Friday Offcuts – 27 October 2023

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In environmental news this week, CLT Toolbox, a Melbourne- based software startup that we covered in a recent story, has just secured its first AU$1.5M in seed funding to help the company accelerate its uptake and use of mass timber education tools by structural engineers to accelerate the construction industry’s decarbonisation efforts. And out of BC, climate change has also been just the spur needed to remove single use plastic tree seedling wraps that have been used out in the forest this planting season. The plan is to ditch them next year and by 2030, it’s estimated that around 18 million single-use plastic tree seedling wraps will have been eliminated from forest planting operations within the province.

From Australia this week, Forestry Australia has just released another three new and highly topical two-page Position Statements (eight have now been produced) to share its evidence-based positions on important issues relating to the management of forests across Australia. The Statements cover Conservation of Threatened Species, Forest Carbon Markets and Thinning of Native Forests. Like the first five, they’re readily available, balanced, science- based and have been designed to help counter the growing misinformation and disinformation out there. And news that Ian Tyson, Chief Executive Officer of Timberlink Australia & New Zealand, who’s led the development of the company’s NeXTimber® mass timber manufacturing and Timberlink’s wood-composite manufacturing products business, will be retiring at the end of this year.

Closure of native forest operations across in Australia also continues to dominate headlines. Timber NSW is still on the front foot trying to counter the ever-growing, ‘misinformed’ and ‘misguided’ protests being made against native forestry (that contributes AU$2.9 billion to the NSW economy every year) by NSW environmentalists. The NSW timber industry has launched its own campaign to try and address some of these concerns. More than 100 timber workers have rallied this week on the NSW north coast where a local council was considering a call to phase out native forest logging on public land. And in Victoria, recent repeated fires and the closure of native forest management and harvesting activities is also causing concern with Victoria's Ash forests being described as being on the brink of an ecosystem collapse.

Finally, the earth certainly moved recently as a storm hit Scotland and northern parts of England. A dog walker late last week filmed winds lifting a forest floor as storm Babet thrashed into Scotland. With the shallow rooting, torrential rain and strong winds, it looks like the earth is literally breathing. Check out the YouTube clip in the last story this week. That’s it for this week ... and good luck to the AB’s in the World Cup final on Sunday.

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Concern for Gippsland Ash forests

Victoria's Ash forests are on the brink of ecosystem collapse following a poor flowering season and repeated fire events, alerting the state’s leading forest flowering and seeding expert.

Seed collection services are currently provided by VicForests and may be lost following the native timber sector shutdown.

“What this means for Victoria’s Ash forests is that they are at serious risk of ecosystem collapse, because they will not have the capacity to naturally regenerate themselves come the next fire season,” said Ecologist Owen Bassett.

“In addition, there is at least 143,000ha of fire-killed forest which is now regenerating, but extremely vulnerable to another fire event. If it burns it will be lost forever because it doesn’t have the ability to reseed itself and we just don’t have the seed to resow it,” said Mr Bassett.

Forestry Australia president, Dr Michelle Freeman said that the closure of native forest management and harvesting activities has increased the risk. “In the face of these threats, active forest management is vital to build resilience against catastrophic fire and restore and maintain forest ecosystems,” Dr Freeman said. 

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Source: Gippsland Times
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War on pine needle disease in NZ's planted forests

New research and smart technologies are offering hope and solutions to foresters waging war against a silent enemy in our pine plantations.

Red needle cast (RNC), an unyielding fungal-like disease, has silently been wreaking havoc on pine trees in New Zealand since at least 2008. Infections cause pine needles to lose their colour and fall to the ground, with research showing how defoliation can impact growth for three years after the trees show symptoms.

In response, scientists from Scion’s Resilient Forests Research Programme are at the forefront of the battle, with their work providing hope for forest growers striving to mitigate the combined impact of invasive pathogens and climate change’s impact on tree health.

Dr Stuart Fraser, leader of Scion’s Ecology and Environment research group, has dedicated more than six years to investigating the disease and potential control strategies. Joining him in 2021, forest pathologist Emily McLay is adding depth to the understanding of the disease, with research that aims to make it easier to predict when outbreaks will occur.

La Niña events impacting New Zealand in recent years have resulted in extreme wet conditions. This increased moisture has created a favourable environment for needle diseases, making them more widespread and persistent.

“We are in a new normal,” says McLay. “We used to believe in disease seasons, but recently, these seasons have become continuous due to the prolonged wet conditions. Normally, drier and hotter weather would interrupt the disease cycle, but with the persistent moisture, RNC has continued to thrive, contributing to this year’s severity.”

Satellite imagery of plantation forests on the East Coast, provided by Indufor, illustrates the extent of the disease this August compared with the same time one year ago. 

Scientists say the key to combating RNC lies in deciphering the pathogen-host interaction and how the environment influences it. RNC completes its life cycle on the needles of radiata pine trees, and very quickly responds to environmental stimuli. McLay’s laboratory work is focused on understanding how temperature and moisture drive different processes in the disease cycle. 

“It’s a targeted study that we can use to build epidemiological models, so we can predict when these big years might happen,” she says.

“One of the challenging aspects about field trials is that there’s co- variation. Winter is typically colder and wetter, whereas summer is warmer and drier. When it comes to building a model, it’s really hard to pull those apart.” Her research, therefore, focuses on teasing out the influence of temperature and wetness, shedding light on their distinct roles.

To help the forestry industry and Scion’s pathologists better understand the extent of RNC, Scion’s remote sensing and geospatial intelligence team provides monitoring support. Scientists are mapping the presence of the disease and are keen to hear from industry professionals with suspected sightings of RNC to inform their model better.

As the RNC battle escalates, pragmatic solutions for industry are imperative, with copper emerging as a viable control treatment. Already used in low doses to manage Dothistroma needle blight, a disease akin to RNC, copper’s efficacy has been validated for more than 60 years. The Central North Island, considered a hotbed for Dothistroma, saw the first copper trials to control RNC in 2017, led by Dr Fraser.

With the Resilient Forests Research Programme developed to future-proof planted radiata pine forests from the impact of climate change, McLay’s research is building towards the development of a prototype model to predict RNC disease outbreaks. Although a few years away from being commercially available, the tool’s aim is to empower foresters with information they can use to take pre-emptive action.

With satellite monitoring and copper research, a transformative disease management approach is emerging. “We’re aiming to not just respond to outbreaks, but foresee and address potential concerns,” says McLay.

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Source: Scion

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Grants available to grow WA small businesses

Eligible small businesses can now apply for a Small Business Development and Diversification Grant (SBDD) from the Government of Western Australia with the second round of funding now open. $7.8 million is available for businesses in Western Australia which can demonstrate a minimum 50 per cent reliance on the commercial native forest logging industry to transition their activities and protect or create jobs. Applications are open until the 20th of December, 2023.

Businesses transitioning away from the commercial native forest industry can apply for grants of up to $400,000. The previous round of SBDD grants saw 20 businesses across Perth and the South West region approved for a total of $7.2 million. Western Australia will soon become one of the first States in Australia to end commercial logging of native forests, protecting nearly two million hectares of native karri, jarrah and wandoo forests for future generations.

The SBDD fund presents an exciting opportunity for local businesses to grow and diversify as commercial native logging comes to an endApply online now or see our list of regional workshops for in-person application advice and support.

Native Forest Transition (NFT) Promotion

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Forestry Australia releases new Position Statements

Forestry Australia has released three new and highly topical Position Statements to share its evidence-based positions on important issues relating to the management of forests across Australia. The Statements cover Conservation of Threatened Species, Forest Carbon Markets and Thinning of Native Forests and are designed to be accessible to all.

Forestry Australia President Dr Michelle Freeman said evidence was critical to inform decision making and to provide balance to debates around the management of Australia’s forests. “Now more than ever we need to ensure that there is evidence-based and balanced information readily available, given we live in an era of information overload, misinformation and disinformation,” Dr Freeman said.

“Forestry Australia’s Position Statements are designed to do just that - to cut to the chase, and provide clear information based on science, world’s best practice and evidence-based research. “We want to ensure that when policy makers, the media and wider community discuss, debate and decide on issues that affect future forest management, that they have these easy-to-read Statements at hand.

“At the recent very successful ANZIF conference, Forestry Australia released the three new Position Statements, which takes our total released to date to eight. “Each two-page Position Statement explains the context for the specific topic and presents Forestry Australia’s position, with supporting information.

The Position Statements can be found on the Forestry Australia website or here:

- Conservation of threatened species. There is ongoing biodiversity decline occurring across Australia, including in forests. This Statement addresses threats of extinction, the gross underfunding of conservation, and the need for active and adaptive management.

- Forest Carbon Markets. Globally, and across Australia, forests are an important carbon sink, and when appropriately protected and sustainably managed, can absorb more carbon than is emitted from a range of forest management activities. This Statement addresses the importance of well managed forests for climate and carbon benefits, and the role and requirements for carbon markets to help realise these.

- Thinning of Native Forests. Forest thinning is a silvicultural practice whereby a selective portion of trees are removed across a site to reduce competition for water and nutrients. This Statement addresses the benefits of thinning for forest health and resilience, managing fire risk, wildlife habitat, water yields, and achieving cultural objectives.

Source: Forestry Australia

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Ian Tyson stepping down as Timberlink CEO

Ian Tyson will retire as Chief Executive Officer of Timberlink Australia & New Zealand at the end of this calendar year. Ian commenced in the role of CEO when Timberlink was first formed on 1st February 2013, and through his leadership over the last ten years, Ian has led the business through challenging times, ensuring positive returns; from the early days of operational stability to what is now a well-honed and strategically focused organisation delivering significant beneficial outcomes.

There have been many achievements and transformative projects that Ian has led during his time as CEO, and there are none greater than the evolution of NeXTimber®, Timberlink’s mass timber manufacturing business, and Timberlink’s wood-composite manufacturing products. These two projects were borne through Ian’s unwavering drive and focus on innovation which allowed Timberlink to grow from a timber processing focussed business into a much broader manufacturing and construction solutions focussed business.

Ian has led with integrity, and this has been underpinned by the values that were developed many years ago to ensure that everyone at Timberlink conducts themselves in a way that makes Timberlink a great place to work. We wish Ian all the best in his well-earned retirement.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has also paid tribute to Ian Tyson’s dedication and commitment to the broader forest products sector. Read here.

Source: Timberlink, AFPA

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Aussie ClimateTech startup raises AU$1.5m

CLT Toolbox, a Melbourne-based software startup has just secured its first AU$1.5M in seed funding led by leading investors including Archangel Ventures, BlueScope Steel’s venture capital arm, BluescopeX and Rob Phillpot through Gravel Road, the Co-Founder of Aconex, an Australian Construction Tech company that sold legendarily in 2018 for AU$1.6B.

The round also includes Aussie VC’s Flying Fox Ventures, ClimateTech focused Ecotone Ventures and Angel Investors Jodie Imam, Adrian Hondros and Peter Lam. CEO Adam Jones, who was recently announced as the Engineers Australia Emerging Leader of Victoria, saw education and resourcing as a major bottleneck supporting the shift to lower embodied carbon materials, identifying that software can help accelerate the adoption of Mass Timber into the supply chain as a mainstream material choice.

“Without experience, resources, and education – new timber solutions are less likely to be proposed. This software can help us rapidly reduce the time it takes to adopt reduced carbon solutions and accelerate the industry’s decarbonisation movement.” Adam shared.

Hybrid mid-rise or high-rise buildings that combine traditional materials and “Mass Timber” benefits include the reduction of biogenic embodied carbon and potentially accelerated build times. Australia is becoming a leading country in this space with the world's two largest timber towers, Atlassian Tower in Sydney and C6 in Perth.

The announcement comes at a time when the NSW Government is projected to follow California’s lead and implement the State Environment Planning Policy on October the 1st, which would require the measurement and reporting of the embodied emissions of construction materials and encourage the design and delivery of sustainable buildings. Construction is estimated to be worth 18.1% of Australia’s carbon footprint.

According to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), by including Mass Timber as a contributing core material, some hybrid buildings have proven to have reduced their embodied carbon (including biogenic carbon) by up to by up to 75%. “The inclusion of mass timber can help us achieve the goals being set by the wider industry to reduce the impact of construction on climate change. We need more expertise and market understanding than what is currently available.” Shared Ringo Thomas, Co-Founder of CLT Toolbox.

Timber education is seen as the biggest bottleneck due to associated costs, long learning lead times and low numbers of expert engineers. It is estimated that the learning transition cost alone reaches up to $100,000 per engineer.

The CLT Toolbox software platform will simplify the learning curve for structural engineers to confidently design with mass timber and material guidelines by providing end-to-end education, specifications, resources, computations and design infrastructure, all of which the industry is urgently asking for.

CLT Toolbox aims to tackle this problem on a global scale, recently expanding to new offices in Ethiopia and Indonesia and has gained attention from timber engineering specialist firms across Europe, the UK & North America. Users have already been acquired from both local and international tier one engineering firms who collectively employee hundreds of thousands of engineers worldwide seeking an application to address the demand for green building solutions.

About CLT Toolbox: CLT Toolbox is a design software platform that aims to remove the hurdles for structural engineers to become timber specialists and accelerate the transition to more sustainable building materials to decarbonise the construction industry.

CEO Adam Jones is a recent award winner of the Engineers Australia Emerging Professional of the Year Victorian Award for contributions to the advancement of sustainable construction practices and winner of the 2019 Future Green Leader of the Year by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Source: CLT Toolbox

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Hydrogen engines -a viable alternative to electric

JCB has made a second major breakthrough in proving the wider appeal of hydrogen combustion technology.

This has been achieved by installing one of its super-efficient hydrogen engines into a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. The white van retrofit was completed in just two weeks and one of the vehicle’s first test drivers was JCB Chairman Anthony Bamford, who is leading the company’s £100 million hydrogen engine project.

The internal combustion engine used in the van is the same as those already powering prototype JCB construction and agricultural machines. It is the second Mercedes-Benz vehicle to be retrofitted with a JCB hydrogen engine; earlier this year a 7.5 tonne Mercedes-Benz truck was given the JCB hydrogen treatment.

JCB retrofitted this vehicle with a JCB hydrogen engine to demonstrate how simple it will be to convert existing vans and to show that it is not only construction and agricultural machines that can be powered by hydrogen. While converting vans will not be for JCB to do, it does prove there is something else other than batteries that can work very effectively.

JCB has already manufactured more than 70 hydrogen internal combustion engines in a project involving 150 British engineers and they now power prototype JCB backhoe loader and Loadall telescopic handler machines. The converted van was formerly diesel-powered and the switch to hydrogen is another breakthrough which underlines that this form of power could represent a much quicker way to reach global carbon dioxide emissions targets.

JCB is the developer of the world’s first working hydrogen-powered construction and agricultural machines. Last year JCB revealed another industry first – a mobile hydrogen refueller which provides a quick and straightforward way to refuel machines on site. JCB’s hydrogen internal combustion engines are manufactured at JCB Power Systems in Derbyshire.

Source: JCB

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BC removing single-use plastic wrap in tree planting

After a trial in Northern B.C., the province says they will be removing plastic wrap for some tree planting processes to reduce climate change. They say 3 million single-use plastic tree seedling wraps will be removed from the tree-planting process next year. They add it supports 45 million seedlings as the plastic wrap is used to bundle the seedlings into groupings of 10, 15 or 20 depending on the species.

The wraps will be removed from all pine, spruce and cedar tree seedlings and will support reforestation in all corners of the province. The government says it follows a successful trial in the Cariboo region and shows that the wrap is not needed for seedlings to be successful.

“The common thinking within tree planting has been that plastic is needed to support, grow and manage this many successful seedlings, but this project proves definitively that there is a better way,” said minister of forests, Bruce Ralston.

“Work like this is fundamental in moving British Columbia toward a low-carbon future that does not rely on plastics and makes us leaders in the global fight against climate change. Removing one single-use plastic has a positive impact on our environment, but removing three million single-use plastics per year is a massive achievement.”

It is estimated that by 2030, around 18 million single-use plastic seedling wraps will be eliminated within the province by the wider forestry sector. The removal will also help the province meets its CleanBC goals.

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Clarence Valley protesting end of native timber logging

More than 100 protesters have rallied in Maclean, on the NSW north coast, as a local council considers a call to phase out native forest logging on public land. Mills across the region shut down to allow owners, staff, and supporters to voice their concerns about a report from the Clarence Valley Council's biodiversity advisory committee.

The report called for the council to write to the NSW government demanding the urgent development of a transition plan that would see native timber harvesting in state-owned forests move towards a sustainable plantation- based industry.

The proposal first came before the Clarence Valley Council in late June when it was deferred to allow public feedback. It attracted 2,464 public submissions with 2,358 supporting the timber industry, although the vast majority of those came in the form of template letters.

After an hour of public speeches and debate, the councillors voted overwhelmingly against the motion, eight votes to one, to applause from the packed public gallery. They then voted in support of an alternate motion that recognised the importance of the logging industry to the local economy and agreed to take no further action.

“Timber workers do matter. Clarence Valley Council needs to support them,” said councillor Ian Tiley, who put forward the alternate motion. “Timber workers do matter. Clarence Valley Council needs to support them,” said councillor Ian Tiley, who put forward the alternate motion.

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Source: ABC News

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Major prize for groundbreaking economic models

The 2023 Marcus Wallenberg Prize is awarded to Drs Darius Adams, Joseph Buongiorno and Richard Haynes for their development of the original and groundbreaking forest economic models TAMM and PAPYRUS and its extension to the global forest products model GFPM. The need to analyse the impact of policies and other factors that influence forestry and the forest industries on a global, national, and regional level is increasing.

Climate change put pressures on forest as carbon sinks, and population and income growth imply rising pressures on the demand of forest raw materials all over the world. The TAMM and PAPYRUS economic models demonstrate a groundbreaking way to combine biological, statistical, mathematical, and technological knowledge with neoclassical economic theory into empirical models that are highly useful for forestry, forest industries and policy makers.

These models can be applied to analyse the impact of multiple factors such as trade regulations, climate mitigation measures, carbon pricing, forest protection measures, subsidies applied to energy supply, new biorefinery products and climate change. Especially now in rapidly changing times, these models and their successors are more and more valid and needed.

Work on the models commenced in the 1970’s, when major changes took place in the forest industry as a result of globalization and increased demand. This led to environmental concerns and challenges related to international trade regulations in the forest sector. Appropriate tools to analyse the effects of such concerns became an urgent requirement to manage the future development within the sector, and it was in this setting that TAMM and PAPYRUS were developed.

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The Marcus Wallenberg Prize 2023 will be presented by HM the King of Sweden at a ceremony in Stockholm in November this year.

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Timber body claims protests ‘misguided’

Amidst growing protests against native forestry in NSW by environmentalists, the state’s timber industry is facing a major disruption, with Timber NSW expressing concerns about increased regulatory controls that could impact timber production.

According to Timber NSW, which represents the timber and forest products industry in New South Wales, the hardwoods of the state, a product of native forestry, are unique in both appearance and performance, express the country of their origin, and are a sustainable, renewable, and recyclable resource.

However, the industry group says that ongoing environmental protests and media reports, which Timber NSW calls ‘misinformed’ and ‘misguided’, may compel the Minns Government in NSW to follow Victoria and Western Australia in closing public native forestry. The timber industry’s fears were reinforced by the recent action of the NSW Government in stopping timber harvesting operations in the areas being assessed for the Great Koala National Park.

The proposal to transition to plantations is unfeasible, and will not help biodiversity or assist koala populations, says Timber NSW CEO Maree McCaskill. Given that the transition may take 50-60 years, she explains that it will cripple timber supply, cost thousands of jobs in regional communities, and wipe out most of the AU$2.9 billion the industry contributes to the NSW economy each year.

“The truth is, we already have world’s best practice native forestry right here in NSW,” says McCaskill, adding that "The native forest industry in NSW is already one of the most highly regulated in the world".

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Source: architectureanddesign

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... shallow root system in a storm

A dog walker in Stirlingshire recently filmed winds lifting a forest floor as Storm Babet hit Scotland. The unusual sight is caused when a shallow root system meets strong winds, making it appear as if the earth is breathing. David Nugent-Malone was walking his dog, Jake, in Mugdock on a path that the pair have waked ‘hundreds’ of times. He told the BBC that he’s “never seen anything like that”. Mr He said that the particular section of woodland seemed looked like a “muddy table cloth” being lifted into the air.

And one more with a Scottish angle. An Englishman, an Australian and a Scotsman went out for a meal.

When the bill arrived the Australian said “Who’s paying “?

The Englishman said “I will”…

Next days headlines in the paper read..’ Scottish ventriloquist found assaulted’

And one more.

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. 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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