Friday Offcuts – 9 February 2018

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Robotics and automation have featured prominently in recent harvesting and wood processing tech events run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association. They were also the focus for an industry workshop run by Forest & Wood Products Australia just prior to the Christmas break. Whilst advanced robotic systems are already commonplace in controlled workspaces such as factories, the use of remote controlled or autonomous machines in more complex environments, such as forest operations, is really still in its infancy.

In saying that, remote control, tele-operated and automated forestry operations are already being seen in planting, silviculture, felling, wood extraction, processing and transportation. There’s plenty of exciting prototypes out there. Currently though, there’s very little detailing the all- important ‘productivity’ information! As part of the FWPA workshop, a detailed report was commissioned and prepared which profiled the current state of robotic systems in the forestry sector. An article below outlines the report findings. A link is also supplied for you to be able to download the full report.

Good news (as heralded in the earlier article on the 26 January), a New Zealand company (with interests already in sawmilling, forests and wood harvesting) plans to use the former Prime Sawmill site in Gisborne to set up a sawmill to cut high- value appearance grade lumber. Sixty staff are to be employed. The even better news is that the company, Far East Sawmill, is already in discussions with Juken NZ (who announced the likely restructuring of their Gisborne mill two weeks ago) over staff recruitment.

In addition to Dr Drielsma's award that we highlighted in last week’s issue, readers may also be interested to hear that Gary Morgan also received Australia Day honours. Gary, well known to the Australasian forestry industry and rural fire-fighters, has had a long and very successful career in forest fire fighting in Victoria. He pioneered the use of the huge Sky Cranes for the initial attack on wild-fires. Gary was also instrumental in establishing the programme where NZ fire fighters are being called on to assist Australian fire-fighters with major wildfires and putting together the agreement between NZ, Australia, Canada and the USA to provide mutual- aid for battling wildfires. Further details are contained in this week’s issue. Enjoy this week’s read.

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New Gisborne sawmill announced

Activate Tairawhiti and Eastland Community Trust have jointly announced the sale of Prime Sawmill (photo) to New Zealand-owned Far East Sawmills, guaranteeing the creation of between 50 and 60 jobs at the Prime Wood Processing Centre of Excellence by April 2018. Even more encouraging, Far East Sawmills is already in direct discussions with Juken over staff recruitment.

Eastland Community Trust chairman, Michael Muir, says the sale signals a new era for the Prime site. “We are delighted to welcome Far East Sawmills to Tairawhiti. We’re thrilled to have such a respected operator on-site, and that we can go some way to saving local jobs.

“This is a massive win for our community. And it must be said – there is no way we could have done this without the foresight of the community in establishing the Eastland Community Trust with a mandate to focus on the region’s economic growth,” he says.

Far East Sawmills is a subsidiary of Spectrum and is a fully integrated forest products business. The company owns the Tregoweth Sawmill in Te Kuiti, forests in Northland, a forestry harvest company and a transport fleet.

Managing Director, Wade Glass, considers the investment in Prime and the Tairawhiti region a strategic one, citing log supply, skilled labour and a proactive business network as contributing to their decision.

“We’re excited to enter a region with such a supportive and well-resourced economic development capability. We’re optimistic that our proposed improvements to the mill will result in a sustainable business and employment for locals,” he says.

The company intends to employ up to 60 staff to produce around 60,000 m3 of timber per annum, and will likely invest a further NZ$9 million in the sawmill, initially upgrading ageing technology to improve efficiencies. Ultimately, Mr Glass says it is the company’s goal to run multiple shifts, eventually employing up to 100 staff.

Far East Sawmills will be replicating the product mix from their existing mill in Te Kuiti, targeting high-value appearance grade lumber for export to European and USA markets. They will also partner with secondary processors who intend to incorporate their processing into, or adjacent to, the mill site in Gisborne.

Though the sawmill itself is sold, Eastland Community Trust still retains ownership of all the land (22 hectares) and can now move forward with its phased masterplan, unlocking further jobs on site and improving the value of the region’s forestry stocks.

Activate Tairawhiti chairman, John Rae, says the organisation is excited about the next steps. Mr Rae confirmed Activate Tairawhiti is in advanced discussions with a second wood processor interested in establishing its business at Prime. He says securing an operator for the sawmill will now fast-track those conversations and, he expects, others.

This is the second investment at the Prime site with the Wood Engineering business on the same site currently employing 15 staff and working to prove up its technology.

For further coverage on this week's announcement, click here.

Source: Scoop

How bitcoin technology could change your life

One of the many buzzwords in technology is "blockchain" - the technology underpinning the bitcoin craze. While bitcoin is the flash of the moment (well it was a month or so ago), there's growing excitement about how this concept can move beyond digital currency and affect people's lives.

Simply put, blockchain is like a ledger book that can be group-edited by people in the cloud. There's no central company or government that has to verify a transaction which means thing can move more quickly.

As changes are made, it keeps a public log of what changed, when and how. For that reason, it's very difficult to fake a change or gain access to the log if you're not supposed to. The records also aren't tied to your name, so it makes blockchain another, more secure way that people can exchange data.

"It's not really about bitcoin at all," said Halsey Minor, a founder of CNET and Salesforce who's now focusing his attention on blockchain and video. Blockchain is as important a new technology as the Internet, he said, and anyone who doesn't see that "is missing the point".

Some places and companies have already started using blockchain in a way that goes beyond currency changing hands. With smart contracts – particularly through supply chains going to have a major impact on how we will be conducting our own businesses, the technology – and opportunities for forestry, wood products and transport companies looking forward - will be outlined by industry leaders as part of a raft of new disruptive technologies being explored in this years WoodFlow 2018 event.

Woodflow 2018 ( will run in Melbourne, Australia on 20-21 June and then again in Rotorua, New Zealand on 26-27 June. Source:

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Robotics & automation in the forestry sector

At the end of last year, an industry workshop was convened by Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA) to discuss the current state of robotic systems in the forest sector and identify what activities, if any, should be undertaken in Australia (and possibly collaboratively with NZ).

Prior to the workshop, Professor Rien Visser from the School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, was commissioned to undertake an international scan of the current state of robotic systems in the forestry sector. The detailed report was presented at the workshop with the technologies outlined used as a prompt for local industry discussion.

As outlined in the report, while advanced robotic systems are already commonplace in controlled workspaces such as factories, the use of remote controlled or autonomous machines in more complex environments, such as for forest operations, is in its infancy. However, there is little doubt autonomous machinery will play an important role in forest operations in the future.

While technology integration and automation in forestry equipment are commonplace, this report focuses on equipment developments and opportunities where no operator is in the machine. It presents opportunities for remote control, tele-operated and automation of forest operations for the purpose of discussing the near, but also longer term, future of forest equipment. It also presents examples of existing developments as well as ideas from both forestry and other industries.

For your information, the minutes from discussions at the FWPA workshop can be accessed and downloaded from the FWPA website. The full 37-page report can also be downloaded here.

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Forest industry adds AU$1.405 billion to WA

The forest industry contributed AU$649 million to the Western Australian economy last financial year in direct sales alone, and a total of AU$1.405 billion once flow-on effects in other industries are included.

That was among the key findings of a new industry snapshot conducted by the University of Canberra in conjunction with consultancy EconSearch, a division of BDO, and funded by Forest & Wood Products Australia, the Forest Products Commission and the Forest Industries Federation of Western Australia.

In terms of jobs, the WA forestry industry employed over 2,100 people directly in growing, harvesting and primary processing, and approximately 4,570 once flow-on effects are taken into account. Of these jobs, 508 were generated by the native forest industry, 863 by softwood plantations, and 743 by hardwood plantations.

The industry is an important contributor to the economy in several regional communities, and contributes to diversification of the economy in many regions. Towns with large numbers of people employed directly in growing, harvesting and primary processing included Albany (405), Bunbury (375) and Manjimup (235).

Employment in wood and paper product manufacturing fell compared to 2006 data, however jobs in hardwood plantations grew. Despite the fall, forest workers earn higher incomes (above $1,250 per week) than those in other WA industries, largely due to the higher rates of full-time work in the industry – and there are strong employment opportunities in some areas.

Two thirds of forest industry businesses reported difficulty recruiting heavy machinery operators, and high level professional staff, while half found it difficult to recruit haulage contractors. Lead researcher Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer said the importance of local processing of wood and fibre for jobs should not be under-estimated.

“Fewer jobs are created if logs are harvested and exported with no or little processing,” she said. ‘’While relatively few businesses feel demand will decline for their products, half report business conditions as being more challenging than usual. Increasing labour and input costs and lack of investment in the industry are concerns for many businesses.

“By diversifying the economies of regional areas, forestry can help them cope better during downturns in other industries such as agriculture and mining.”

To read the report Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry – Western Australia in full, visit

Source: FWPA

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Forest Industry Safety & Technology call for speakers

FIEA’s Forest Industry Safety & Technology conference is scheduled for 8th August in Rotorua, New Zealand and 15th August 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. This conference is focussed on the needs of forestry contractors, managers, owners, health & safety leaders, harvest planners, transport operators, safety technology innovators and government representatives.

We are working closely with a wide range of international specialists, service suppliers, researchers and government bodies to develop a strong and innovative programme. Feedback from previous events is a key driver as well. A focus group will be formed to guide our speaker choices.

If you are keen to be a speaker at our conference and you are an early adopter, developer, innovator, technology supplier, service provider or researcher within the forestry sector specifically around safety, our conference team would like to hear from you. Also make contact if you are keen to be part of our focus group deciding where the emphasis of the program should be.

The 2018 Forest Industry Safety & Technology conference will include sessions based around:

- Reaching the optimal safety in the forest: are we there yet?
- What areas of safety prevention have the greatest effect inside and outside the forest gate
- Technology developments: what’s new and working well?
- Techniques and cultural factors delivering results in improved safety performance

If you are interested in being considered as a speaker, or would like to recommend an early adopter, case study or international expert, please contact John Stulen (Tel: +64 7 921 1382 or in the FIEA Rotorua office.

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Komatsu to acquire Quadco & Southstar operations

On January 26, 2018, Komatsu Ltd. signed an agreement to acquire from Prenbec Equipment Inc., a company based in Quebec, Canada, the Quadco and Southstar forestry attachment operations, excluding the forestry equipment businesses of Tanguay and Forespro delimbers. The acquisition will be made through a wholly owned subsidiary of Komatsu in the United States and is expected to close in February 2018, subject to completion of the closing conditions.

This move will allow Komatsu to offer its customers a full range of forestry attachments. Quadco and Southstar will continue to operate as independent companies within the Komatsu group following the completion of the acquisition and will maintain their existing sales networks. In order to offer improved value to customers, a forestry attachment division within Komatsu Forest AB will be formed, which will manage the Quadco, Southstar, and Log Max brands.

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Maori landowners oppose delay in ETS changes

Changes to New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme are needed now, not at the end of next year, if the Government wants Maori land owners to plant carbon-sequestering forests, says a specialist in climate change and Maori development. Climate minister James Shaw met with Iwi Leaders Forum at Waitangi last week.

The forum was highly critical of the previous government’s climate policies, threatening to take a $600 million Treaty of Waitangi claim when that government allowed carbon prices to fall. The new government has promised to get an extra billion trees planted over the next 10 years, and is actively courting landowners to go into joint ventures with it.

A specialist in climate change and Maori development, 37 Degrees South director Chris Karamea Insley, says iwi landholders are interested in what the Government is saying, and are inviting regional development minister Shane Jones to come and talk to them. But they don’t like the fact that Shaw says he won’t make any major changes to the ETS – including long-awaited changes to forestry rules - until the end of next year.

Those rules have been under view since 2015. In July, the previous climate minister, Paula Bennett, announced some changes to the scheme but said the forestry rules would not be clarified until the middle of this year. Shaw has indicated he will probably remove or adjust the current option allowing emitters to pay the Crown $25 per tonne of liable emissions instead of surrendering carbon credits, but says he is unlikely to make any changes at all to the scheme until the end of next year, as he wants to get the Zero Carbon Act and the climate commission in place first.

Insley, who has in the past been a spokesperson for the Iwi Leaders Group, says that’s a mistake, because landowners need more certainty about future rules and prices than they’ve got now. While the $21.35 spot carbon prices are trading at today is well above the $3.45 they were when the Iwi Leaders Forum threatened to lodge a $600 million Treaty of Waitangi claim for the lost value of assets received in treaty settlements, Insley says it is still a long way below what many people consider to be realistic.

Source: Carbon News 2018

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The changing face of Agritech

Industries rise, fall and evolve under the constant development of new and innovative technologies. Refrigeration changed how food was supplied, the lightbulb enabled us to utilise more hours in the day, the telephone connected people and the internet distributed information far better and quicker than ever before.

A new a wave of digital technologies is here. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoTs), blockchain, big data, robotics and automation are just some of the technologies currently impacting business. No matter whether it’s banking, engineering, retail or agriculture, these innovations are changing how each sector operates.

Humans have been around a while but we seem to think innovation, technology and disruption are just new. They’re not. But the speed of change and disruption perhaps is.

“New Zealand has a deserved reputation for being world leading in agriculture. But the world is moving fast. Are we living on the past?” said Conor English, Chairman of Agribusiness New Zealand and former CEO of Federated Farmers.

Mr English is the opening keynote presenter at this year’s agritech event, MobileTECH 2018. His presentation will outline what this means for this country’s primary sector, including forestry, and whether it is time for a change in mindset.

MobileTECH has, for the last six years, been the annual gathering for New Zealand’s agritech community. “The focus has been on showcasing new digital technologies and how they are, and will be, integrated into the day-to- day running of businesses throughout the agricultural, horticultural and forestry industries,” said Ken Wilson, MobileTECH Programme Manager.

“While we are really excited about where technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are headed, this year the focus is on industry collaboration and hearing from early adopters within the sector,” said Mr Wilson. “It’s a unique opportunity in New Zealand for the tech developers from an array of primary industries to get together under the one roof, to learn from each other and to make key contacts and set up alliances that will assist them in their business”.

At last year’s event a lot of new technology was presented. But one of the best questions asked was, “Is technology looking for a problem? Someone still needs to listen to my problems, understand my business and then look at the technology to help me go forward.” In the race to innovate, is technology solving a problem or looking for one?

MobileTECH 2018 will be running on 27-28 March 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand. Further details can be found on the event website,

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Announcements of forest management personnel

Steve Wilton, of Masterton company Forest Enterprises, has initiated the latest stage of the company’s succession plan by handing the leadership to fellow Directors. Wilton is taking on the new role of Special Projects Director, retiring from his responsibilities as Managing Director.

Forestry Director Bert Hughes takes up the helm as CEO in addition to his forestry responsibilities. Graeme Tindall has been appointed Managed Investments Director, assuming much of Wilton’s investment related responsibilities. More >>.

Colliers International has also launched a specialist forestry sales service headed by New Zealand forestry broker, Warwick Searle. The new business line expands and strengthens Colliers International’s established rural services offering, which includes nationwide rural, agribusiness and viticulture sales, valuation and advisory services.

Mr Searle has transacted some of the biggest forestry deals in New Zealand, including the bulk of on-market forest sales in the last few years. He brings almost 10 years of rural sales experience to the role, much of that specialising in forest and forestry rights sales.

Mark Synnott, Chief Executive Colliers International New Zealand said that Mr Searle is ideally placed to lead the new forestry sales service. “Warwick is undoubtedly the top forestry broker in New Zealand. We’re delighted he has chosen to bring his broad experience, specialised knowledge, and excellent industry connections to Colliers International.” More >>.

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Calls for R&D proposals

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) invites the submission of research, development and extension proposals for project funding commencing from 1 May 2018 addressing FWPA program priorities. Details of FWPA operational programs and program priorities are outlined in the 2017 – 2022 FWPA strategic plan accessible here.

Completed research proposals including confirmed project co-investments as well as letters of support and endorsement are due by Friday 23 March 2018. Further details on funding mechanisms for the R&D proposals and the application form can be found here.

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Fire expert acknowledged in Australia Day honours

Ballarat fire expert Gary Morgan, the man responsible for bringing the first orange air crane to Australia, says serious bushfires will never be stopped by aircraft alone. The long-time Alfredton resident – was made a member of the general division of the order of Australia (AM) – has called on government to invest more money into planned burning, maintaining fire access roads and protecting biodiversity before big blazes break out.

Mr Morgan, who was chief fire officer of what is now DELWP when he inspected an air crane in Canada in the 1990s, said Victoria needed to invest more in land management as the state was one of the most fire prone regions in the world.

“We know we’ve got a climate where you get low humidity, high temperatures and very strong winds and nothing will stop those big fires – not even these huge air tankers,” he said. “If all we focus on is putting out fires, then we’re going to spend more and more money every year.

“We’re going to have bigger and bigger air tankers and we’re going to have more destruction, more lives lost. But we need to turn that around, we need to get the land to the state where we’ll be able to have fires and not have that detrimental effect.”

When most Victorians think of bushfires they think of CFA crews fighting them, or “red stuff on the red stuff”, but the work DELWP does through managing land helps prevent emergencies before they make media headlines.

Mr Morgan now chairs the Forest Fire Management Committee at the Institute of Foresters of Australia. He was awarded on Australia Day as a nod to his service to the community through emergency response organisations and his research into forest and fire management.

“Not often people in land management get such recognition, so I see it as part of all the good people who worked with me over a long time, both landholders on private land and on public land,” he said.

Source & Image:

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Landowners keep credits under Billion Trees plan

Landowners will keep the carbon credits and liability under proposed new production forestry joint ventures with the Government as part of its One Billion Trees programme. The programme is expected to generate 10 million tonnes to 30 million tonnes of carbon credits by 2030, on top of the 18 million tonnes from existing forests.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is on the hunt for land to turn into commercial forests, and is writing to landowners saying its commercial trading arm, Crown Forestry, wants to talk to them. The programme is part of the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First. The agreement says that 100 million trees will be planted a year under a $1 billion-a-year regional development programme.

In a letter to landowners, MPI’s climate change operations manager Peter Lough says Crown Forestry would lease the land for one 30-year rotation. The Crown would pay for all establishment and management costs over the lifetime of the crop, and would pay a negotiated rent for the land.

“Rents will reflect the quality of the land, proximity to ports or wood-processing plants and the costs Crown Forestry expects to pay over the lifetime of the crop,” Lough said. Landowners would retain all rights to carbon credits, and any areas of regenerating native forest would be left as enclaves with the new forest, he said. The Forest Owners’ Association says the offer should be welcomed by hill country farmers and iwi as a low-risk way to get new land planted, providing an extra income.

Source: Carbon News 2018

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Aging ironwork? No, it's MDF for outdoor use

Large scale installations by Alexander Devereux for a sculptural park in the North East of England, inspired by famous bridges in the region, were fabricated from Tricoya, a specialized MDF for outdoor use.

Devereux used Tricoya MDF on several projects. Tricoya MDF has an outdoor useful life of 50 years, owing to its treatment with the acetylation process. Mounted outdoors as well as indoors, Devereux's works can be seen at England's Cheesburn Sculpture Park's permanent collection; and at Broomhill Sculpture Park in North Devon.

To get the aging metal effect, Devereaux slathered plaster and iron powder onto the Tricoya. A hinge detail measuring 3.5m x 3.5m x 1.5m at shows the stunning effect. Devereux modeled the pieces after the original 19th century ironwork, drawing inspiration from the rivet patterns, which were both utilitarian, and decorative.

Tricoya is manufactured by Irish forest products firm Coilte, in its Medite unit, in partnership with BP - which makes the chemistry used in aceylation - and Accys Technologies, which produces Accoya solid wood made from radiata pine and other lumber using the acetylation process.

Tricoya MDF panels ( are made using wood chips that receive the acetylation process before milling into panel. They are lightweight, sustainable and offer a 50 year above ground and 25 year in ground guarantee, revolutionizing the opportunities presented to architects, specifiers, designers and home owners the company says. Tricoya was launched to the U.S. market at the 2017 AWFS Fair in Las Vegas.


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Thriving in the digital age

Digitization hasn’t spelled the end of paper and forest products, but it is requiring that leaders think differently about growth opportunities.

Paper and forest products aren’t going away in the age of the smartphone and tablet, but the industry is shifting its focus to new use cases driven by digitization. In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast, Peter Berg, director of knowledge in McKinsey’s Paper & Forest Products Practice, and Oskar Lingqvist, senior partner and global leader of the practice, speak with McKinsey’s David Hunter about areas of growth in paper and forest products, including potential innovations in packaging and the overall value chain.

More >>.


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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... to get your heart racing

A video of a tourist guide terrified by the sight of a bridge’s glass bottom cracking has gone viral recently in East Taihang Mountains, in Handan city, north China's Hebei Province.

The glass skywalk hangs 1,180 meters above a valley and stretches 266 meters in length.

Just for fun, shattering glass is added as a special effect to give the already-terrifying experience extra zing. The management assured that workers check the glass panels daily to ensure the safety of visitors.

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, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
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This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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