Friday Offcuts – 4 June 2021

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In the last couple of issues, we’ve covered interviews with two women, both working in Timberlink’s sawmilling operations. They’ve spoken candidly about their careers, the challenges that they’ve faced and why in their opinion, a career in timber is something that other young women should be considering. Hyne Timber likewise has been calling for more female students and women to consider careers in modern manufacturing. In a story this week we look at the extra efforts that they’re taking to encourage women and young students into their business. Four women who’ve recently joined the company’s Glue Laminated Timber plant share their own interesting stories and experience that they bring to the wood manufacturing site in Maryborough.

In a carbon forestry related story this week, larger buyers of voluntary carbon credits looking to hedge against the risk of future price increases have been buying entire carbon projects, or large stakes in them, as soon as they’ve been certified and able to issue credits. As outlined this week, most of these larger companies have a preference to purchase “nature-based projects”. It’s a trend, it’s now already well established and it’s predicted to grow even further. In line with local and international developments around carbon forestry, delegate numbers at this region’s major Carbon Forestry 2021 event running in just a couple of weeks’ time, on 15-16 June are now close to 350. It’s a new record for this event. If you're still interested in attending, in person or remotely, click here to register.

And finally, more good news to end the week on. Unprecedented flooding on the East Coast of New Zealand in 2018 (and the east coast of the South Island also received more than its fair share of rainfall at the start of the week) resulted in forest debris being scattered down rivers and across the region’s beaches. You’ll remember the event. The images are still indelibly etched into our minds. It wasn’t a good look locally – or nationally for the industry. It also brought into question the environmental practices that were being employed by local companies. One of the largest forestry companies on the East Coast over the last two years has been working closely with iwi, the local community and Council’s.

In what’s being described as a “game changer” for New Zealand’s forestry industry, approximately 180 ha of the Aratu Forests estate inland of Tolaga Bay is going to be planted with permanent native forest barriers this year. Once the project’s established, the environmental land use business eLandNZ has plans to roll it out nationally. As described by eLandNZ’s Managing Director, Sheldon Drummond, “It’s a bit of a mentality change” and to date, “it hasn't been contemplated seriously by NZ plantation forest owners”. Times are changing. Check out the story and details below. And that’s it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.

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NZ-first riparian project to stabilise forestry land

Native forest barriers will be planted on New Zealand’s East Coast in a game-changing initiative to protect waterways against forestry slash and silt in future storms. East Coast landowner Aratu Forests has signed a 90-year agreement that gives environmental land use business eLandNZ the right to plant and manage areas that are no longer suitable for production forestry.

It follows two years of research and negotiation after masses of forestry debris inundated Tolaga Bay during a storm in 2018. The Riparian Project will involve removing slash from hillsides and landings, with plans to one day turn these offcuts into a “valuable export”.

The other element is to stabilise land that has been harvested by creating permanent forests within all riparian zones, steep and unstable areas and environmentally sensitive areas. eLandNZ will start planting permanent native forest barriers on approximately 180 hectares of Aratu estate inland of Tolaga Bay this year. eLandNZ managing director Sheldon Drummond said it was a “game-changer” for New Zealand's forestry industry.

“It hasn't been done before. It hasn't been contemplated seriously by plantation forest owners in New Zealand.” In a presentation to Gisborne District Councillors last week, Mr Drummond said they expected it to make “positive disruptive changes” to the industry.

“It is a bit of a mentality change. Somewhat disgraced I stand here quite honestly and say I used to purchase farms for forest companies and clear the scrub and plant them. I see it a totally different way now because I've been around long enough to know what happens, but when you buy a farm like that, you plant every hectare you can with trees because that's how the numbers work. But it is not sustainable.”

The project will involve planting a range of native species, including belts of larger podocarp trees, flax along riversides and larger zones of manuka. “When you talk about permanent forest, that's not something that happens tomorrow, it's not something that happens next week or next year, or even in the next decade or three. It takes a long time”.

“It's a really big step up for a forest company with all that money invested — these guys own most of their land — to virtually sign it over for 90 years.”

More >>

Source: Gisborne Herald

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Timber shortage emergency summit held in SA

Australia's timber shortage is not just hurting builders but is having a "big domino effect" on trades dependent on the construction industry, an emergency summit at South Australian Parliament has been told.

The summit — organised by SA Best and attended by key players from the construction and building industries — has been warned about business closures and job losses if solutions are not found.

A sharp increase in global demand during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused rises in the cost of building materials, including timber. Attendees included industry associations, such as the Master Builders Association of SA and the Housing Industry Association, along with leading timber producers and suppliers, and some of the state's largest home builders.

GCJ Constructions project manager Nathan Shanks said some of his projects were experiencing "massive handbrakes" due to the timber shortage. "We have a AU$5 million project going in the Barossa which has had a handbrake on it for the past four months minimum — and with that problem comes a lot of cost that we end up bleeding," he said.

"If there is opportunity to source material from somewhere like Kangaroo Island, then I think that's definitely worth looking into, because I think we're only just going to get more pain as it goes on."

He said the timber shortage was also impacting other tradespeople — including electricians, bricklayers and plumbers — who were waiting to do their work once frames were built. "They can't do their first fixes," he said. "It is a big domino effect — timber is definitely one of the main components that we are lacking in the industry.

More >>

Source: ABC

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Larger buyers of carbon credits buying entire projects

Larger buyers of voluntary carbon credits looking to hedge against the risk of future price increases have been buying entire carbon projects, or large stakes in them, as soon as they are certified and able to issue credits.

"It is a trend and I believe it will grow bigger," one carbon trader said. "It is a way to avoid having to fight over credits. When you have a multi-year commitment to net-zero, you need to make sure you have the supply in the long run."

Carbon projects are business activities -- such as reforestation -- targeted at removing or reducing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. They issue carbon credits as a way of financing themselves. "Most of these large buyers are from the oil and gas sector," a project developer said. "They have a preference to purchase nature-based projects."

The market, which was particularly strong a few months ago, has slowed a little of late. possibly because the players involved were busy finalizing deals, the developer said. The purchase of an entire carbon project or large part of it makes sense from a financial perspective, a second carbon trader said, given the current price scenario.

"It really would depend on how [the project] is priced ... It makes sense if it is a quality project and a quality developer, and if [the project] meets certain parameters. I think that this has been happening over the past few months, but at some point, the low-priced volume will no longer be low enough. It is unclear when that stops," the trader said. A "fear of missing out" may also be behind the strategy, a fourth source said.

The recent trend may instead be beneficial to the market, the first trader said, because the big buyers, especially from the oil and gas sector, won't necessarily retire all the credits for themselves but may pass them along the supply chain.

"Let us say a big oil and gas company purchases an entire forestry project. They will still have the possibility to resell those credits or to use them to offer carbon-zero commodities. Companies like Shell or BP have contacts with airlines, they supply them with fuel. So, they could sell them carbon neutral fuel for example," the trader said.

The actual purchase of a certified project by big buyers of carbon credits is not the only way they act to secure supply in the long run -- it is common practice for those biggest players to invest in a carbon project from its start by contributing to its initial financing.

"Most of the time the big buyers help with the financing of the project," the first trader said. "And this helps developers, which otherwise will have to rely on loans from banks ... it takes at least three years for a forestry project to be certified because you need to wait for the trees to grow enough to allow the measurement of carbon removal. And during those years you have no financing coming in from the sale of credits."

The forms in which buyers of carbon credits invest in projects varies, ranging from the provision of initial financing in exchange for equity or carbon credits. Buyers could also provide financing in exchange for a discount on credits, sources said. In order to be carbon credit eligible, a carbon project needs to be certified by standards, which are international organisations which certify that a particular project meets its stated objectives and its stated volume of emissions.

Standards have a series of methodologies, or requirements, for each type of carbon project. For example, a reforestation project will follow specific rules when calculating the level of CO2 absorption of the planned forest and therefore the number of carbon credits it produces over time.

Over the past few years many companies have announced plans to help finance carbon projects around the world, including, for example, Shell which selects nature-based projects only, or Total which announced in 2017 plans to set up credit-eligible biogas projects in India. "This trend is already established and it will grow further," the trader said.

And the forestry event that’s really causing a buzz right now, across forestry, carbon emitting and investment circles, is Carbon Forestry 2021. Numbers are still growing daily. It’s running in Rotorua, New Zealand on 15- 16 June and it’s being live streamed internationally. Details can be found on the event website, Carbon Forestry 2021.

Source: spglobal

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Practical workshops feature of 2021 sawmilling event

Two years ago – over two weeks – the FIEA WoodTECH technology series achieved a record turnout of local sawmilling companies. Over 350 delegates from all major sawmilling companies in addition to leading tech providers from throughout Australasia, North America and Europe converged on Melbourne, Australia and Rotorua, New Zealand.

Two years later, after huge disruptions worldwide, WoodTECH 2021 will again be running in this region. In fact, it’s likely to be one of very few major sawmilling events run – anywhere in the world – this year.

What makes WoodTECH 2021 special is the series of practical workshops that have been set up for local sawmills. Based on positive feedback from delegates at the last sawmilling event, a series of troubleshooting workshops have been designed for a much wider cross section of sawmill production and operational staff.

They’ll be providing a unique insight into how sawmills can extract the best performance out of their saws, their machine centers and sawing operations. The workshops are designed to encourage sawmill teams – management, mill production, saw-doctors and maintenance staff – to take advantage of the line-up of world class international specialists who’ll be presenting at this event. They’ll ensure that teams can collectively put the practical learnings into practice once back on site.

Practical workshops within the two-day WoodTECH 2021 conference are being given on;

- Saw guides and lubrication. Troubleshooting saw, lubrication and guide issues in the mill

- Managing and making use of data to drive the business

- Real time data collection and use for machine diagnosis and troubleshooting. Using opening face data/wane analysis from your sawing machine centres

Full details on the 2021 programme can be found on the event website,

For those attending the NZ event live, as well as discounted early-bird registrations, significant discounts have also been set up for larger groups attending from one sawmill. For those mills and tech providers in Australia (and internationally), a special virtual registration rate has also been set up for the event.

Registrations can now be made directly on the event website.

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Sale Of Whakatāne Mill to consortium

SIG Combibloc (SIG) has agreed the sale of Whakatāne Mill Limited (WML) to a consortium of investors who will enable the Mill to continue to operate. The consortium is led by Dr Dermot Smurfit who, together with his other European consortium members, has extensive experience in owning and operating paper packaging businesses. They have also brought a number of New Zealand investors alongside them.

A spokesman for the Smurfit Consortium, Mr Ian Halliday (who will become Chairman of the Whakatāne Mill) said the consortium looked forward to developing a more competitive operation to support customers in New Zealand and around the world.

“We believe that the Whakatāne Mill has a very bright future as the only folding box Board Mill in Oceania, and we intend to invest heavily in the Mill to support both our customers and New Zealand’s forest products industry,” he said.

The Mill will cease production of liquid packaging board and going forward will focus on its customers’ requirements for high quality folding box board, carrier board and food service board, all of which are currently manufactured at the Mill.

WML General Manager, Juha Verajankorva, said the agreed acquisition by the Smurfit Consortium was a positive outcome and represented a new and exciting era for the Mill. All senior management will remain with the new owners.

“This is a welcome development for Whakatāne and the wider Bay of Plenty region. It’s also great news for the New Zealand paper packaging sector and we appreciate the positive support of our workforce, our suppliers and customers in working towards this outcome which has been welcomed by all,” he said.

All parties had worked tirelessly to ensure the Mill could continue as a leading regional business, after vendor SIG indicated it could no longer sustain the operations of the plant. “Our preference was always for a sale of these assets so that they could continue to be productive,” said Mr Verajankorva. “It took until almost the final whistle, but this is a satisfying outcome.”

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Fulbright Scholarship to boost biosecurity

An insect invasion expert from USC Australia will soon travel to the United States on a prestigious Fulbright Future Scholarship to help boost biosecurity between the two countries. Dr Helen Nahrung, from USC’s Forest Research Institute, is the first researcher to receive the honour while employed at USC, one of Australia’s fastest-growing regional universities.

The scholarship will allow Dr Nahrung to travel to the US in May 2022 to examine the accidental importation of insects between Australia and the US, part of an “unwanted reciprocal exchange” of invasive species that each year costs Australia AU$14 billion and the US$210 billion.

Dr Nahrung hopes findings from her visit to the United States could be used to influence trade or travel policy. “We plan to use our improved bilateral understanding of insect movement between our respective countries to identify strategies to reduce the likelihood of future damaging invasions,” she said.

Dr Nahrung will be based for three months in West Virginia where she will work alongside a leading US invasion biologist looking at border interception data – the first time this data has been made available for this purpose.

“We will be looking for historical establishments of insect populations as well as patterns in insect movement,” she said. “This is an exciting opportunity to work together to learn more about similarities and differences between our countries’ respective biosecurity systems. We can’t stop everything, but we need to be able to predict and prevent everything we can.”

The Fulbright Future Scholarship, funded by The Kinghorn Foundation is an award offered under the Fulbright Program, the United States Government’s most prestigious foreign exchange scholarship that aims to promote understanding and the exchange of ideas between the US and other countries.

More >>

Source: USC

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High lumber prices will eventually reduce demand

Russ Taylor, president of British Columbia based Russ Taylor Global, says that high prices cure high prices. High lumber prices will eventually reduce demand and increase supply – high prices scare people away. He is confident the prices for lumber will start to settle down, but at higher levels than we have ever seen before. There will be a new “base level” price to result over time. Supply and demand will always balance, but North America just doesn’t the trees anymore to allow for more sawmill construction except in the U.S. South, he notes in an interview for Lesprom Network. More >>


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Hyne encouraging more women into manufacturing

Increased focus on greater diversity in the workplace coupled with community feedback has spurred Hyne Timber to call for more female students and women to consider careers in manufacturing. As part of a recent recruitment drive in Maryborough and Hervey Bay shopping centres, Hyne personnel have been left astounded at the number of women who did not consider applying for roles, purely based on their gender.

Hyne Timber CEO, Jon Kleinschmidt said there is no doubt the manufacturing workforce has historically been male dominated but that means half the potential talent pool are not being considered. “There is work to do so female students and women know about the career opportunities in manufacturing while also ensuring our workplaces are an environment where women can confidently contribute through diverse thinking and problem solving, overall improving results”.

“The kind of feedback we have received recently, particularly from women in the community means we really have to work harder. Women are eligible for all our operational roles and may be surprised to discover just how fulfilling it is to work in modern manufacturing. To help reduce unconscious bias when recruiting, we now have artificial intelligence software to assist with shortlisting plus all our selection panels have even representation of male and females”.

“We have gender diversity in our Board, our executive team and our support functions and we’re starting to see an improvement in our operational areas including the appointment of the first female Site Manager recently at our Glue Laminated Timber Plant in Maryborough.” Mr Kleinschmidt said.

Site Manager, Ms Andrea Frost, brings a wealth of experience in manufacturing management, competitive and lean practices, safety, value stream mapping, and an infectiously enthusiastic energy for how products are made, in this case, Glue Laminated Timber. With demand for Glue Laminated Timber on the increase, the site will be recruiting for an additional shift in a few weeks’ time and women are encouraged to apply.

Ms Frost said recruitment to the site team will focus on diversity including gender, but we do not have quotas. “We need to attract the best people for the work and people will be assessed on merit. The challenge this presents to us, is encouraging more women to apply in the first place.” Ms Frost said.

Several other women have recently joined the Glue Laminated Timber plant, all with their own interesting stories and experience to bring to site. Process Operator, Ella Douglass is creative having always enjoyed “working with her dad in the shed using timber”. Ella undertook a carpentry apprenticeship with the Fraser Coast Regional Council and went on to complete an engineering course.

Process Operator Aimee Burns joins the plant with past experience as an Area Manager for BP. Aimee admitted she was a little apprehensive about working in manufacturing as a woman, with friends claiming she “wouldn’t last”.

Process Operator, Jess Wixon also brings a fresh set of eyes to the process with a specific focus on safety. She identified an opportunity to introduce more rotation into the process, decreasing any repetition and improving safety which the whole team appreciated and can benefit from.

“I always look at the process and see how it can be improved. It is also important to know the up and downstream processes and why we operate the way we do if we are to contribute to overall efficiency gains and productivity improvements. There is certainly an incorrect perception in the community that this isn’t a place for women. When I collected my child from childcare recently, I was questioned by the carer regarding me wearing high vis clothing and how they didn’t think women could work in manufacturing”.

“We all have a role to play in breaking open this myth. Women can work in manufacturing and contribute great value. No one, male or female should have the view this isn’t a place for women.” Ms Wixon said.

Photo: (From left) Ella Douglass, Andrea Frost, Aimee Burns and Jess Wixon at Hyne's glulam plant

Source: Hyne Timber

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Remote height measurement of seedlings

New, accurate lower limits for measuring tree height have been established using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Height is a good indication of how productive (and healthy) a tree is. Height can be measured from the ground, but this can be expensive and time consuming, especially over large areas. An alternative method is to use laser scanners mounted on aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to predict height and other metrics.

The height of trees around 5.5 m and taller have been accurately predicted using laser scanning. The question is: how low can we go? Is it possible to use UAV-mounted scanners to estimate the heights of recently planted trees (with small crowns)?

Scion scientists have recently flown UAV-mounted laser scanners and cameras over six plantation radiata pine trials in the central North Island. The trees in the different trial plots ranged in height from 0.4 to 6.1 m. “We found we could predict tree heights very precisely and accurately,” reports Robin Hartley, lead author of a paper describing the work.

“The correlation between field measurements and our laser scanning predictions had an R2 of 0.99, with a very slight bias towards underestimation of less than 10 cm. However, when trees were shorter than one metre, laser scanning was much less precise and underestimated tree height.”

The research team also considered a more cost-effective way to gather data to predict tree height. Laser scanners are often too expensive to use on a day-to-day basis. An alternative is to use cameras to capture overlapping images that can be assembled into a 3D representation of the area being scanned (structure from motion photogrammetry). The photogrammetry data was captured by a DJI Phantom 4 Pro UAV, a UAV commonly used by foresters in New Zealand.

“Using photogrammetry, we were able to predict heights accurately (R2=0.94) but less precisely,” reports Robin. “Like laser scanning, the accuracy of photogrammetric measurements dropped off dramatically below one metre and tended to underestimate tree heights but to a greater extent. However, it is a cost-effective remote sensing option for estimating the height of trees that are over one metre tall, although height could be underestimated by up to half a metre.

“Now that we have explored the accuracies that we can expect and the limits associated with these technologies, we hope that this this work will give foresters and researchers such as tree breeders the confidence to start introducing this technology for monitoring trials and as part of routine forest management.”

Source: Scion

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A new timber jointing process using wood welding

In a proof-of-concept collaboration between TWI Ltd and the University of Cambridge and enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, researchers have developed a sustainable process to rapidly join timber elements using linear friction welding.

Two years into the project they have been able to join pieces of wood in two to three seconds by rubbing them together at high speeds, with the resulting welded joint being stronger than conventional adhesives and as strong as the timber itself. Scaled up, this welding technique could be applied in building construction and high-volume manufacturing of products such as furniture and packaging.

Along with industry partners TWI Ltd, Dr Darshil Shah and Dr Michael Ramage from the Department of Architecture and the award-winning team behind the HappyShield open-source PPE design, have developed a process to rapidly join timber elements using linear friction welding. In contrast with traditional methods such as adhesives, linear friction welding of wood can reliably produce high quality joints with high tolerances and does not require any filler or adhesive material.

In this energy-efficient process, joints are produced by pressing and rubbing two timber surfaces together at high frequency (50-150 Hz). The resulting friction and heat softens and re-sets lignin, the natural ‘glue’ in plant materials, as well as mechanically inter-locks the cellular material, causing the ‘welding’. In just two to three seconds, the fused timber joint is stronger than conventional adhesives, and even stronger than the native wood.

Imagine you’re out walking on a cold day and want to warm up your hands; you’re likely to rub your hands together to generate heat. ‘How do you produce more heat?’ asks Dr Shah. ‘Rub your palms faster (frequency), push your palms against each other with more force (pressure), rub your palms for longer (time) and move your palms over a longer distance (amplitude). Similarly, in wood welding, to generate more friction and heat, these are the 4 principal manufacturing parameters we can control.’

This technique has the potential to be applied not only to planed/sawn wood, but also to CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) which is the key timber-origin material used in the work by the team from the Dept of Architecture in their project.

The team continues to explore how these parameters change the process and why it seems to work differently with different woods. This will help them find the right materials and manufacturing parameters to optimise the process and scale it up for different purposes, such as construction and manufacturing.

See below a short video of the welding process.

Source: University of Cambridge

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Biofuel in Southland being hit by log prices

An Invercargill businessman is worried that international demand for logs is driving up the price of woodchips used to fuel eco-friendly boilers. The McCallums Group managing director Wayne McCallum said the price of the woodchips was linked to the export price and higher international prices meant more logs were being exported rather being processed in New Zealand.

This meant there were fewer woodchips available in the country and the price was volatile and McCallum worried this would put other businesses off from making the switch to carbon-efficient fuel sources. He raised this concern at a meeting attended by Finance Minister Grant Robertson last week. The contract he held with his supplier meant he could not share the price he paid for woodchips, but McCallum said the price had risen 25 per cent in the past year.

The McCallums Group plant in Otepuni Ave uses about 100 cubic metres of woodchips a week, but that number is while it is on reduced production as a result of border closure impacts.

Forest Management Group director David Janett said the price of low-grade logs had jumped by 40 per cent or $40 per cubic metres in the past four to five months. “The world is incredibly short of wood fibre,” he said. This was partly because of housing booms worldwide, but also because freight routes were still clogged up as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Janett explained.

Southland also faced a unique supply challenge, he said, as there was not much wood available in the region. This could become a problem in future as more businesses switched to green fuel sources, Janett said. The Government had set a goal to move away from coal in the next 15 years, but heavy industries would require large volumes of biofuels to get there, he said. Biofuel was still a new product for the forestry industry, Janett said, and all sides were still looking for ways to make woodchips more economical.

Niagara Timber group sales and marketing manager Jamie Barton said building booms, coupled with a proposed ban on unprocessed wood from Russia and the fact that many countries were still unable to harvest or process, was “playing havoc with pricing”. The group was the largest supplier of woodchips in Southland, he said, and these were essentially offcuts or waste from milling.

Great South strategic projects general manager Steve Canny said Southland was leading the charge to switch to carbon efficient fuel sources, with 61 of the region’s 149 thermal heat plants already converted. It was not uncommon for these businesses to be struggling with woodchip prices, but the good news was the volume produced in New Zealand was increasing every year, he said.

About 200,000 tonnes of woodchips was being produced in Southland a year and was expected to grow to 600,000 tonnes by 2050, Canny said. Like all energy sources, as it became more widely used, it would be more readily available, he said. “It's a settling down process. As the industry matures, it will be traded just like coal.”

Source: Stuff

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ArborGen 2021 report and outlook

ArborGen Holdings Limited has announced an after-tax profit of US$3.2 million for the year ended 31 March 2021 and is projecting rising availability and sales of its genetically-enhanced seedlings to the plantation forestry sector.

Excellent progress was made on ArborGen’s core strategy to grow supply and sale of its proprietary advanced genetic products (MCP seedlings) in its largest market, the US, where it is an industry leader. Turning to the immediate outlook, Chairman David Knott said strong tailwinds were positioning the business well for FY22.

With 50% of adults in the US now fully Covid-vaccinated, and the expectation is that 75% to 85% will be vaccinated by August of this year. Regulations around H2-B non-immigrant labour visas have eased, and strong underlying demand for wood, especially softwood, is driving an expansion of sawmill capacity, which will in turn support strong demand for softwood seedlings this financial year and beyond.

In New Zealand, demand is being driven by replanting of the “wall of wood” forests established in the late 1980s to mid-1990s and new forest establishment to meet government climate change commitments.

In Brazil, ArborGen’s orders to date are nearly 70% higher than at this time last year. The company is projecting increasing sales in Brazil based on increasing softwood exports, recently-announced pulp mills, strong demand for eucalyptus pulp and charcoal products, expansion of ArborGen’s sales and marketing teams, and rising recognition of the value of its proprietary products.

ArborGen also continues to progress a range of initiatives to minimise the effects of adverse weather events. These include building an inventory of reserve seed, reducing supply risk through geographically dispersed orchards and nurseries, a diversified age profile for orchard trees, and nursery procedures protecting vulnerable younger seedlings.

Source: ArborGen

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Log theft being seen in Chile

Authorities in Chile’s southern province of Arauco have intercepted a string of trucks carrying massive loads of stolen pine wood, revealing just how common it for timber traffickers to pilfer wood from legal plantations in the heart of the country’s logging industry. In mid-May, police revealed they had seized seven trucks loaded with 161 meters of stolen pine wood, worth an estimated $10.5 million. All seven drivers were arrested in connection to the seizure, according to media outlet BioBioChile.

Authorities intercepted the trucks in the commune of Los Álamos along Route 160, a highway cutting through the northern part of Arauco province. BioBioChile reported the wood had been stolen from the Cuyinco Farm in Los Álamos, which is owned by Bosques Arauco, S.A., a company that operates sawmills and planing mills. The alleged theft came on the heels of a similar case in late April, when police intercepted three trucks whose drivers allegedly stole pine wood from a property owned by forestry company Forestal Arauco SA in the commune of Arauco, in northern Arauco Province.

Just two days earlier, a truck was seized and its driver arrested. The vehicle was allegedly transporting stolen timber from another property owned by Forestal Arauco in the same commune, El Líbero reported. Two other trucks involved were able to evade capture. In response to increased thefts, a group of Chilean transport unions recently published an open letter that asked officials in the nation’s congress to push through bills against the crime that are currently being debated in Chile’s Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputadas y Diputados). The bills seek to increase penalties for those who steal wood, to typify the crime and to give authorities greater powers to tackle it.

In January, Juan José Ugarte, president of the Chilean Wood Corporation (Corporación Chilena de la Madera A.G. – Corma), said total losses from wood theft in the legal forestry sector had more than tripled over the last three years. In 2018, losses amounted to $20 million. This figure rose to $45.2 million in 2019, before reaching some $67.8 million last year. Most timber theft in Chile is committed in the southern provinces of Arauco and Malleco.

Arauco is at the center of increased timber theft in Chile for three main reasons. First, legal timber harvesting by forestry companies operating in the province is widespread. This leaves ample room for timber theft to occur. A report published by La Tercera last September revealed pine and eucalyptus plantations in Arauco cultivated by forestry companies are targeted by armed groups.

Pine trees require up to 12 years of cultivation before they are ready to be harvested, while eucalyptus trees take up to 14 years. When the trees are ready to be chopped, armed groups threaten workers and start logging with their own equipment, according to an executive working for a forestry company consulted by La Tercera. The wood is then picked up by drivers receiving it on behalf of timber traffickers. These drivers use the same routes as those transporting legal timber.

Second, Arauco has long been plagued by an ongoing rural conflict that timber traffickers exploit to access wood stolen from forestry companies. Age-old grievances between members of the Indigenous Mapuche community and the Chilean government continue to play out in the province. A radical faction of the Mapuche people has long demanded the return of ancestral territory they say was unlawfully taken. This conflict has stoked acts of resistance, like timber theft and the burning of forests exploited by forestry companies in the province. This means readily-chopped, stolen wood is easily collected by drivers working as intermediaries between those cutting it down and criminal networks selling it on to domestic and international markets.

Finally, a lack of state presence in the province facilitates timber theft. According to René Muñoz, president of Chile’s Forest Contractors Association (Asociación de Contratistas Forestales – Acoforag) this has created a “favorable environment” for cattle rustling, arms and drug trafficking to flourish in Arauco, alongside wood theft.

Source & Photo:

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... optical illusions

The ‘Ole Floating Boat Trick

This boat looks like it’s floating in the air, but it’s really just floating on water. The reason this illusion works is because of how crystal clear the water is. You can see straight to the bottom, where the shadow lurks.

Because of this, the shadow looks like it’s at the top of the water, with the boat floating above it. Boats don’t fly though. Just look at the person at the end of the boat dangling their legs in the water for proof!

A Dip in the Road

This misleading floor pattern keeps people from running down the hallway. People are more likely to tread lightly if they think the floor has an inexplicable dip in it. From a different angle, this hallway looks perfectly straight.

Follow the Dot

No matter what you do, you can’t really see more than one dot at a time, but they pop up at almost every intersection. How can that be?

How Many Eyes?

What do you see when you look into my eyes? That’s the question we imagine this person is asking. You just have to be able to pick an eye and focus! It’s much easier said than done.

Ok, one more. My wife saw me sucking in my gut while standing on the bathroom weight scale.

“That’s not going to help!” she said laughing.

“Yes, it is,” I replied, “I can now see the numbers!”

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
Web page:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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