Friday Offcuts – 28 March 2024

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Welcome to this week's edition of Friday Offcuts - on a Thursday. Like many, we look forward to the long Easter weekend. 

In this issue, we include a new report by EECA, which shows that forestry residues hold immense potential as a renewable energy source. In NZ’s Northland region, up to 99% of energy demand could be met by locally sourced biomass. Additionally, Fonterra's Stirling manufacturing site sets a precedent by becoming the Co- op’s first manufacturing site in the South Island to transition from coal to 100% renewable thermal energy. By utilising wood biomass, Fonterra will reduce its carbon footprint by 18,500 tonnes annually. 

Forestry Australia follows up the recent misinformation campaign against the industry in Australia and reinforces the critical role the sector plays in ‘building climate resilience and mitigating wildfires’. Regrettably, social media and major news agencies often prioritise sensationalist viewpoints for quick clicks, whereas a balanced discussion demands too much reader time for thorough understanding.

Other stories this week include award-winning timber design projects, an expansion in Hyne Group’s manufacturing capability, Matt Wakelin becoming FOA’s new President, a new US study taking an alternative look at forest fires

And finally, if you are planning to attend the upcoming Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 event, early bird rates end tomorrow.

We cover these and more in another packed edition of Friday Offcuts. Enjoy the read.

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Opinion: Standing up for our profession

Having a high profile should not provide anyone a free pass to speak disrespectfully and unfairly about others.

Forestry Australia is appalled by the misinformation about forest scientists and professionals that has been perpetuated by lobbyists and anti-forestry campaigners in recent media articles. It is hard not to think that such narratives have been constructed to suit certain agendas. Statements made are not universally supported by forest scientists, and do not recognise the knowledge, expertise and credibility of Australia’s world-leading forest scientists. It is also disappointing that recent coverage has not included these other voices.

Forestry Australia is a not-for-profit, independent professional association with 1,200 members. Our members are individuals who have high levels of scientific expertise and extensive operational experience. They operate across all aspects of forest, fire and land management, farm forestry and tree growing throughout Australia. Some of our members are current or past employees of State forest agencies responsible for timber harvesting.

These forest scientists and professionals are among the most dedicated and passionate individuals, who make significant and under-acknowledged contributions to forest management, forest conservation and provision of renewable, sustainable and responsibly-sourced timber for the Australian public. This contribution furthers our understanding of forest ecology and forest fire management. It also includes operational expertise in active and adaptive management options that are crucial for building climate resilience and mitigating wildfires.

These forest scientists make significant contributions to managing and conserving our forests for the benefit of society. They provide elite and specialised fire fighting capacity to all major wildfire events, collect and apply seed to revegetate forests severely degraded by bushfires, and are at the forefront of technological advancement such as drones and sophisticated apps to record and monitor forest values. In addition, they conduct the most comprehensive threatened species monitoring programs that exist in this country, and oversee comprehensive management plans that provide high quality, sustainable local hardwood timbers.

It is time to move on from these tiresome, divisive and outmoded forest wars. Australia needs forest management decisions to be informed by pragmatic, open-minded, evidence-based and credible voices who engaged in positive dialogue regarding future forest management. In doing so, it is only right that we recognise the immense positive contributions of the forest scientists and forestry professionals who have dedicated their careers to evidence-based care for our forests.

Dr Michelle Freeman, President Forestry Australia

Source: Forestry Australia

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99% of Northland’s energy could be met through biomass

A new report, published by EECA (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority), shows the significant role currently unutilised, forestry residues could play – as the region reduces its reliance on fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy. Up to 99% of Northland’s energy needed for heat used in manufacturing has the potential to be met by locally sourced biomass (wood fuel made from residue).

The Northland Regional Energy Transition Accelerator (RETA) report provides insight and recommendations that will help streamline technology and infrastructure investments, for local businesses and energy suppliers, and cut carbon at the same time.

Forestry owners and biomass suppliers in Northland can expect significant demand for wood residues locally as the region looks toward new, lower-emissions energy solutions for industrial processing,” said EECA Group Manager Business, Nicki Sutherland. “On the energy user side, the tech we need – like biomass boilers that use wood residues for fuel – has been proven and available for a number of years now. When you combine this with the fact there is a lot of unutilised wood residue in the region’s forest that is not being exported – it is clear there is significant commercial opportunity for wood processors.”

The region also has a relatively high amount of spare electrical capacity to accommodate higher anticipated demand from fuel-switching projects. “Because of this capacity, capital connection costs are relatively low,” said Sutherland.

The Northland RETA covers 18 sites which consume 4,471 TJ (3,646TJ is fossil fuel) of energy and produce 262,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The majority (147,000 tonnes) of emissions are coal.

Energy efficiency and demand reduction are key parts of the process – which can lead to significant costs and energy savings and make fuel switching cheaper and easier in the long term.

For businesses on the demand side, Sutherland noted programmes like RETA help with an increasing expectation domestically and within export markets for lower-carbon products and services.

The report includes input from the Northland Inc Regional Economic Development Agency, Transpower, Top Energy and Northpower, local biomass suppliers and forest owners, electricity generators and retailers, and medium to large industrial energy users.

Head of Investment and Infrastructure at Northland Inc – the region’s economic development agency, Vaughan Cooper, said the RETA gives the local energy users and suppliers confidence to move forward and find opportunities to work together.

“It can be a bit daunting trying to work out where to start with your approach to clean energy use, renewable choices and carbon implications and how these can be built into your business operations,” said Cooper.

“It highlights opportunities to create greater resilience amongst some of Northland’s key sectors, such as forestry, through identifying areas for potential diversification. We look forward to continuing to implement the opportunities identified in this report in partnership with EECA and our business community.”

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Source: EECA

Residues2Revenues 2024

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Architectural excellence celebrated

The design prowess of staff and students in the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture and Planning was recognised at last November's NZ Timber Design Awards.

The award-winning projects were supported by a grant from the WIDE Trust.

Learning from Trees, designed by Professor Andrew Barrie, and involving other faculty and post graduate students, won the Interior Design Award at the awards on 2 November 2023, which highlight the latest advances in New Zealand’s timber construction capability.

The project, conceived for the Italian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, drew inspiration from New Zealand's history of timber building, referencing elements of both colonial and Pacific architectural traditions.

The lattice-like structure, resembling a ball of string or a woven basket, addresses the challenge of responding to climate change through low-carbon architecture within the constraints of a small, geographically isolated economy.

Another aspect of the Biennale exhibit was also awarded: Associate Professor Mike Davis was highly commended for his Venice Benches  furniture design in the New Zealand Speciality Timber Award category.

The Biennale project faced several constraints, including the short installation time frame and a limited budget of $160,000 to cover design, fabrication, shipping, installation and relocation.

Andrew Barrie and structural engineering firm Batchelar McDougall Consulting were also named winners of the Innovative Timber Manufacturing and Technology Award for their Lightweight Timber Research Structures. Developed with Barrie’s postgraduate students, the goal for this research was to create lightweight, sustainable structures that expand the possibilities for timber construction, as part of the response to the current climate emergency.

Both prizes in the Student Design Award category also went to the School of Architecture and Planning. The winner was Gregory Mann, for his project  The Vertical Stage. The project's design is a response to an extreme density scenario and takes inspiration from drawings of the hākari stage – traditional and temporary structures used by Māori for large gatherings.

Thomas Nguyen was highly commended in the Student Design Award category for  The Saucer - A Timber Pavillion for Summerhill Charitable Trust, which aims to blur the boundaries between the built environment and the surrounding landscape, creating a seamless integration with the natural world.

WIDE Trust Inducted into the Chancellor’s Circle at the University of Auckland

In November 2023, the Wood Industry Development and Education Trust (WIDE Trust) received the honour of being inducted into the Chancellor’s Circle at the University of Auckland.

The Chancellor's Circle comprises of three societies named after prominent past Chancellors of the University of Auckland.

The WIDE Trust was recognised as a member of the Sir Douglas Robb Society, which acknowledges cumulative giving ranging between $100,000 and $1 million.


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Hyne Group expands into pallet manufacturing

The Hyne Group is pleased to announce that pallet manufacturing will soon be a part of the broader Group operations, following the acquisition of Rodpak. Rodpak is a Melbourne based pallet and packaging manufacturer that, like the rest of the Hyne Group, prides itself on strong sustainability credentials and a commitment to producing premium quality products.

This announcement comes just over two years after the Hyne Group partnership with UK based company, James Jones and Sons Ltd, and the combined Group’s focus on achieving growth and expansion.

Hyne Group CEO, Jim Bindon said the acquisition is an exciting addition for the company: “Rodpak is a highly regarded business with a long history in the manufacture of softwood timber pallets, with quality equipment and technology, and great customer relationships. All these factors are very consistent with the core position of the Hyne Group, which has operated in Australia for over 140 years.

“While it will be business as usual for Rodpak’s brand, staff, suppliers and customers, being a part of the Hyne Group brings the strengths of the international connections with James Jones and Sons Ltd, who are a leading pallet manufacturer in Europe with several sites throughout the United Kingdom.

“The broader security of being a part of a large timber manufacturing business, also brings further certainty for the Rodpak business and its customer base.” Mr Bindon said.

The Hyne Group has been a long-term supplier of timber to the pallet industry, and this remains a core focus for the sawmilling operations. Mr Bindon stated the Hyne strategy is not to add new capacity to the pallet market, but rather work with customers and industry participants who are ready to exit the industry or explore strategic partnerships as part of their own succession process.

“Continuing to supply these long-term Hyne pallet customers remains an essential part of the broader Group strategy. This acquisition has no impact on our high-quality, structural framing product range for the construction sector, which continues to be a critical focus for the Hyne Timber business.

“I am very pleased the current owner, Dean Roderick, will be staying on with the business, as he is well respected in the market and indeed internationally within the pallet sector. Dean has been known to the James Jones & Sons pallet business for some years, and he is most highly regarded by them also.” Mr Bindon concluded. 

Dean Roderick said the new ownership model was a welcome move to take the company forward: “Becoming part of a national and global ownership model is a significant milestone for us as a business, for our team members, customers and suppliers and we have been pleased with the process to get to this point. Rodpak is a great business with strong partnerships, built over many years. With the local strength and global reach of the Hyne Group, I am very confident the company is moving in a great direction, and I personally look forward to working with the broader Hyne Group team.” Mr Roderick said. 

The full acquisition of Rodpak will finalise on 1 May 2024 subject to all Completion Precedents being met.

Source: Hyne Group / Rodpak

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Kiwi firm spearheading heavy fleet green transition

Bay of Plenty-based company Heavy Vehicle Machinery Solutions (HVMS) is forging global partnerships to help drive decarbonisation efforts in New Zealand's road transport industry. Formed in October 2022 through parent company East Coast Heavy Diesel (ECHD) in Whakatane, HVMS is on a mission to pioneer low carbon technology and convert existing diesel fleets with cutting-edge battery electric, hybrid fuel and hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Under the leadership of directors Scott Hale, Richard Gatward (both from ECHD) and business development manager Mark Irving, HVMS brings a wealth of expertise in the heavy vehicle domain. For over 15 years, ECHD has been a leader in providing mechanical, engineering and certification to many vehicle fleet operators across the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Recognising the urgency for skilled handling of battery and hydrogen electric drivetrain vehicles, HVMS has positioned itself to meet the evolving needs of operators transitioning to greener fleets. In a significant development, HVMS was awarded a conversion design contract by Thailand-based petroleum giant PTTEP in October last year.

PTTEP, a Fortune 500 company, has a fleet of around 3000 prime movers and tankers that move the crude oil and associated products throughout Thailand. The Scania P114GA (circa 2004) makes up much of its fleet. It is laying out plans to decarbonise and brought the Kiwi firm onboard to help make key first steps.

HVMS are currently finalising contract details for a prototype, with PTTEP to further convert a representative Scania based on the finalised full design conversion from diesel drivetrain to hydrogen fuel cell (FCEV). The Bay of Plenty firm has contracted fellow Kiwi company Global Bus Ventures (GBV), based in Rolleston, as a partner on the project, providing expertise on electrical design and integration.

HVMS and GBV will work collaboratively to deliver the completed FCEV truck conversion design for PTTEP by June this year, then commence the prototype soon after. Meanwhile, another global partnership has been formed with Advanced Electric Machines – a leading UK manufacturer of “rare-earth free” and recyclable electric motor systems.

These “fully recyclable” motors, which remove the need for rare-earth metals and copper in their design, are currently integrated into various electric vehicles, including UK electric truck startup Tevva.

AEM’s motors are also being used in development projects with several global vehicle manufacturers, such as Bentley, SAF-Holland, CNH Industrial and Asia Cab. The partnership with HVMS opens opportunities to expand AEM’s presence in Australasia and explore new markets.

HVMS business development manager Mark Irving says there is a “clear gap” in the electrification of heavy vehicles across the Australasian region and HVMS is working to address that. “Many OEMs globally are designing and at various stages of manufacture on either or both BEV (battery electric vehicle) and FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicles).

“These OEMs are generally not manufacturing vehicles in Australasia, with the exception of Hyzon in Melbourne and GBV in Rolleston, and are closer to larger and more affluent markets than those in our region.”

“HVMS recognises that in eight to 10 years, the flow of OEM equipment to this region of the world will occur at a more regular and cost-effective level, but solutions are still required in the interim,” he says. As well as full battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell conversions, partial (hybrid) conversions using diesel and hydrogen are also an option.

Irving says HVMS has recently acquired exclusive Australasian access to a European designed hybrid conversion system and is working currently with several fleet operators in New Zealand and Australia.

Source: transporttalk

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Making wood products - without trees

As she walks across Foray’s lab on the third floor of The Engine, Ashley Beckwith’s eyes brighten. Then, from an incubator, she pulls out petri dishes of wood-like cells that she and her team grew in the lab from black cottonwood plants. They envision turning those cells into wood-based perfumes, cosmetics, oils, and—someday—entire beams and planks that can be created without clearing any forested land.

The Engine is a coworking and shared lab space located in Building 750 on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where startups and technology entrepreneurs try to develop inventions that can tackle the world’s most challenging problems. Foray Bioscience, a company started by Beckwith, 32, recently joined the fold. Her company aims to disrupt traditional manufacturing of wood products—which involves harvesting lots of trees.

Growing up near Colorado’s expansive and beautiful forests, Beckwith spent a lot of time running in the woods. She witnessed how the construction of new housing developments encroached on forests, which sparked her interest in plant research. She founded Foray in 2022, after completing her PhD in mechanical engineering at MIT.

On a drizzly afternoon in November, inside Foray’s lab space, centrifuges hum and large beakers clink onto the benches, their bright yellow contents bubbling. Dressed in her lab coat, Beckwith explains how growing demand for wood products is driving the loss of natural forests—in the last 25 years, the world has lost about 500,000 square miles. With Foray she hopes to change that, using a technology platform she’s developed that combines cell culture and tissue engineering.

Photo: Ashley Beckwith, founder and CEO of Foray BioscienceForay Bioscience

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Source: technologyreview

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New forestry expertise joins FOA executive council

The New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA) are pleased to announce Matt Wakelin as its new President.

Matt was elected during FOA’s Annual General Meeting last week, replacing retiring President, Grant Dodson.

Portfolio manager for New Forests, Matt has extensive experience stemming from a lifelong career in forestry – managing forest estates, port services operations, log supply and residues sales for log processing facilities and offering his sector expertise in an executive and corporate capacity.

Matt says New Zealand’s plantation forests, and the forest owners that support them, will be critical for achieving a greener future. “Our plantation forests sequester more than half the country’s annual carbon dioxide emissions and are the only real tool we have available right now to counter rising emissions and meet the 2050 targets.”

The sector also holds the largest role in supporting New Zealand’s emerging bioeconomy, Matt says. “Wood chip, pellets and other forms of wood fibre are progressively replacing coal as an alternative, eco-friendly source of fuel. Carbon intensive materials such as steel and concrete are being subbed out for quality, carbon-locking timber too. The innovative use of wood residues such as pine pollen in the likes of pharmaceutical and skin care products is also changing the way we see and use wood and has real potential to grow the sector,” Matt says. “It’s an exciting time to be stepping in as FOA President and supporting the sector on that growth trajectory.”

Forest Owners Association chief executive Dr Elizabeth Heeg acknowledges the leadership and support of outgoing president, Grant Dodson, during his two-year term. “Grant’s keen observations, industry practicality and deep knowledge of matters outside forestry have become a valuable legacy for our industry as it meets the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Kate Rankin (Wenita Forest Products Ltd) and Darren Man (Earnslaw One) were also elected to the executive council, replacing Steve Chandler and Rowan Struthers respectively. Dean Witehira (Timberlands) will replace Tim Sandall as Vice President for the coming term.

“Steve and Rowan have been a real asset to the executive council. Their commitment to representing forest owner interests, particularly their contributions to the sector’s training, careers and labour space, will have a lasting impact,” Elizabeth says. “We are excited to welcome our new executive members and look forward to seeing their skills, knowledge and fresh perspectives in action.”

Source: New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA) via Voxy

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NZ Log Market Report - March 2024

Very much against the tide of what we had been expecting, the China market has taken a major turn down. Indeed, the current correction might best be described as catastrophic, even by our recent history standards.

The earlier positivity had its foundations in the assumption all would be fine after Chinese New-year. It was expected daily log consumption would quickly recover to normal levels as everyone went back to work.

Unfortunately, this has not happened, with daily usage struggling to reach 40,000 m3 per day in February, when the market was expecting 60,000 per day. As at mid-March, we are seeing usage numbers improve, but too little too late. The problem is NZ Forestry Inc has been delivering 60,000 m3 per day since Christmas.

Radiata log inventory is now at 4 mil m3 with all softwood inventory sitting at close to 5mil. This is regarded as way too high. With demand weak and ample stock, China domestic prices for Kiwi logs are also falling.

China buyers have now folded their arms and refusing orders from Kiwi exporters whilst waiting for prices to hit bottom. As at mid-March, no one knows where the bottom is with no major sales contracts signed and no LC’s issued in close to 2 weeks. This is a massively concerning situation.

Around NZ, there is the beginnings of a big slow down in deliveries to Ports. This will need to happen more dramatically and for some time to enable supply and demand to get back to an equilibrium. Underpinning that is harvesting contractors and transport companies parked up again.

The continuing ebb and flow of the current modus operandi model to China must change. The impacts across the people who do the real work is unacceptable. There has never been a more desperate time for NZ Forestry Inc to get in a room and lock the door until a production and supply framework is sorted out.

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Source: Laurie Forestry

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US Study: Fighting every wildfire ensures more extreme fires

In the U.S., wildland firefighters are able to stop about 98% of all wildfires before the fires have burned even 100 acres. That may seem comforting, but decades of quickly suppressing fires has had unintended consequences.

Fires are a natural part of many landscapes globally. When forests aren’t allowed to burn, they become more dense, and dead branches, leaves and other biomass accumulate, leaving more fuel for the next fire. This buildup leads to more extreme fires that are even harder to put out. That’s why land managers set controlled burns and thin forests to clear out the undergrowth.

However, fuel accumulation isn’t the only consequence of fire suppression. Fire suppression also disproportionately reduces certain types of fire. In a new study, my colleagues and I show how this effect, known as the suppression bias, compounds the impacts of fuel accumulation and climate change.

What happened to all the low-intensity fires?

Most wildfires are low-intensity. They ignite when conditions aren’t too dry or windy, and they can often be quickly extinguished.

The 2% of fires that escape suppression are those that are more extreme and much harder to fight. They account for about 98% of the burned area in a typical year.

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Source: The Conversation

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Cheese from trees: Fonterra running on wood biomass

Fonterra’s Stirling manufacturing site is celebrating becoming the Co-op’s first manufacturing site in the South Island to get off coal and the first site to be running on 100% renewable thermal energy

Moving to wood biomass means a reduction of 18,500 tonnes of CO2 per year and the site’s electricity supply comes from hydroelectricity. This is a key move to help Fonterra achieve a 50% reduction in Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 2030 from a 2018 baseline and meet our ambition to be net zero by 2050.

Fonterra Chief Operating Officer (acting) Anna Palairet says the Stirling site moving off coal is key to the Co-op reducing its emissions. “Stirling moving to wood biomass is a crucial step for the Co-op to exit coal by 2037. Our collective efforts from on farm, across our operations and our R&D teams to reduce emissions, will help future-proof Fonterra, supporting our ambition to be a long-term sustainable Co-op for generations to come.”

Stirling is known for its high-quality cheese and processes around 10,500 20kg blocks of cheese per day – that’s around 10 blocks per minute. This is a $33 million project that has had local contractors engaged over the last two years with up to 50 contractors onsite per day working to get the boiler up and running and navigating a number of challenges due to COVID-19.

There were also significant economic benefits for the community – the installation has contributed around $10 million into the Otago/Southland region – and additional environmental benefits in wastewater, noise, solid waste to landfill and air discharge.

Fonterra is proud to partner with Wood Energy who provide the wood biomass.

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Source & image credit: Fonterra

Residues2Revenues 2024

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Environmental Forestry Conference: Register NOW for best rates

We are seeing a strong response for delegates registering to attend our  3rd annual FIEA Environmental Forestry Conference on 25-26 June 2024.

SuperEarlyBird rates end tomorrow so be in quick to get the best rates to register your team today!

Click here to register.

We are working closely with the NZ Forest Owners Association, the International Erosion Control Association and Te Uru Rākau to deliver a range of valuable presentations including a pre- conference workshop on the morning of 25 June.

Delegates registering for our conference are invited to attend the pre-conference and post-conference workshops hosted by Te Uru Rākau and Scion. See website for details.

Environmental Forestry 2024

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Innovation leads $8m tree-change for Glencoe Nursery

Innovation and safety are the key drivers behind OneFortyOne’s $8 million nursery redevelopment, with a new state-of-the-art undercover handling system leading a number of major upgrades for the Glencoe facility.

The two automated handling lines, designed in Europe and installed on- site, will see millions of radiata pine trees sown, lifted and dispatched under controlled conditions annually, significantly increasing workforce conditions and safety.

This month, as the industry marks International Day of Forests on March 21, flags a milestone for the 3-year redevelopment project, as the new systems become operational. Nursery Manager Craig Torney said the new infrastructure investment will substantially increase efficiency and signals a major shift away from traditional intensive in-field growing.

“The line has the ability to sow about 1-million trees per week, so it’s a lot cleaner and a lot more efficient,” Craig said. “This work would normally be done on the back of a tractor in the elements. Now, from the time the container is introduced to the machine to the time that the finished product is pushed through the wall automatically out into the nursery, there is no human intervention, apart from overseers.”

A new irrigation system is also part of the upgrades, improving efficiency at the establishment stage by decreasing water and chemical usage.

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Source & image credit: OneFortyOne

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Shortage in EV mechanics

Australia is on the cusp of a significant shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads. The impetus for this change is the government's plan to introduce a New Vehicle Efficiency Standard. This policy aims to compel car manufacturers to significantly increase their sales of EVs.

While this transition promises environmental benefits, a critical hurdle looms on the horizon: a severe shortage of mechanics qualified to service and repair these new vehicles.

The dearth of skilled workers in the EV mechanic field could be significantly worsened by the anticipated influx of EVs. This potential bottleneck in the service industry threatens to hinder the smooth adoption of this new technology, unless it is proactively addressed.

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Source: ABC News

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on… walking down the street

One day a boy was walking down the street. A car pulled up beside him and the driver wound down the window.

"I'll give you a bag of lollies if you get in the car", said the driver.
"No way," replied the boy.

"How about a bag of lollies and $10, the driver asked.
"No way" replied the boy.

"What about a bag of lollies and $50?" asked the driver.
"No, I'm not getting in the car" answered the boy.

"Okay, I'll give you a bag of lollies and $100," the driver offered.
"No!" replied the boy.

"What will it take to get you in the car?" asked the driver.
The boy replied, "Listen Dad. You bought the Volvo, you live with it".

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Ken Wilson
Editor, Friday Offcuts
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