Friday Offcuts – 21 February 2020

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Still uppermost in readers minds right now is the slowdown in log exports into China and the impact it’s having on NZ forest owners, harvesting contractors, transport companies and the product and service providers to this part of the industry and in Australia, the aftermath and clean up from the devastating bush fires earlier in the year.

For the kiwis, the situation is still far from certain. Forestry contractors and crews remain on reduced hours or days while others are on stand-down. It varies markedly across the country. The situation is expected to become clearer in the coming days with an announcement on some sort of relief package from Government to those adversely affected anticipated to come through early next week. In Australia, salvage operations of burnt timber are now in full swing. There’s reportedly a window of opportunity of about a year before the wood starts to deteriorate. In one region in NSW, production as a consequence of the fires is expected to increase fourfold over the next 12 months. Like their Kiwi counterparts, Australian forestry contractors who are estimating that the bushfires have cost them over AU$10 million in work, and at least AU$25 million dollars’ worth of equipment, have been meeting with Federal and State Governments to see if any form of assistance package can be pulled together.

As we’ve outlined through numerous stories in recent issues, data is transforming how operations are being run. Managed analytics has the potential to transform any manufacturing business. Manufacturing operations are increasingly moving to being totally connected, allowing better leveraging of AI and predictive analytics. Better utilisation of data available or being collected on site to drive the operation will, along with robotics and automation, be featuring in this year’s WoodTECH 2020 series that will be running for local wood processing and manufacturing companies in August. The programmes have just been uploaded onto the event website and further details will be provided to readers shortly.

This week we’ve included a short article detailing just how manufacturing businesses can better utilise data. Ensuring some of your team understands how analytics can be used to solve problems is a recommended first, buy in from the top of course is essential, the manufacturing site should be looking to integrate the cloud with manufacturing enterprise resource planning and finally, it’s important to implement pilot programmes, the goal being to then deploy it multiple times across the company and across sites. Check out this week’s article and link.

And in forest technology news this week we cover two new projects, one that’s been set up to inventory the extent of deforestation in New Zealand during 2017 and 2018 (that’s going to involve field checking over 7,000 forested areas, covering approximately 84,000 hectares) and the other, a joint project set up between New Zealand and American scientists which will be looking at how climate change is affecting the amount of water and nutrients that are flowing through the country’s forests. NASA's GEDI mission has also just released its first publicly available data giving researchers access to new measurements of forests around the world. That’s it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.

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NSW govt drops forestry privatisation push

The NSW government won't proceed with privatising Forestry Corporation's softwood plantation business as the industry works to rebuild after an unprecedented bushfire season. The coalition has decided not to sell off the business after a five-month investigation which took into account recent damage to the state's forestry assets.

About 25 per cent of Forestry Corporation's softwood division suffered fire damage over the summer. Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the government's priority was to help the forestry industry get back on its feet.

"Re-growing our forests, getting new trees in the ground, and strengthening the industry so its long-term future is secure is where we are focusing our energy," Mr Barilaro said in a statement on Thursday.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the five-month scoping study thoroughly investigated all options available. "The significant damage to the sector caused by the recent bushfires was obviously a key factor in the decision made by the NSW government," Mr Perrottet said.

Thursday's announcement was welcomed by unions and NSW Labor, which had opposed the privatisation push and criticised the government for putting forestry workers through "emotional turmoil". Australian Workers' Union national secretary Daniel Walton described the government's decision as a victory for everyone in NSW. He said it would be a huge relief to forestry workers who spent months battling blazes.

"The recent bush fire crisis has demonstrated that we need to keep this valuable asset in the hands of experienced state forestry workers who are skilled in both fire and wildlife management, skills that are needed more than ever," Mr Walton said in a statement. "This was always an ill-conceived idea."

Source:, Photo: FCNSW

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Positive notes as some log exports resume

Late last week ended on a more positive note for the forestry industry on the East Coast, as log exports resumed through Eastland Port. The Glorious Splendour was completing her load on Friday, with three other log ships at anchor waiting their turn.

The forestry slowdown to hit the district is a timely reminder of what a commodity market-driven industry it is, says Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland. Ms Holland's comments come as the council welcomes a positive rebound across the forestry sector after a crisis sparked last week by a combination of the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese New Year and increased log imports into China from Europe and Australia.

A log ship began loading at Eastland Port yesterday, much of the district's log truck fleet has gone back to work and harvesting has resumed in many forests. “After the shock of last week, it is great to hear that most forest companies are back to business this week and have forestry operations and cartage under way,” Ms Holland said.

“We are still very much in a wait-and-see mode to see how the situation unfolds in China as they get back to wood processing and manufacturing. There is also the drop in the log price and that will be something we will be keeping an eye on in coming weeks, and months.”

Some forestry contractors and crews remain on reduced hours or days while others are on stand-down. For these groups, there was a direct financial hit as they had financial commitments they could not meet and didn't currently meet the Ministry of Social Development Emergency Benefit thresholds, Ms Holland said.

More >>

Source: Gisborne Herald

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Project to identify NZ forest loss using AI

Wellington technology start-up Lynker Analytics has been selected by New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment (the Ministry) to lead a consortium including UAV Mapping NZ and Carbon Forest Services to inventory the extent of forest loss in New Zealand during 2017 and 2018.

Each year 40,000 – 50,000 hectares of forest is harvested in New Zealand as part of normal forestry land use activity. Most of this forest area is replanted, however a small but significant area is deforested and converted to another land use. Deforestation is an important form of land-use change from a greenhouse gas perspective. The Ministry assesses deforestation in New Zealand every two years to meet international reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

The Ministry also provides deforestation mapping to the Ministry for Primary Industries for use by their compliance teams monitoring deforestation under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. Under this contract the consortium will field check over 7,000 forested areas, covering approximately 84,000 hectares. These areas have already been identified in satellite imagery as having experienced forest disturbance during 2017 and 2018. The primary objective is to determine what the current land use of each area is and therefore identify the areas of deforestation.

UAV Mapping NZ will manage the flying programme which entails over 200 flying hours across every district in the country. Multiple fixed wing Cesna 172 aircraft operated by Rotorua based Action Aviation will be used.

The images, will then be input into a machine learning algorithm for land cover analysis. Matt Lythe, Managing Director of Lynker Analytics says “our machine learning process will deliver a classification system that will firstly apportion land cover to sub-areas within each forest block. This will generate detailed land cover information which we can then use to make final determinations of overall land use at a block level.” He goes on to say, “the detail and consistency of the information from the modelling will make the final land cover class very data driven and defensible.”

Forestry expert on the team, Ollie Belton from Carbon Forest Services adds “this approach will allow a more refined set of land-use classifications that aligns with both domestic and international rules on land-use, land-use change, and forestry. We will be able to accurately assess whether or not each block has been re-planted, is naturally re-generating, has suffered natural damage or has been converted to grazing or another purpose.”

Scheduled for completion by 30 June this year the Consortium will also offset the aviation emissions associated with the project in accordance with the Ministry for the Environment’s Measuring and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions using high quality New Zealand units from permanent forest sinks.

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Bushfire recovery means a busy year ahead

The Northern NSW forestry industry has begun salvaging burnt timber from softwood plantations impacted by recent fires, with local production to increase fourfold over the next year. Forestry Corporation of NSW Grafton District Manager Trent Froud said plantation timber harvesting would take place at four times the normal annual rate to ensure burnt trees were salvaged while the timber was still good.

“This season’s fires have had a significant impact on the local softwood timber industry, burning more than 60 per cent of the pine plantations in the Grafton district and destroying the sawmill of our major customer at Rappville,” Mr Froud said.

“However, while a large area has been burnt it is by no means lost. With the intensity of these fires some of the southern pine trees we grow in the plantations around Grafton will die, but if we get to them quickly the wood is still good. Furthermore, experience from past fires has shown us that the Southern Pines grown in this part of the state are quite fire resilient, so we’re hopeful a proportion of the burnt plantations will survive”.

“We only have about 12 months to salvage the burnt timber before it starts to deteriorate, so we will be working at about four times the normal rate to get this timber while it’s still good. We have already brought on new contractors and customers and have started the enormous task of harvesting the burnt timber”.

Find out more about recovery operations.

Source: FCNSW

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NZ14m for forest water study

A NZ$14 million Government-funded project is under way to figure out how climate change will affect the amount of water and nutrients flowing through New Zealand forests. Scientists from Scion are working with Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment to use remote-sensing equipment, isotopic tracing and manipulative field studies to develop a comprehensive model of water and nutrient flow through forested catchments.

“One of the big questions facing New Zealand is how climate change drivers and land use changes are going to affect ecosystem services,” said Virginia Tech’s Associate Professor Brian Strahm. “There is a lot of uncertainty about what the future will look like.”

The five-year research project, called Forest Flows, will develop forest hydrology models to measure and predict the storage and release of water in forest catchments while simultaneously allowing scientists to collect data on nutrient cycling, with a particular emphasis on the export, use and cycling of nitrogen.

Virginia Water Resource Research Centre manager Associate Professor Kevin McGuire says disentangling the soil and hydrologic processes controlling nutrient cycling is a major aim. “You can’t really look at the cycling of nitrogen at the watershed level without understanding how it’s transported and reacts within soil,” he said.

Researchers will use isotopic tracers in the water and in nitrogen to measure the movement of water and nutrients through a forest system – a process Strahm says is like “putting a flag or tracker on a molecule of water or an atom of nitrogen and seeing where it goes through the environment”.

The research builds on recent work in the United States, modelling hill-slope water flow to estimate how natural systems behave in response to change in land use or climate. “The hillslope study is what got us in the ballgame with Scion,” Strahm said.

While the project is focused on the unique challenges of New Zealand forest watersheds, both professors, who are affiliated faculty members of the Global Change Center housed under Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Sciences Institute, say it has both local and global implications. The project’s total grant amount of nearly NZ$14 million is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.

Source: Carbon News 2020

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Are You Wasting Perfectly Good Data?

Analytics have the potential to totally reconfigure the factory, but they must be utilized in every aspect of the enterprise, from labour deployment to supply chain management. There has been a lot of talk about the enormous potential and market opportunity for smart factories. Yet, for all the talk, the reality on the ground for a lot of enterprises in manufacturing is that their machines are not yet connected to any network. Before they can even talk about digitization and predictive maintenance, they need to first get connected.

There are many sectors in which this lack of connection has traditionally been a pain point (consumer packaged goods, for example), but other sectors, particularly oil, gas, and automotive, have had the ability to measure and monitor things through connectivity and sensors for a long time.

However, to date they have been using data and analytics primarily for engineering value and manufacturing KPIs. Enterprises need to start looking at data from the angle of its business impact⁠. For instance, how can data be utilized to minimize downtime? Analytics have the potential to totally reconfigure the factory, but they must be utilized across the enterprise, from labour deployment to supply chain management.

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Forestry contractors put case for Federal support

A delegation of forestry contractors from Victoria and NSW last Friday held a series of productive meetings with Federal Government and Opposition Ministers, Shadow Minsters and local MPs in Canberra to highlight the crisis they are facing as a result of the bushfires.

Forestry contractors estimate the bushfires have cost them over AU$10 million in work, and at least AU$25 million dollars’ worth of equipment since November, when bushfires hit the north coast of NSW. They are urging the Federal and State Governments to work together to provide immediate assistance for forestry contractors, and today that’s the message they delivered to federal MPs.

The fires have meant many of the contractors’ crews have been out of work, and with uncertainty about if and when they’ll get access to forest areas again there is no relief in sight. For Victorian contractors in East Gippsland the bushfires have exacerbated the uncertainty for their future, with many of their contracts terminated by the state government last week and a lack of clarity Andrews Government around its proposed deadline to end native forest harvesting by 2030.

The delegation included contractors from north and south NSW and East Gippsland in Victoria and are represented by the Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA). The sector represents hundreds of workers in NSW and Victoria who face an uncertain future.

AFCA General Manager Stacey Gardiner thanked the MP’s who made time for them. “They listened to our concerns and understood that we’re not asking for anything extravagant,” she said. “While there is assistance for landowners in the fire affected areas, it’s not available for our members. We’d like the Federal Government to look at ways of easing access to assistance and support so contractors can stay in business and support the communities they live and work in.”

Contractor Mick Benton from Casino said: “We just want to get back to work, and get our people working again. That’s the message we gave to MP’s, and they were more than prepared to hear it.” East Gippsland Haulage Contractor Reece Reynolds said for them the future’s uncertain. “We’ve already laid off people, and our approaches to the Andrews Government asking to talk to them about closing Victoria’s native forests have been rejected,” he said. “Thankfully we got a better reception here at Parliament House, and we appreciated that someone’s prepared to listen.”

Photo: The forestry contractors' delegation with Assistant Minster for Forestry and Fisheries Senator Jonathon Duniam. (L-R) Melissa Hayward, HR Forestry, Exeter NSW. Mick Benton, Casino NSW. Lorna and Denis Greensill, Grafton. Senator Jonathon Duniam. Reece Reynolds, East Gippsland VIC. Adam Campbell, East Gippsland VIC.

Source: AFPA

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Global pulp & paper sector disruption accelerates

Since 2017, China's crackdown on waste paper imports has reconfigured the global pulp, paper and board industry – and there's more disruption to come. From the Americas and Europe to India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, every market has been affected. The Global Impact of China's Recovered Paper Import Regulations, a new study from Fastmarkets RISI, confirms that industry dynamics will keep shifting over the next decade.

"By stopping the flow of unsorted waste paper into its ports, China launched a tidal wave of change throughout the world's fibre, paper, and board markets," said Hannah Zhao, Fastmarkets RISI Senior Economist for Global Recovered Paper and lead author of the new study. "Every region's response has, in turn, affected other markets as well," Zhao said.

"Now Indonesia is also looking to crack down on waste paper imports, even as its industry is using that fibre to boost production," explained Zhao. "And China's powerful pulp and paper industry is buying and building capacity in the US and other nations to circumvent domestic supply issues."

"In the US and Europe, domestic producers will use more waste paper, as risk on both the import and export sides increases," said Zhao. "As for China, its producers' shift towards domestic RCP and recycled pulp has raised costs," Zhao explained. "This is a shift that could affect trade balances worldwide."


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Hazard reduction a priority for bushfire commission

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the terms of reference for the national bushfire Royal Commission and applauded the inclusion of hazard reduction as one of its priorities. The terms of reference include; “preparedness and resilience responsibilities, which includes land management and hazard reduction measures”.

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton has reiterated that hazard reduction must encompass a whole-of-landscape fuel reduction approach, including the use of mechanical techniques to complement winter burn offs. “The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference give it the authority to investigate and recommend ways of limiting the impact of future bushfires, and Mechanical Fuel Reduction has proved highly effective in other bushfire prone countries,” he said.

'It’s clear that a business-as-usual approach in our forests is not an option anymore, and this announcement of the terms of reference is great news. This terrible fire season has exposed the fact that we have multiple approaches by multiple land managers and agencies when it comes to fuel load reduction. With the best will in the world this is not a recipe for success.

Multiple use State Forests only make up about 8% of our 132 million hectares of native forest. Forestry areas have road networks and men and women with heavy machinery able to put fires out before they get too large. But forestry areas are the smallest part of our native forest area. We need a new approach to reducing fuel loads across all our forest tenures to mitigate against devastating fires.

Farmers too need permission to actively manage for bushfire mitigation. With State governments generally falling behind recommended prescribed burning targets, it is time to add to the mix the internationally proven technique of mechanical fuel reduction, to better fire-proof key assets, regional towns, farms and livelihoods.”

Earlier this month AFPA released a new report Using Fire and Machines to Better Fire-Proof Our Country Towns, which makes the case for mechanical fuel reduction.

Mr Hampton said, “Australia cannot afford a repeat of the summer we have just experienced, and all effective ways of reducing risk must be considered. That’s what mechanical fuel reduction is and this is what we will be seeking to discuss with the Royal Commissioners.”

Source: AFPA

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NZ sawmill cutting production

Dozens more Waikato sawmill workers have lost their jobs, as the forestry industry grapples with closures and job losses across the country. Spectrum Group Ltd, which owns RH Tregoweth, has confirmed 35 of the 48 staff at the Te Kuiti plant had been made redundant.

The losses would hurt the rural town, the Waitomo Mayor says, which has a population of about 4200. It comes as the forestry industry deals with nationwide disruption, exacerbated by the coronavirus affecting Kiwi exporters.

But Spectrum Group's Managing Director Wade Glass said the main problem was the price of a pruned log has steadily increased since the company bought the mill about two-and-a-half years ago. The average cost has risen from about $152 per cubic metre to $195 per cubic metre, Glass said.

Domestic sawmills were paying more for pruned logs than exporters, he said. Wade said in some cases local forest owners were pitting sawmills against each other to try to get the lowest price. "Within the forestry industry there should be more understanding of each other's position.

Wade said making staff redundant was the last resort. The Te Kuiti plant is the second Waikato sawmill to see significant job losses in less than a month, after a Putaruru sawmill shut down in January.

Source: Stuff

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Reformed fire service fails to deliver promised savings

The 2017 amalgamation of urban and rural fire services in New Zealand has delivered huge cost increases for taxpayers, finds a new report from the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

The 2017 amalgamation of urban and rural fire services has delivered huge cost increases for taxpayers, finds a new report from the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. Cash to Ashes: The inefficiency of fire service reforms can be read here.

Key findings:

1. The merger and centralisation of urban and rural fire services was meant to produce $47.7 million in efficiency savings by 2021/22. In practice, there have been no efficiency savings, and Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) has cost taxpayers $338 million more in its first three years than was forecast to Cabinet in 2016.

2. $163 million of the $205 million increase in forecast expenditure between 2017/18 and 2018/19 was dedicated to ‘Support Services’ – i.e. back office bureaucracy.

3. FENZ has increased spending by $43 million on ‘communications and computers’ over three years.

4. FENZ is spending $27.4 million on external consultants over three years.

5. FENZ is ‘gold plating’ its infrastructure. New stations in Lake Okareka and Wanaka cost $1.9 million and $4 million respectively, far more than comparable volunteer stations in Australia. FENZ has even opened a double-bay station, complete with training space, laundry, and kitchenette, in Tinui, a town of 20 people.

6. FENZ spent $17 million responding to the Pigeon Valley Forest fire – more than 17 times more than the response to the remarkably similar Hira Forest fire in 1981.

7. FENZ does not have to justify wasteful spending to Cabinet, as it collects revenue through the fire insurance levy, bypassing the Budget bid process.

Cash to Ashes recommends that FENZ be required to go through the scrutiny of the Budget bid process to secure its funding. The report also proposes abolishing the fire insurance levy entirely, and collecting revenue for FENZ from general taxation.

More >>.

Source: Taxpayers Union

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NASA forest structure mission releases first data

NASA's Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation mission (GEDI) has released its first publicly available data, giving researchers access to measurements of forests around the world.

GEDI surveys Earth's forests from aboard the International Space Station, using its three lasers to construct detailed 3-dimensional (3-D) maps of forest canopy height and the distribution of branches and leaves in the forest. By accurately measuring forests in 3-D, GEDI data play an important role in understanding how much biomass and carbon forests store and how much they lose when disturbed—vital information for understanding Earth's carbon cycle and how it is changing. Data from the mission can also be used to study plant and animal habitats and biodiversity, and how these may change over time.

The first data release contains the first eight weeks of GEDI data: Hundreds of millions of data points, covering the globe between southern Canada and the tip of South America. By the time it reaches its second birthday, GEDI will have collected an estimated 10 billion laser observations, representing the most comprehensive global satellite data set on forest structure ever produced.

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Commercial trial of RF technology

A technology that uses dielectric heating and radio frequency energy to destroy destructive pests lurking within wood products is closer to reaching the marketplace after a recent commercial trial at Penn State’s University Park campus.

The 17 December demonstration, which was observed by regulatory and wood products industry professionals from the U.S. and Canada, validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the radio frequency, or RF, technology for pallet sanitation.

The treatment offers enhanced ability to terminate wood insect and nematode pests compared to conventional heat practices, noted Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneur and Innovation Faculty Scholar in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“This innovation has the potential to be transformative in required international trade wood-sanitation treatment,” said Gagnon, who has been instrumental in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program since its inception, encouraging entrepreneurship across the college.

“RF treatment is more efficient and uses fewer resources than conventional kilns and chemical drying methods, and that is not only better for a company’s bottom line, but it is also better for the environment.”

Developed by Penn State scientists John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, the patent-pending, wood-treatment system heats wood in a unique configuration by using electromagnetic wave penetration, similar to that of a microwave oven.

It heats wood from the inside out, first causing the core temperature to elevate rapidly, making it an ideal method to destroy pests that have burrowed within, noted Hoover.

For years, wood-products manufacturers have had two options to deal with wood-boring insects — traditional heat-treatment or fumigation. RF technology is poised to offer the industry another choice, one that the scientists say is faster and more streamlined than the use of conventional kilns and that can help decrease energy costs.

RF technology also can replace the process of fumigating wood with methyl bromide — a chemical that is being phased out — and help the U.S. wood products industry to retain export markets while moving away from chemically-treated wood.

“There has been a real demand to develop suitable alternatives to replace methyl bromide, which is an ozone-depleting chemical,” said Ron Mack, commodity treatment specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Dielectric treatment is one of the leading alternatives to replace it.”

More >>

Source & Photo: Penn State

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... and one to end the week on ... the royal family are Indian

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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