Friday Offcuts – 30 July 2021

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This week we cover a couple of major announcements in the Australian forestry sector. The first is a transaction being billed as the largest since the South Australian government sold its harvesting rights to state-owned forests to OneFortyOne Plantations nine years ago. Some 24,000ha of pine plantations in the Green Triangle forestry region has been sold to a new entrant to the Australian forestry industry, investment manager, AXA IM. The deal was orchestrated through AXA IM Alts, an investment asset manager that has roughly $260 billion under management. The UK’s largest commercial forestry manager, Gresham House, has also just been appointed as the asset manager for the forest estate.

In another major sale, Boral has announced that they’ll be selling their Australian hardwood and softwood timber business for AU$64.5 million to Allied Natural Wood Enterprises (Pentarch Group). The purchase includes Boral’s nine sawmills in NSW, making Pentarch now the largest hardwood processor in NSW. The purchase also includes Boral’s half share of the Highland Pine sawmill at Oberon. This means Pentarch will be operating in both the NSW softwood and hardwood industries. Stories and further links to the two announcements are contained in the stories below.

We’ve included this week results from a just completed study of US manufacturers on the growing issue of attracting the right skills and retaining existing workers. Of course, the issue isn’t unique to the US. Similar issues – and similar stats are mirrored in this part of the world (see story on the Central North Island Wood Council that’s just launched a unique training course in Tokoroa and the new programme that’s just been set up specifically for the NZ manufacturing industry to address some of these concerns). Over half of manufacturers surveyed in the US study were struggling to find the right talent with the right skills.

Not only are companies struggling to bring in skills, more than two in three manufacturers in the first quarter of this year had to let employees go because of poor attendance. Turnover unfortunately has also climbed accordingly. Competition for skilled talent is fierce right now and manufacturers tell us that negative industry perceptions are impacting on their ability to recruit Millennial and Gen Z talent. Sound familiar? The link to the study is contained in the story below.

And finally, in wood design and construction, a reminder this week for wood manufacturers, architects, project managers and engineers from across the region. Discounted early bird registrations for the sixth annual WoodWorks 2021 conference, NZ’s leading event showcasing the use of wood in commercial and multi-residential buildings, close TODAY, Friday, 30 July 2021. Registration details can be found here. A link to key presenters can be found here. Please also note, limited places to tour the Red Stag CLT factory for conference delegates are filling fast and at the current rate for registrations, the tour of the new EWP plant is likely to sell out next week. Enjoy this week’s read.

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Boral selling its Australian timber business

Boral Limited has entered into an agreement with Allied Natural Wood Enterprises Pty Limited (Pentarch Group) to sell its Australian hardwood and softwood timber business for AU$64.5 million, subject to customary completion adjustments, a news release said.

The divestment of the timber business, which is expected to be completed in 2021, is in line with Boral’s strategy of resetting its portfolio of assets, positioning Boral to build a stronger core business that delivers improved results. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary pre-closing conditions.

Boral’s CEO & Managing Director, Zlatko Todorcevski, said: “The sale of Boral’s Timber business represents another important milestone in focusing our portfolio and positioning for the future. “In Australia, our focus is on our leading integrated construction materials business and maturing our adjacent growth strategies such as recycling, waste, supplementary cementitious materials and lower carbon products.

“The sale of Boral’s Timber business to the Pentarch Group, a private company with growing interests in the forest products sector, is a good outcome for this business and its customers. “Boral has owned and operated the Timber business for many decades and I want to take this opportunity to formally recognise the enormous contribution employees and management have made over the years to the wider Boral group.”

Further coverage and commentary on the sale can be read here.

Source: NewsnReleases

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New entrant secures 24,000 ha of Australian pine

Investment house AXA IM has taken control of 24,000 hectares of pine plantations straddling the border between Victoria and South Australia in a $775 million deal with US fund manager Global Forest Partners, the biggest timber transaction in the country for more than a decade.

The acquisition is the first investment in Australian forestry for AXA IM, which manages almost 60,000 hectares of plantations across France, Ireland and Finland. The deal illustrates AXA’s appetite for sustainability-themed investments as institutional investors worldwide align their portfolios to climate change issues.

“Investing in alternate real estate has been a focus of ours for some time now,” said Kumar Kalyanakumar, who heads the Australian arm of AXA IM Alts, its alternative investments arm. “Investing in forestry assets is a key ingredient of this strategy. We like the Australian forestry sector’s structural attractiveness of steadily growing demand and static supply.

“As an investment manager, we are also attracted to the benefit that forestry investments can offer in our pursuit of decarbonisation of our clients’ portfolios.” The estate that is now under AXA’s hand is one of the largest in the country’s prized forestry region, the so-called Green Triangle across south-east South Australia and south-west Victoria. It includes more than 22,000 hectares of managed land with a mixed-age portfolio of radiata pine forests, one of the big sources of saw-log supply.

The mixed-age plantations are one of the key attractions of the Green Triangle Forest Products estate. That age range allows for continuous harvesting and replanting as well as supply of saw-logs to the market, ultimately providing a steadier cash flow.

The estate was put on the market, along with an associated forestry management business, by Global Forest Partners last year. Minter Ellison advised the vendor, along with Resolute Advisory led by Michail Lagogiannis. Gresham House Asset Management in London and King & Wood Mallesons and Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills supported AXA IM Alts on the deal.

The Green Triangle region is the focus of the country’s timber industry. It encompasses about 350,000 hectares of forestry land, including more than half devoted to softwood plantations. Along with the Green Triangle Forest Products estate, the region is dominated by the Future Fund-backed OneFortyOne Plantations and New Forests, an Australian-headquartered global player.

It was those two larger players that AXA IM has edged out to win the auction for the estate. Other well-established players including Hancock Timber Resource Group and Stafford would also have been interested in the asset.

The transaction is the biggest in the timber industry since the South Australian government sold its harvesting rights to state-owned plantations for $670 million in 2012 to OneFortyOne Plantations.

Further coverage on the sale can be read here.

Source: Australian Financial Review

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Timber harvesting role in bushfires report welcomed

A new paper reviewing the science behind claims that forest management and timber harvesting worsened the 2019/20 bushfires has been welcomed by the professional association representing some 1,000 scientific and professional forest land managers in Australia.

The 2019/20 fire season will be etched in Australia’s memory, given the extent and severity of the fires and the huge effort of forest management personnel and agencies to limit the impacts to life and property. Unfortunately, in the months immediately after the fire, opportunistic claims were made that the fires were ‘made worse’ by forest management and timber harvesting.

Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG) President Bob Gordon said the paper ‘No evidence that timber harvesting increased the scale or severity of the 2019/20 bushfires in south-eastern Australia’ published in the Australian Forestry journal found that there was very little evidence to support these claims, and called for a more mature discussion of how we manage fire and our forests, and the complex interacting problems forest managers will face in the future.

“A single factor, like timber harvesting, cannot by itself give rise to fires of the devastating scale we saw in 2019/20, and suggesting this misleads the public by oversimplifying the complex task of forest and fire management. Right now, our forests need real and scientific solutions, not simplistic ones,” Mr Gordon said.

“To protect human life and biodiversity – today, and into the future – forest and fire management must be viewed and managed at a landscape scale, over long timeframes, using expert knowledge of forests and their processes. In order to achieve this, and overcome Australia’s wicked bushfire problem, we need all forest stakeholders to work together to manage our forests in a planned, strategic and considered manner, guided by comprehensive evidence”.

“The IFA/AFG supports and promotes the use of rigorous science as a basis for forest management decisions and is calling for Australia’s forests to be managed through active and adaptive land management across all land tenures, using long-term thinking and a range of management techniques informed by the latest science. These approaches need to be taken to ensure future fires are not repeats of the devastating 2019-20 fire season.

“Through these strategies, we can conserve forests for a broader range of values, and proactively manage current pressures and increasing threats to our environment from climate change and the interrelated impacts of bushfires and invasive species.

“This paper has been authored by six eminent scientists. I congratulate the authors, led by Prof Rodney Keenan, and look forward to seeing their work reflected in future strategic fire-management decisions.”

Link to paper

Source: IFA/AFG

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Air tanker for Australia’s bushfire-fighting

Queensland has secured a deal to share a large air tanker (LAT) with Victoria until the end of the 2024 bushfire season. The AU$15 million deal will mean the large air tanker returns to Queensland for the next few months, and will stay in Australia for the next four years, as part of a co-sharing arrangement with Victoria.

Victoria’s bushfire season aligns with what is seasonally Queensland’s storm and cyclone period. Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the LAT was an important asset for the state to fight bushfires. It adds to a fleet of 150 other national aerial firefighting assets, including planes and helicopters that are deployed on an on-call basis.

“The LAT was used a number of times with great effect last bushfire season. We want to ensure our firies are able to call on the LAT as soon as it’s required – this deal locks in the future of this aerial asset in Queensland,” the premier said. Under previous arrangements, the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400AT LAT was the only such plane in the country available for the duration of Queensland’s three-month bushfire season, which begins in September each year.

Now the LAT and its crew will be based in Bundaberg and, according to fire and emergency services minister Mark Ryan, is part of the government’s commitment to support Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES). “This will deliver certainty and efficiencies because QFES will no longer need to contract a LAT on a season-by-season arrangement,” Ryan said.

“Queensland asks a lot of our firefighters when bushfires strike, so it is only right they have the resources to respond effectively.” Another LAT, based in NSW, is also available for on-call support should Queensland need it.

Victorian energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio said that the advantage of having the shared aircraft with Queensland was that the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400AT, which is manned by two crew members, could be operated from smaller regional airports. The 31,000kg LAT has a loaded cruise speed of up to 670km/h and requires about 1,500m of runway to take off. “This aircraft can be operated at smaller regional airports as it requires less room for take-off and landing,” the minister said.

During Queensland’s last bushfire season the LAT delivered 40 drops of retardant to help maintain fire containment lines. Greg Leach, Queensland’s fire and emergency services commissioner, said that the aircraft with its 10,000 litre retardant capacity, had demonstrated its value to the QFES.

Source: The Mandarin

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Skilled labour shortage threatens manufacturing

Before the pandemic, 38% of US manufacturers had trouble finding candidates with the right skills and today that number is 54%, said The Workforce Institute at UKG.

While more than half, 54%, of manufacturers have achieved year-over-year growth, despite combatting the pandemic, workforce issues have escalated. "The Resilience of Manufacturing: Strengthening people operations and bridging the talent gap amid crisis," a study from the Workforce Institute at UKG based on a survey of more than 300 hiring decision-makers representing a mix of U.S.-only manufacturers (65%) and multinational manufacturers with a strong U.S. presence (35%) found that finding talent with the right skills has been more difficult. Before the pandemic, 38% of manufacturers faced this issue and today that number has increased to 54%.

IndustryWeek talked to Kylene Zenk, director of the Manufacturing Practice at UKG to further explore the conclusions from the report.

IW: What are the reasons behind the problems finding skilled workers?

KZ: There are a number of reasons including:

• Employees aren’t just calling out of scheduled shifts on short notice — many are actually “ghosting” their employer by skipping a scheduled shift with zero notice.
• Between January and March 2021, more than two in three manufacturers (68%) let employees go due to poor attendance, and 13% said managers had to adjust labour schedules every day to account for unplanned absences.
• Turnover is up 15% over the prior year: Nearly three in five manufacturers (59%) experienced “higher-than-average” turnover from March 2020 to March 2021, compared with 44% from March 2019 to March 2020. Among multinationals, 71% said turnover was up during the first year of the pandemic vs. 52% of U.S.-only manufacturers.

More >>

Source: industryweek

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CEO of Forestry Corporation of NSW appointed

Anshul Chaudhary has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Forestry Corporation of NSW. Forestry Corporation’s Chairman James Millar AM said Mr Chaudhary led the organisation through last year’s record program of infrastructure repair and fire salvage and had a vision for replanting and regrowing for the future.

“The Board is delighted to welcome Anshul Chaudhary as Chief Executive Officer of Forestry Corporation of NSW. Anshul has been a part of Forestry Corporation’s senior management team for the past 10 years and has provided strong leadership over the past year as acting CEO,” Mr Millar said.

“The unprecedented fires in 2019-20 had a significant impact on Forestry Corporation and the forests it manages, but under Anshul’s leadership, the organisation has already made significant strides towards recovery. “Anshul has the vision, commitment and leadership needed to continue this vital work.”

Mr Chaudhary said he was excited to be leading Forestry Corporation through the recovery phase. “The Black Summer fires were unprecedented and the recovery phase will be challenging, but the road ahead is clear, we will recover, rebuild and regrow for the future,” Mr Chaudhary said.

“We are already seeing the green shoots of recovery following significant work over the past year to repair infrastructure, salvage timber and being our seven-year replanting program. To date, we have repaired more than 5,000 kilometres of roads and 80 bridges, salvaged close to five million tonnes of plantation timber, completed detailed environmental and timber supply assessments and increased seedling production and replanting to record levels to replant fire-affected plantations as quickly as possible.

“There is still a lot of work to do but I am proud to lead a skilled and passionate workforce with a shared commitment to our vision of regrowing forests, restoring infrastructure and rebuilding the business. “Above all, we maintain our commitment to managing State forests sustainably for the long term, balancing environmental protection, community access and renewable timber production for today and into the future.”

Mr Chaudhary has been acting CEO for the past year following the departure of long-serving former CEO Nick Roberts in early 2020.

Source: Forestry Corporation of NSW

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UK forestry manager to manage Australian estate

Gresham House is pleased to announce that it will be appointed as asset manager for a 24,800-hectare Australian forestry investment, Green Triangle Forest Products (GTFP), which AXA IM Alts has agreed to acquire, subject to regulatory approval, on behalf of clients. Gresham House also acted as the advisor for AXA IM Alts in relation to this transaction.

The appointment as asset manager is in line with Gresham House’s strategy to grow its international presence. The Australian mandate follows Gresham House’s appointment by AXA IM Alts in 2019 as the asset manager to a 4,074-hectare portfolio of forests in Ireland and will see the international relationship between the two managers strengthened. Gresham House is the UK’s largest commercial forestry manager, harvesting approximately 10% of the UK’s softwood annually and managing c.140,000 hectares, worth more than £1.8bn.

Comprising 22,200 hectares of productive area in the Green Triangle, which spans South Australia and Victoria, GTFP demonstrates high-growth rates for softwood and is a significant supplier of softwood logs to the Australian sawmill industry. With a long operating history, favourable terrain, and proximity to customers, GTFP has prime access to domestic and export markets.

David Gardner, CIO of Forestry at Gresham House Asset Management, says: “This second asset management appointment by AXA IM Alts to manage its growing forestry portfolio strengthens our position in the sector, at a time when international demand for forestry is taking off and is in line with Gresham House’s ambitions to launch an international forestry strategy for clients. Not only does forestry satisfy ESG investment criteria, but it is also a portfolio diversifier and delivers uncorrelated returns that protect against inflation - characteristics that are particularly appealing in the current environment.”

Commenting on the new mandate, Tony Dalwood, Chief Executive of Gresham House plc, adds: “As the UK’s largest commercial forestry investment manager, this significant appointment marks another substantial step forward in our ambition to develop a long-term international asset management platform in real assets. We believe there is a significant investment opportunity in forestry and this area will continue to be a key focus for Gresham House moving forward, as we look for further ways to add value for our clients.”

About Gresham House Forestry

Gresham House has been managing commercial forestry assets in the UK, Ireland, the Baltics, and New Zealand on behalf of a range of investors, including institutions, family offices, private clients, and funds for over 40 years and currently manages c.140,000 hectares worth over £1.8bn (as at 31 December 2020).

About Gresham House

Founded in 1857, Gresham House is a specialist alternative asset management group, dedicated to sustainable investments across a range of strategies, with expertise across forestry, housing, infrastructure, renewable energy and battery storage, public and private equity.

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Australian firefighters headed to B.C.

A crew of Australian firefighters are on their way to British Columbia as the province battles hundreds of wildfires. In total, 34 Australian firefighters were scheduled to arrive in Vancouver on Tuesday evening. The crew includes a nine-person management team, which includes specialised leadership workers and technical specialists.

"Australia and Canada have a long history of helping each other out when wildfire activity is high," said B.C. Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy in a release Monday. "During this extremely challenging fire season, we greatly appreciate the support we’re receiving from Canadian provinces, the federal government and our partners abroad."

The Australian crews will live and work in "bubbles" to minimize COVID-19 risks while in B.C., according to the province. In total, B.C. has 3,558 people currently involved in wildfire management, including 1,252 contractors.

Other out-of-province personnel include 101 firefighters from Mexico, 134 from Quebec, 61 from Alberta, one from Nova Scotia, 17 Parks Canada staff and approximately 90 Canadian Armed Forces members, with up to 160 more expected by Wednesday.

As of Sunday afternoon, there are 258 active wildfires burning across B.C., mostly in the Interior region. Some 58 evacuation orders have been issued this summer, alongside 83 evacuation alerts due to wildfires.

Source: vancouverisland.ctvnews

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Ernslaw One appoints new CEO

New Zealand’s fourth largest forestry company, Ernslaw One, has appointed Darren Mann to the role of Chief Executive Officer. Mann has a wealth of experience in all facets of forestry operations having been in the industry for nearly 30 years. Previously he was with Rayonier Matariki Forests for 15 years in various roles including most recently as General Manager of Operations.

Mann has a long history with Ernslaw One, spending the early part of his career with the company. He returned to the organisation six months ago to take up the role of Chief Operating Officer.

Mann leads the Ernslaw One team with a strong emphasis on people, safety, operations, technology, environmental and financial performance. He is responsible for delivering the strategic plan while continuing to review and improve all systems and processes within the company.

Ernslaw’s Executive Director, Yong Tiong, said Darren’s exceptional experience and credentials will position the company well for the future. “We are focused on a path of growth and improvement as we move into an exciting new phase for the company. Darren’s operational expertise combined with his visionary leadership will be a real asset to the business.” Mann takes up his new role immediately.

Source: Ernslaw One

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Forestry course guaranteeing graduates work

At the height of Covid-19’s 2020 global impact job losses were rife within New Zealand’s forestry and wood industry. Now the sector is faced with lack of skilled workers and an ageing workforce. The dilemma has prompted the Central North Island Wood Council to launch a unique course in Tokoroa offering young people guaranteed employment and an insight into more than 40 jobs across the sector.

It comes amid New Zealand experiencing an export and building boom. International log prices have reached historic levels and June GDP figures for the first quarter show a 6.6 per cent increase in the construction sector. In the hope of meeting the demand the wood council has partnered with Te Uru Rākau (New Zealand Forest Service), Forest Growers Levy Trust, the South Waikato District Council, and the South Waikato Investment Fund Trust (SWIFT) to offer a fees free programme through Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

The six to twelve-week Generation Programme, which is a more comprehensive version of one that’s been run in Gisborne for three years, offers participants work experience in silviculture, harvesting and mechanisation, processing, manufacturing, technology, office management, health and safety, roading, dispatch, and transport.

Site visits, training simulators, fitness and nutrition, first aid, transportation and licencing, drug and alcohol education, and NZQA qualifications are all built in. Once completed participants will go into paid employment with six months of pastoral care support and options to further train for up to two years to Level 4/ diploma/ degree level.

Central North Island Wood Council chief executive Damita Mita said the programme would be of significant benefit to the industry. She said the skill shortage it's facing was due in part to younger generations not understanding its makeup. “Across the industry there is a shortage of skilled workers and the average age for a forester out harvesting is 50,” she said.

“The view of a lot of young people of the forestry sector is planting and cutting a tree down but there is so much more to it now, especially with the use of technology. It has become more skilled and more mechanised so we want young people to be coming through that, to understand that, and to be working up in terms of their qualifications.

“It doesn't just finish here, we do a Level Two certificate and once they make a decision around what they are wanting to go into, the expectation is that they will continue their study. It’s about creating that pathway but also creating a work-ready pool of young people.”

More >>

Source: Stuff

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Pressure being felt across forestry supply chain

Forestry Industry Contractors Association (FICA) is calling for an all of forestry strategy to deal with the mounting pressure on the entire New Zealand forestry supply chain, currently being highlighted by build-ups at the country's major ports. FICA say the situation is far from over and the sector needs to work together to find solutions.

Export market demand for New Zealand logs has been strong in recent months, putting extra pressure on our infrastructure, particularly at ports. FICA spokesperson Prue Younger, who represents contractors as the CEO of the organisation, says “I don’t think we have ever tried to deliver the volume of wood that we are, and we are finding out our infrastructure just can’t cope,” she says.

The growing number of ships waiting to dock at multiple ports across New Zealand is a visible indication of the building supply chain pressure. Starting with Gisborne, build ups have reportedly spreading to Tauranga and Napier more recently. In the case of Gisborne, delays have been compounded by infrastructure upgrades to add a second berth and weather conditions.

Ms Younger says delays are not just happening at the ports; the entire forestry supply chain is under pressure and has been for some time. “The delays are evident everywhere, from slow deliveries of imported gear such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and vehicles, to harvesting, trucking and shipping back-logs. The entire supply chain is being stretched,” she says.

“While pressure mounts, forestry contractors are caught in the cross-fire. They’re not receiving any compensation, with lost revenue mounting. Many are being stretched to the absolute limit financially.”

Representing the Log Transport Safety Council, Warwick Wilshier says “Logs are being transported around to other ports, but it feels like money is being wasted moving the problem around, when it could be used more productively and wisely supporting the industry.” This is coupled with a mid-month export log price drop, putting extra financial pressure on everyone.

“The latest log price drop is pretty typical of the cycle in logging, where we see prices reach new heights, then drop and stabilise to re-set the market,” says Ms Younger. “The issue is that as an industry, we are lacking a coordinated strategy. We’re just reacting without a plan of response. It’s like the weather – sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but if we know the forecast, we can make appropriate plans.”

“We talk about the need for a pan-industry strategy, but we don’t have one. We keep banging on about working together and through COVID, we did. We need to be coordinated and work together to better manage our supply chain, so we don’t get pulled into this boom or bust mentality yet again,” she says.

Source: FICA

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Sawmills cut into construction shortages

A decision to allow the resumption of structural timber production in the state’s sawmills will let the industry to play catch up for a week in a bid to reduce shortages threatening to derail the residential building boom.

The building industry has been forced to down tools during South Australia’s seven-day coronavirus lockdown, which initially prevented sawmills from operating. However, a change of direction from the State Government yesterday has allowed the mills to crank up again at a time when a reduction in supply and a spike in demand have collided to create the potentially crippling shortage.

Master Builders SA CEO Will Frogley said federal politicians including Scott Morrison became involved in the discussions that led to the backflip that now allows sawmills to resume operation. “It’s pretty significant – in a week’s production they’ll be able to build up a fair bit to be able to help out with that shortfall when we are able to reopen so it will help us catch up a little bit as well,” he said.

“We think it’s very low risk for a mill in the South East to be processing timber at the moment.” Frogley said there was a similar need for other suppliers to be able to open up as well to address shortages while the building industry was at a standstill, such as those that manufacture steel framing.

The State Government last month announced a $2 million fund to increase the supply of structural timber for local South Australian home builders. An Expression of Interest (EOI) process was opened on June 25 and applicants had until July 15 to submit their case. Depending upon the proposals received, there is up to $2 million available to increase the supply of house building timbers but the government is yet to announce any grants.

Frogley said the Master Builders Association was pushing for a decision to be made quickly. “They have to give it to someone who has put a proposal in who has got a clear plan to get going quickly and get the timber to small South Australian builders first and foremost,” he said.

More >>

Source: indaily

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Strengthening digital skills for NZ manufacturers

Low levels of digital literacy among staff is a challenge facing many manufacturing businesses, and strengthening those skills is not only essential to meet rapid technological changes in the workplace, it’s vital to increasing productivity.

Digital literacy encompasses numeracy, literacy and computer skills. Across the manufacturing sector, digital literacy has been identified as the most pressing skills gap due to the technological changes required to remain competitive. To improve the level of digital literacy and to begin to meet the demands brought about by Industry 4.0, Competenz has developed a new micro-credential specifically for New Zealand’s manufacturing industry.

“As technology progresses and we move further into Industry 4.0, workers must be upskilled to keep pace with new systems and processes, especially older employees who are not digital natives, but who have invaluable experience in their fields,” says Competenz Sector Manager Jahn Vannisselroy.

“One of the key benefits of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing is improved quality and productivity. This is achieved by digitally networking as many parts of the manufacturing processes as possible; from ordering to dispatch and including the upstream supply chain and real-time production. This new micro-credential programme will give workers the essential skills required to confidently use digital technology in a manufacturing workplace.”

In 2020, the micro-credential programme was piloted at Auckland precision electromagnet manufacturer Buckley Systems. It was launched to the wider industry. The pilot programme involved ten trainees, all of whom are highly skilled but lacked in digital knowledge and confidence.

“Over nine weeks, the workers improved their skills to the point where productivity increased in the machine shop. What’s more, they expanded their confidence in using their knowledge enabling them to transfer their skills to other aspects of their life,” says Buckley Systems chief people officer Dion Orbell.

“You can just tell they are so much more engaged to use digital now than they were at the beginning. We did not want to let go of these craftsmen. We want to continue to grow them because, without them, we can’t continue to grow our business.”

Buckleys CNC Programming Machinist David Treeby says the course was great and done at a pace “where you learned a subject before moving on to a new one, ensuring everyone kept up. We learned about flowcharts, spreadsheets and other applications. Businesses keep moving and technology keeps moving all the time so you need to learn everything you can about digital literacy. It also applies in everyday life and it’s an important skill for everyone at any age – you can’t get left behind,” Treeby says.

The micro-credential is fully funded under the government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) for employers who enrol their staff before 31 December 2022.

To learn more about this micro-credential or register your interest, click here.

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... yes - they exist

And a couple more.

Guy feeling terrible and goes to the doctor. The doctor checks him over and says, ‘Sorry, I have some bad news, you have Yellow 24, a really nasty virus. It's called Yellow 24 because it turns your blood yellow and you usually only have 24 hours to live.

There’s no known cure so just go home and enjoy your final precious moments on earth..'

So he trudges home to his wife and breaks the news. Distraught, she asks him to go to the bingo with her that evening as he’s never been there with her before.

They arrive at the bingo and with his first card he gets four corners and wins $35.

Then, with the same card, he gets a line and wins $320 ………

Then he gets the full house and wins $5000………………………………… Then the National Game comes up and he wins that too getting $780,000……………………

The bingo caller gets him up on stage and says, 'son, I've been here 20 years and I've never seen anyone win four corners, a line, the full-house and the national game on the same card.

You must be the luckiest man on Earth!’

'Lucky?' he screamed. 'Lucky? I’ll have you know I've got Yellow 24'.

'Blow me down', says the bingo caller. 'You've won the meat raffle as well !!!

And finally, some men in a pickup truck drove to a lumber yard. One of the men walked into the office and said, "We need some four-by-twos."

The clerk asked, "You mean two-by-fours, don't you?"

One of the men said, "Yeah, I meant two-by-four. I think?"

Then the clerk asked, "All right. How long do you need them?"

The other man said, "A long time. We're gonna build a house."

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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