Friday Offcuts 31 January 2020
As well as the recent spate of mill closures and resultant job losses, the NZ Government is also being called to task by the industry. According to Chief executives from more than 50 wood processing companies across the country, it’s been idle. 2019 wasn’t the much-heralded “Year of Delivery”. The commitment to introduce wood procurement policies (using more wood in Government buildings) has never being implemented. It’s gone nowhere. The group, representing more than 10,000 employees, are now calling on the Government to honour its election commitment.
For the devastating Australian bush fires, we’re now starting to get a better feel for just how big they’ve been. The total extent of the Australian bush fires is reported to be in the order of around 7.5 million hectares (ha). This was at mid-January so with fires still burning, this will be higher still. To put this into perspective, this equates to over 57% of England’s land mass. As the fires have slowly eased in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland, aside from cleaning up, discussion is now underway on the massive harvest and haulage operations that are going to be required to utilise the burnt wood. There’s an immediate need to start salvage operations. However, the backlash from environmentalists is now under way with conservationists and some scientists vocal in their opposition to "salvage logging", particularly of burnt native forests. The smoke has hardly cleared but the battle lines have already been drawn.
And finally, a couple of “good news” stories to end the week on. They profile the recent success of two younger people working within our industry. A Queensland Government timber engineer, Adam Faircloth, was recently recognised at the Australian Young Researchers’ Conference for his research into a non-destructive system to evaluate mass timber panels. Another young researcher, Elaine Galore, joined other researchers and scientists from PNG and Australia on a project to increase value-added wood processing in PNG. Through projects like these, young PNG researchers like Elaine are able to benefit from working alongside scientists and researchers from across Australia. And on that upbeat note, enjoy this week’s read.
P.S. For those looking at two major technology events planned for the beginning of this year, please note that discounted early-bird registrations for the Forest Safety & Technology 2020 series FINISH today and for the combined primary sector (agricultural, horticultural and forestry) annual technology Summit, MobileTECHAg 2020 in New Zealand, early-bird registrations FINISH next Friday, on 7 February.
This week we have for you:
Overseas market subsidies inflate log pricesSawmills in New Zealand find it hard to be profitable when overseas competitors can benefit from subsidies, the main timber industry organisation says. The problem is so bad that one day all timber used in New Zealand might have to be imported. That is despite the fact that around two million hectares of trees are grown for timber in New Zealand, mainly pine trees. These comments came from the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association.
They followed a decision in principle by Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) to close its sawmill in Whangarei. The company is consulting staff before making this final, but it is expected to go ahead with closure. CHH Timber chief executive Clayton Harris blamed continuing log shortages in Northland for the problem. "The decision has been made reluctantly, but the sawmill had been facing log shortages for some time and our analysis was that it's only going to get worse," Harris said.
The Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association said there were further problems besides the wood shortage with high prices for timber caused by trade distortions overseas. Its chair Brian Stanley said even if the wood could be accessed it was way too expensive.
"We have seen three sawmills close down in the last 12 months, and now this one in Northland," he said. "That is a serious trend and one that everyone in the country needs to start thinking about."
Stanley said for years, people overseas were buying New Zealand logs for high prices, secure in the knowledge that subsidies from their own government would allow them to sell the logs at a loss to timber yards in their own country. This was especially so in China, but a report done just before Christmas by the economic consultancy Sense Partners found trade distortions of the log industry in 39 countries.
"The prices for logs in New Zealand have been driven up to unprecedented levels over recent years by foreign buyers operating on subsidies provided by their own countries," Stanley said. "These subsidies enable foreign buyers to artificially inflate prices here, effectively capturing the domestic log market by creating some of the highest softwood log prices in the world.
You can see the WPMA media release by clicking here.
Forest industry looks now to salvage operationsThe Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has warned politicians and policy makers that bushfires had caused "unprecedented" damage to the industry through impacts on native forest and plantation timber stocks. AFPA said there was a "narrow window of opportunity" before burnt timbers degraded and requested funding to support salvage harvesting operations after this summer's bushfires and to conduct fuel load reduction measures (both mechanical and by prescribed burning) across the country.
"Subject to environmental considerations, state governments should support salvaging timber from all burnt forests to clear roads, minimise fuel loads and allow greater flexibility for meeting timber supply requirements," AFPA said.
Australian National University Fenner School of Environment professor David Lindenmayer said logging in forests after fire harmed flora and fauna by removing tree hollow habitat for animals, damaged soil from trucks and equipment, and caused flow-on effects to waterways.
"It has a massive impact on soil, on birds and possums and gliders, and on large old trees. On a whole bunch of things. The forest's recovery is impaired by 80 to 180 years, so it's a massive setback," Professor Lindenmayer said.
Former logging contractor Michael McKinnell, who worked for VicForests until 2018, questioned the logic of calls to expand industry access to forests. He said while logging after fire made economic sense for certain types of timber, particularly ash which doesn't survive being burnt, it wasn't warranted in mixed species forest which predominates in major fire grounds of East Gippsland and south-east NSW.
"University of Melbourne Professor of forestry Rod Keenan said under current regulations, with logging restricted to state forests, salvage logging could be managed to minimise the environmental impacts. "There are ways to do salvage logging that doesn't impact more broadly on the environment," Professor Keenan said.
"You wouldn't expect to see logging across large areas, that's not what is happening now anyway. The timber industry is only focused on a relatively small part of the landscape." Professor Keenan said after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria salvage logging was conducted on 10,000 hectares, out of a total of 400,000 hectares that was burnt.
AFPA chief executive Ross Hampton said it was common practice to harvest burnt and damaged trees from fire grounds for processing in sawmills.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Forest Products Association
Industry calls on Government to keep election promiseChief executives from more than 50 forestry-wood processing companies in New Zealand have signed an open letter calling on the government to honour its commitment to implement its promised Wood Procurement policy for government buildings.
The NZ timber processing industry is disappointed the government is not implementing a promise to look at using wood for more government buildings, and has threatened to block-vote against it in the 2020 election.
Chief executives from more than 50 forestry-wood processing companies, representing more than 10,000 employees, have signed an open letter calling on the government to honour its commitment to the procurement policy for government buildings, which was consistent with its Zero Carbon goal.
Industry spokesman and Red Stag Group chief executive Marty Verry said the policy had the backing of NZ First and the Green Party and it was time for Labour to move on it. He understood it had been included in the additional material surrounding the coalition agreement between NZ First and Labour.
The Labour Party's 2017 election manifesto stated that if elected the government would require that "all government-funded project proposals for new buildings up to four storeys high shall require a build-in-wood option at the initial concept / request-for-proposals stage. Due to advances in engineering and wood processing technologies, we will increase the four storey requirement to 10 stories".
Just before the 2017 election, the Prime Minister visited Verry's Red Stag timber processing company in Rotorua where she announced plans to establish a new Forestry Service in the city.
Verry said the industry was now standing together to hold the government to account for not fulfilling its election commitment. More >>.
Biomass to replace coal in schools and hospitalsThe New Zealand Governments latest move towards getting rid of coal-fired boilers in hospitals and schools shows growing market confidence in the country’s biomass supply, the Bionergy Association says.
A NZ$12 billion infrastructure package which was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and finance minister Grant Robertson on Wednesday includes $10 million to replace coal with wood in some schools and hospitals. The Government had already said that publicly owned facilities could not install new coal-powered heat sources. The new money means eight schools and two hospitals will replace their coal-fired boilers ahead of schedule, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by around 3000 tonnes a year.
The decision is welcomed by the Bioenergy Association as a sign the Government now has faith in the supply of biomass. “This decision demonstrates the growing strength of the market to supply fuel,” chief executive Brian Cox said. The association estimates that switching to biomass for processed heat could cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 million tonnes a year.
Rising carbon prices are also encouraging businesses in the private sector to seriously consider biomass as a fuel-source but are still insufficient to drive change on an economic basis alone, Cox says. Spot NZUs are trading around $29 a tonne. The Government has said it intends lifting the fixed-price option (the amount emitters can pay instead of surrendering a carbon credit) from $25 to $35 this year and that the new cost containment reserve is likely to be set at $50. Cox says carbon needs to be at $80 a tonne make biomass cheaper than coal and gas.
For further details on the announcement and plans, click here
Source: Carbon News, Scoop
Fenglin tries a third time in New ZealandChina’s Guangxi Fenglin Wood Industry Group is in talks with Trust Tairawhiti to develop a wood processing facility near Gisborne, New Zealand.
The firm, which had been planning a development at Kawerau, said it had recently signed a letter of intent to collaborate with the trust to develop a facility which ultimately could process up to two million tonnes of logs annually. Wang Gaofeng, chief executive of Fenglin’s New Zealand arm, said a feasibility study the company had been working on with the trust demonstrated the potential of the local forestry resource.
“We’re keen to use our capital and expertise to help unlock that potential by investing in projects that add value to New Zealand’s exports and support economic growth in the provinces,” Wang said in a statement. “Currently, some three million tonnes of raw logs go through Eastland Port every year. If we can turn them into finished products, we will create sustainable local jobs, boost export earnings, and provide the construction industry with an environmentally-friendly alternative to steel and concrete.
No-one from the trust, previously known as the Eastland Community Trust, was immediately available to comment. But it is actively trying to develop more local wood processing in the region. It bought the closed Prime sawmill site at Manutuke, south-west of Gisborne, in 2015. Last year it sold the main mill to Far East Sawmills but retained the 22-hectare site as part of a plan to develop a processing cluster there.
Far East received NZ$500,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund toward the recommissioning of the mill, and in July, an investment of up to NZ$19.5 million by the fund was announced to help develop the wood cluster.
While it’s still early days with the Fenglin proposal, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the Crown may have a role in helping remove potential obstacles to the project, which may include increased power supply for an enlarged facility and transport of finished product, either through the port or by rail.
Work is already planned next year on studies of potential barge sites north of East Cape to help access logs that are otherwise landlocked by poor roads in the area, he said. Jones said he would work with Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker to see what other infrastructure may be required and a seminar of interested parties is likely early in the new year.
Wang’s statement didn’t detail Fenglin’s proposal, which he said could create up to 300 jobs. In a statement to the Shanghai stock exchange last week, its parent company said it was looking at a particle board plant capable of delivering 400,000 cubic metres of particleboard annually.
A formal land purchase or lease would be required, along with resource consents and Overseas Investment Office approval. Construction could take about two years, it noted. In 2018, Fenglin was cleared by the OIO to lease 33 hectares at Kawerau from the Putauaki Trust to build a particle board plant. That was intended to produce about 600,000 cubic metres of board annually, cost about NZ$180 million to build and be operating by 2020.
The project, like an earlier one Fenglin investigated near Taupo with Contact Energy, was to have benefitted from the local geothermal energy available at Kawerau. Wang said that, despite the best efforts of the parties involved, the company hadn’t been able to complete the lease with Putauaki due to the potential risk of subsidence at the site if it was developed for further geothermal generation by Mercury NZ.
Jones noted that the original development discussions had been started by former Trade Minister Tim Groser and had had a “dinosaur-like gestation period.” While Kawerau would be disappointed by Fenglin’s withdrawal, he said it was important that the Gisborne opportunity be pursued if feasible.
Source: Business Desk
First log train runs on Wairoa lineRegular log trains began running between Wairoa and Napier Port on the east coast of the North Island last Sunday (January 26) following completion of the new log yard in Wairoa. "Moving forwards, now that our logging yard consents are in place, we will usually run two trains a week, on Saturdays and Sundays," KiwiRail Chief Operating Officer Todd Moyle says.
"Each train could take up to 50 long distance truck hauls off the road between Napier and Wairoa, with 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne of freight carried by rail compared to trucks. Log export forecasts, however, show a wall of wood will be ready for export within 18 months, and the volume of logs harvested will continue to grow over the coming years, so there is plenty of room for the services to grow”.
"Growing this business will assist local businesses to harvest and transport large volumes of logs, help bring profitability to KiwiRail, benefit the East Cape region with less congestion and road wear and tear, and bring added benefits from lower emissions. The Government's allocation of $6.2 million to the project through the Provincial Growth Fund is a recognition of the proven benefits rail brings," says Mr Moyle.
"We welcome the involvement of ISO Ltd at Wairoa as the log marshaller for KiwiRail. That allows logs to be scaled for export off port and that improves efficiency for delivery onto port”.
Forest Management (NZ) Joint Chief Executive Steve Bell says "using rail to shift logs from Wairoa to Napier Port builds resilience into our operation. "It gives us more options, and that is vital as the harvest increases and more logs are harvested. Using the hub at Wairoa means we can turn our trucks round in less than half the time, and that means we can shift more logs quickly and efficiently."
VR, AR and Exoskeleton demos lined upMobileTECH Ag 2020 has a bunch of new toys for primary sector delegates to demo at the upcoming event. Next-generation user-interfaces, exoskeletons and more will all be demonstrated in front of over 300 primary sector leaders, developers and early adopters.
“This event is a chance for the agritech community to check out a new range of devices that are aiming to bridge the gap between the digital world and the physical one,” said Ken Wilson, the Event Manager at Innovatek.
It is not a secret that real-time digital information is becoming an important tool for business and that agriculture, horticulture and forestry, the backbone for New Zealand’s economic growth, is investing heavily in digital technologies. New Zealand has always been a testbed for new innovations and the primary sector was one of the first to introduce digital farm management systems and they jumped at the potential of drones as a productivity tool.
Last year the New Zealand Government released the report, From the Knowledge Wave to the Digital Age, where worker productivity was highlighted as one of the key challenges in capitalising on the fourth industrial revolution. While real GDP per capita has been improving, NZ lags behind countries like Australia, Denmark and Sweden in productivity performance.
In an age where AI, machine learning and big data are king, it is refreshing to see new innovations that are designed to empower the worker, not replace them. Wearable technologies are now aiming to make working with data in the real world more accessible, useful and connected than ever before. The idea here is to increase worker productivity through technology, but make people central to the task at hand.
This is why MobileTECH Ag 2020 will have a number of different technologies on show including for the first time, Suit-X, a wearable exoskeleton (already successfully trialled with New Zealand’s Meat Industry Association and WorkSafe NZ) and immersive technologies like the Realwear headset, a small head-mounted tablet that uses voice recognition to operate in hands-free and rugged working environments. The opportunities in both the manufacturing environment and out in the forest are significant.
Look for all these technologies and more at MobileTECH Ag 2020. Details on the programme are available online. This agritech event runs on 7-8 April 2020 in Rotorua, New Zealand. Further details can be found on the event website, www.mobiletech.events. Remember, if keen on attending, discounted early-bird registrations FINISH next week on Friday 7 February.
DAF researcher wins national awardA Queensland Government timber engineer has been recognised at the illus-tree-ous Australian Young Researchers’ Conference for research that will save timber manufacturers time, money and resources. Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said Adam Faircloth won a prize for best presentation for his research into a non-destructive evaluation system for mass timber panels.
“The manufacture of cross-laminated timber (CLT) products for full-scale applications has increased over the past decade and has placed pressure on manufacturers assessing the quality of these products,” Mr Furner said. “At the moment these panels are assessed using static or destructive methods and while they provide accurate results, they are costly, time-consuming and destructive.
“Mr Faircloth’s work means timber panels don’t have to be destroyed to be assessed and will allow manufacturers to rapidly assess the stiffness and shear properties to determine uses for the product.” Mr Faircloth said his research was part of a program of work from the department’s Forest Products Innovation team that would help manufacturers of mass timber panels save time, money and resources.
“Non-destructive grading techniques were commonly used in the manufacturing process for solid and engineered timber products,” he said. “There is a need for a similar process for CLT products. The damping characteristics of CLT are important to quantify for use in construction applications for floors and walls to improve acoustic and vibration characteristics.”
Mr Faircloth will now go on to represent Australia in the 22nd Young Researchers Conference—an international event held in London in March 2020. He is currently completing his Masters of Philosophy at Griffith University.
The Young Researchers’ Conference series aims to develop awareness among young engineers of the importance and potential of research in advancing structural engineering. The ‘Development of a Non-Destructive Evaluation Method for Mass Timber Panels’ project is funded through the ARC Future Timber Hub.
Nominations open for 2020 SWC Forestry AwardsIn May of last year, the Southern Wood Council (SWC) in conjunction with New Zealand’s Industry Training Organisation, Competenz, built again on the regions forestry industry awards programme. Each year, it continues to grow.
The event and the response from the local industry from throughout the lower South Island of New Zealand was outstanding. Around 350 people attended. The evening saw forestry companies, contractors and transport operators from throughout the lower South Island along with their crews and families attending. It’s was again the largest industry gathering seen in 2019 for the region.
For the forestry industry in Otago and Southland, the Awards Programme provides a unique opportunity for those involved in training, in growing, processing and transporting wood and for those who support the industry through the provision of products and services.
It’s a once in a year opportunity to come together to celebrate success. It’s the industry’s chance to recognise those who had achieved formal training qualifications over the year, to celebrate through a series of nine major industry awards, the top performers from across the lower South Island and to profile the real contribution that forestry and those working within the industry are making to the economic and social well-being of this region.
The 2020 SWC Forestry Awards Programme run in conjunction with Competenz will run this year at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin on the evening of Friday 13 May. Details on each of the main awards and nomination forms for this year’s awards are being distributed as part of SafeStart meetings being run throughout the region by the forestry industry at the beginning of the year and through on-site visits being planned to forestry crews and wood processing operations over the next month or so.
For those in the South, mark the dates into your diary. Nominations close on Friday 13 March 2020. Start to give some thought as to who you can nominate in your or someone else’s company or crew. Who’s made a difference? Who’s really stood out this year? Who deserves to be recognised for their efforts?
Click here to download the 2020 Award Details and Nomination Form
Further details can be found on the SWC website .
Young forester set to leave her markAt 29 years old, Elaine Galore is embarking on a journey to follow her grandfather’s footsteps – to carve out a place for herself in the science of forestry.
“Forestry is a complex area with a lot to offer. What stands out to me is how it assists in the development of the rural communities,” Elaine says. In 2016, Elaine joined a research project with other young researchers and scientists from PNG and Australia to increase value-added wood processing in PNG.
The aims of the project were to increase knowledge of wood properties and processing characteristics of PNG timbers, test and evaluate different methods of value-added processing systems, and estimate the contribution and distribution of economic impacts to national and local economies. The PNG Government wants to encourage domestic processing of 80 per cent of the timber harvested from its forests. Increasing domestic downstream processing is important for PNG because it contributes to foreign exchange, employment, and national and regional economies.
“But there have been many challenges that PNG faces, which the project hopes to address. We look forward to using this new knowledge to help PNG to implement value-added wood processing policies, strategies and practices,” says Dr Norah Devoe, Aciar research programme manager. In the project, Aciar (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) brought together education, research and training institutions.
The project was led by the University of Melbourne, working in partnership with the PNG Forest Authority, the PNG University of Technology through the Timber and Forestry Training College, the Forest Research Institute and the PNG Forest Authority.
Since 2016, the project team has made a series of significant findings. The team established a database of PNG timber species, including their properties and processing characteristics such as gluing, machinability and preservation treatments.
“The database will help the timber industry to promote timbers for different products and applications depending on their properties and characteristics. It will also be a valuable resource for research education and training in PNG and the world,” says Dr Devoe.
The team found that the strength and durability properties of some species obtained from secondary and plantation forests were lower than those found in old‐growth forests. Dr Devoe says this highlights that it is important for researchers to assess wood properties of younger timber sources.
“It also means that timber companies will need to adjust their processing and manufacturing methods.” The project has supported production trials of a central processing unit within the Timber and Forestry Training College. This found there were opportunities to increase landowner profits by selling their timber for further processing into value-added products.
The project has also made significant achievements in building local capacity in wood science, wood processing, manufacturing and waste utilisation. Through the project, young PNG researchers like Elaine have benefited from working alongside scientists and researchers from Australia.
Strong networks have been developed among partner organisations in education, research, training and the industry. Her time working with the Aciar project has now inspired her to go a step further. Elaine wants to pursue research to investigate the natural durability of PNG timbers against marine borers. “In PNG we use wood in both marine and freshwater applications, but there’s not enough information on wood used for that purpose. Other countries have researched this but not PNG,” Elaine says.
“I have applied for the 2020 John Allwright Scholarship under Aciar and I am excited that I have been accepted.” The John Allwright Fellowship supports individuals, like Elaine, from partner countries to receive postgraduate qualifications in Australia. The programme gives researchers the opportunity to remain involved in Aciar projects throughout their studies and continue the research on their return home.
Elaine has a strong message for young women who are looking to pursue careers in research. “It is important to be involved in work that is in your strengths and to continue to develop your capacity, knowledge and skills, as well as support yourself and your family. “While doing this, look out for opportunities—and there are a lot out there—to achieve your dreams.”
Source: The National Weekender
EMSINA shares big picture of Australian bushfiresAs fires still burn across Australia, Emergency Management Spatial Information Network Australia (EMSINA) are aiding collaboration efforts for response and recovery agencies – they have introduced new web services to provide common operating pictures across four different applications. Click here to view.
Source: ESRI Australia
Nature’s Flame completes significant expansionNature’s Flame’s facility, ideally located in Taupo, New Zealand has recently undergone a significant expansion with an investment from parent company Norske Skog of around NZD$8 million. This has enabled production to increase to 85,000 tonnes of premium quality wood pellets per year, all from sustainably sourced fibre residues.
“Utilising local, unused geothermal energy we have eliminated bottlenecks and more than doubled our plant’s output” said John Goodwin – Nature’s Flame Operations Manager. “Working with Contact Energy has enabled a smooth transition over to geothermal energy, further increasing the facility’s efficiency and improving its environmental performance”, he said.
Following the expansion, Nature’s Flame are proud to be able to partner with large scale energy users like Fonterra’s Te Awamutu milk processing site and work with them to reduce or eliminate their use of coal. In the case of Fonterra, the switch to wood pellets will reduce their annual carbon emissions by the equivalent of 32,000 cars on our roads each year.
Nature’s Flame has a state-of-the-art plant which was acquired by Norske Skog in 2015 and is located close to the centre of New Zealand’s forest-based industry. Wood pellets produced by Nature's Flame are a premium heating fuel made from wood residues from nearby timber processing facilities.
Further coverage can be found here.
Source: Nature’s Flame
Improving productivity in Australia’s private native forestsNew evidence-based information has demonstrated the financial viability of private native forests in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, as well as the potential improvements in yield and profit associated with effective forest management practices.
Researchers found silviculturally treated plots have trees with average growth rates approximately four times higher than those in non-treated plots. The researchers are exploring methods of educating landowners about the positive impacts of such practices on their businesses, the broader economy and the environment.
Data from 203 permanent monitoring plots was analysed to determine the impacts of forest management in the two regions, which are vital to the supply of domestic hardwood. Mapping carried out during the project found there are approximately 1.9 million hectares of commercially harvestable private native forest in southern Queensland, and 525,600 hectares in the upper north east region of New South Wales.
The need for privately grown hardwood is likely to increase over the next decade. Despite the significant size of this resource, the research suggested variable quality in forest management practices has negatively impacted on its overall productive condition, with many of the sites found to contain a high proportion of un-merchantable trees.
The good news is the majority of private, native forest sites surveyed were considered to have untapped potential (e.g. appropriate commercial species) that could be released with effective forest management practices. The full report will be made available in January.
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... and one to end the week on ... retirement beckons?
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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