefit of this monitoring system is that it also provides an opportunity to gather more data so we can learn more and provide even greater support to industry as it looks to recover from the impact of red needle cast or other diseases in the future.” Its asset as a valuable forest protection tool means Scion is now exploring the possibility of integrating this system into New Zealand’s broader biosecurity measures.

Click here to view the automated forest health monitoring system for red needle cast.

A live demonstration of the system will be delivered at the Remote Sensing Cluster Group in a pre-conference workshop the afternoon before the ForestTECH 2023 NZ event runs. This will be held in the Rimu Room at Scion in Rotorua from 1pm on Monday 13 November. The full agenda for the workshop can be viewed here and the programme for the ForestTECH 2023 event running on the 14-15 November, here

Source: Scion

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October 2023 NZ log market update

Opinion: Marcus Musson, Forest360

Kiwibuild may be the best thing we can export to fix the housing crisis in China, lots of hui but not much doey. Since the early 2000’s, China has been flat-out doeying in the residential construction sector with an unfettered, mass urbanization plan that has seen a massive expansion in apartments throughout the country. During the US lead Global Financial Crisis (GFC), China propped up its economy through local government investment in infrastructure which saw Chinese construction companies such as Evergrande, Country Garden, Fantasia and Modern Land grow quickly.

Following their ‘success’, many ‘diversified’ into other investments such as electric cars, energy and higher risk investments fuelled by eye watering levels of domestic and foreign debt. The Bank of America Research team estimate that Chinas outstanding mortgages now amount to 31% of GDP and around 60% of all household assets are in real estate.

Que 2021 and a number of these companies started having a few liquidity issues following Beijing’s introduction of the ‘three red lines’ rule after a realization of over speculation in the residential property market. Unfortunately, this might have been a bit like the current government’s ‘Tough on crime’ policy – too little too late. He Keng, the former deputy head of the statistics bureau has said that, at the extreme, there could now be enough empty homes to house 3 billion people, but more likely, there’s enough to easily house 1.4 billion, which co-incidentally matches the entire population of China. In hindsight, they should have had a bit more hui before all the doey and, unless the entire population wants to move into a new house tomorrow, new builds might stay subdued for a while.

What does this mean for us? Exports to China make up around half of our total NZ harvest level and the majority of what we send there goes into single use construction so it’s a reasonably important market. The old adage that ‘when China sneezes, we get the flu’ comes to mind and unfortunately at the moment the Chinese economy has a really good dose of pneumonia.

There is still underlying demand from China at the level of around 60,000m3 per day, which is around 2,000 truck and trailer loads, but it’s an unknown what that will look like going forward. October at wharf gate prices are down around $5/m3 on September to the $114/m3 level (A grade) which is $12/m3 lower than the 3 year rolling average and $14/m3 under this time last year. With current cost structures for harvesting and cartage, anything under the 3-year average is a bit marginal.

More >>

Source: Forest360

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SnapSTAT - Regional log price index falling 17.5%

IndustryEdge’s Australian and New Zealand Export Log Price Index fell 17.5% in June 2023, measured in US dollars. The weighted average export price was USDFob77.34/m3 for the month. The weighted average New Zealand price fell 13.3%, while the Australian equivalent declined just 0.2% in the demonstrably softening market.

IndustryEdge’s Australian and New Zealand Log Price Index: Jan ’21 – June ’23  (INDEX)

More >>

Source: IndustryEdge

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Remote data collection technologies being profiled

On-site and virtual registrations to this year’s annual ForestTECH 2023 event along with the pre-and post-conference workshops continue to flow in.

As well as a large international contingent of presentations this year on remote sensing, data collection, forest inventory, mechanised planting and automated silviculture, innovations being employed to collect spatial data will be showcased to local forest companies.

What’s being covered?

2023 presentations include;

1. High-value, low-cost satellite imagery options for AU/NZ foresters, Steve Critchlow, Group Managing Director, Critchlow Geospatial

2. The current state of satellite information in forestry – how your data travels the globe, James Saunders, Director R&D, Swift Geospatial, South Africa

3. Australasian designed and built solar-powered stratospheric aircraft. A game-changer for collecting frequent, high-resolution aerial data, Mark Rocket, CEO, Kea Aerospace

This is the first flight of the Kea Atmos Mk1 solar-powered aircraft in March 2023. The 12.5 metre wingspan Kea Atmos Mk1 took flight over Springfield Aerodrome in Canterbury.

In addition to the conference programme and trade exhibitions, a series of pre-and post-conference workshops have been set up for ForestTECH 2023 delegates in both countries. Workshop details can be found here.

Full programme details and further information for the NZ leg of the series (14-15 November) and for the Australian event, one week later (21-22 November) can be found on the event website,

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Battery factory opened to meet 50% electric target

Whilst Scania are not the only truck manufacturer moving towards electrification of their model range, they are one of the leaders.

In fact, they are targeting 50% of their vehicle sales to be battery-powered by 2030. TheDriven reported back in 2022 on Scania’s push into electrification and their new electric models coming out in Europe. With that expansion into battery electric also comes the need to expand and build facilities to enable that growth.

To that end, Scania have just opened a new battery factory in Södertälje (Sweden). The factory will take battery cells produced jointly by Scania and Northvolt in northern Sweden and assemble them into modules and then into battery packs, to be transferred to the assembly line which is located within the same production precinct.

The shift to electrified solutions is the biggest transformation in the history of transport, and 2023 is the year when it truly takes off,” Christian Levin, President and CEO Scania and Traton Group is quoted as saying.

The installed capacity at the factory allows it to handle one battery cell every second, while a battery pack is produced every four minutes. The module line is fully automated with 38 robots doing the work. The pack line is around 50 percent automated, with 34 robots and employees working together. The assembled packs form battery systems tailored for Scania’s modular vehicle manufacturing. At full capacity, the factory will a total of 550 staff.

The assembly plant will work around the clock to supply the chassis production line with the batteries it needs. A typical truck could contain up to 1,000 battery cells formed into modules and packs, which can weigh up to 1200 kg. The battery packs are expected to power the truck they are installed in for around 1.5 million km, which is Scania’s expected lifetime for an ‘average’ truck.

Source: The Driven

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Wood salvage a race against time

Forestry crews are in a race against time to harvest 6500 hectares of trees blown over around Taupō and Tūrangi area in the central North Island during Cyclone Gabrielle. Since the February storm, 40 crews have been picking up about 3.5 million cubic metres of wood that was blown down.

New Zealand Forest Managers general manager John Hura said they were trying to salvage as much wood as possible, before it starts to deteriorate. "The salvage operation is a race against time.

"We've been fortunate to date that the log quality has held up pretty well, but we're going into the hot dry period where we can expect some of the wood to deteriorate quickly," Hura said.

It was hard to get into some areas initially, but access tracks had been created and crews were going full steam ahead, he said. "We've harvested 1.25 million cubic metres of logs. We want to at least do another million before Christmas, leaving a million to do in the first half of next year.

"We're aiming to have the salvage all done by the end of June 2024."

More >>

Source: RNZ

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Accelerated plantings across NSW

A ground-breaking replanting program has seen more than 40-million seedlings planted in New South Wales pine forests since the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires. Almost three years on from the state’s bushfire emergency and the recovery effort in Forestry Corporation’s softwood plantations continues.

As New South Wales prepares for another bushfire season, Forestry Corporation has acknowledged the hard work in forest management that has occurred across the state. The accelerated planting programs undertaken over the past three years have seen extensive replantings in state forests near Tumut, Bombala, Bathurst, Walcha and Grafton.

Pine forests in the state’s south were among the hardest hit areas by bushfire, as more than five million hectares of land was burnt across New South Wales. This included 25 per cent of the state-owned pine plantations. In Tumut, more than 24-million pine seedlings have since been replanted in fire-affected pine forests.

“In Tumut three-quarters of the pine forests impacted by the bushfires have now been replanted” Silviculture Manager Roger Davies said. In the state’s north at Grafton more than 4-million pine trees have been replanted across 4,000 hectares of pine forests, impacted by bushfires.

Source & Photo: Forestry Corporation NSW

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New carbon forestry rules from 3 November

In New Zealand, the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) were established in 2018 to create nationally consistent regulatory conditions for plantation forests. Since the NES-PF, there has been an increase in carbon forest planting, which did not previously face any management requirements.

The new rules mean that carbon forests have to face the same requirements as forests intended for clear-fell harvest. This helps to reduce some, but not all, of the risks posed to the natural environment or rural communities.

Looking forward, carbon foresters must plan out how they will meet environmental requirements for stream crossings, sediment loss from limited harvests, and access track drainage among other things. These requirements already exist for plantation foresters.

The new regulations also enable councils to consider more factors when making rules about forestry in their plans, including location and scale. This could include the impact on the community as a result of the land use change. Councils will be making changes to their District and Regional plans over the next 5 years to enact these powers.

The regulations are now called the National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry (NES-CF). They were previously called the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF). These changes aim to enhance the management of risks and impacts associated with carbon forestry.

More >>


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New Chief Executive for WorkSafe

WorkSafe New Zealand Board Chair Jennifer Kerr has announced the appointment of Steve Haszard as the organisation’s next Chief Executive. Mr Haszard started with WorkSafe on Monday October 9 for a term of up to 18 months.

“Following the decision of current Chief Executive Phil Parkes to move on by the end of 2023 the WorkSafe Board moved quickly on a succession plan to enable an effective transition and to bring certainty of leadership,” says Ms Kerr. “Steve brings strengths in regulatory practice, organisational change, and strategy development and execution. His leadership experience will provide clarity for WorkSafe’s staff and system partners throughout this period of change.

“Steve’s immediate priorities will be to lead WorkSafe through its organisational change process, drive the articulation of our strategy and implement the response to the Strategic Baseline Review.” On October 9 Mr Parkes will move into the role of Strategic Advisor to the Chief Executive to support the transition period and will continue to lead several key projects which underpin WorkSafe’s core regulatory functions until he finishes by the end of 2023.

“Mr Haszard will focus on WorkSafe’s future from day one, and the organisation will continue to benefit from Mr Parkes’ experience, institutional knowledge and strong relationships within the health and safety system. Phil has led WorkSafe through some challenging times including Whakaari and COVID-19 while contributing to healthier and safer outcomes for New Zealanders,” says Ms Kerr.

Source: WorkSafe New Zealand

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New standards to make Australian trucks safer

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) welcomes the announcement by the Australian Government of increased width limits for trucks fitted with the most modern safety technologies. The Safer Freight Vehicles package will see an increase to the overall width limit from 2.50 to 2.55 metres for new trucks fitted with several safety features.

These new features include devices to reduce blind spots, electronic stability control, advanced emergency braking, lane departure warning systems, better reflective markings, and side guards to better protect vulnerable road users.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto OAM said the regulator had long advocated for increased harmonisation of Australian vehicle standards with global standards. “These changes will allow manufacturers to bring their latest designs, fitted with a full suite of safety and environmental technologies, to market in Australia,” Mr Petroccitto said.

“Several years ago, the NHVR identified current width limits as a barrier to the take up of safety technologies in our Vehicle Safety and Environmental Technology Uptake Plan (Vehicle SETUP). “We have been working with the Commonwealth, our partners and industry to explore how we can enact change to align with international standards and promote the highest possible level of safety.

“The changes introduced by the Safer Freight Vehicles package will ensure the safest vehicles are available in Australia - helping to keep drivers, pedestrians and all road users safe.” The NHVR will continue to work with the National Transport Commission and Governments to reflect the new changes in the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

The changes announced also remove dimension barriers that prevented heavy vehicle operators voluntarily fitting optional safety features to their vehicles, such as mirror and camera systems. “Heavy vehicle operators have shown they are proactive in taking up safety features, but sometimes regulations have stood in their way. The changes made today by the Australian Government remove these barriers and support improving road safety.”

These changes will help ensure manufacturers and owners are not disadvantaged by fitting trucks with these road safety technologies.

To learn more about the Safer Freight Vehicles package, click here


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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... facebook

For those of my generation who do not, and cannot, comprehend why Facebook exists: I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.

Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passers by what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later and with whom.

I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day.

I also listen to their conversations, give them the "thumbs up" and tell them I like them. And it works just like Facebook.

I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist.

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. And for the Kiwis', make the most of that extra day off on Monday, Labour Day. 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

John Stulen
Editor, WoodWorks News
PO Box 1230, Rotorua, 3040
Tel: +64 7 921 1381
Mob: +64 27 275 8011

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