Friday Offcuts – 27 August 2021

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The building materials shortage in Australia and “post pandemic” building boom has been well documented over recent months. Mills across the region have all substantially increased their production. FWPA data showed Australian sawmills had increased softwood lumber production by some 300,000m3 in April 2021 compared to the same time last year. In July (see recent Stats Count report from FWPA), sales of softwood lumber totalled 277,235 m3, up around 31% on the prior month and at their highest level since November 2020. Extra shifts in mills have been added. Saw-lines have been upgraded and investment in new plant has been ramped up to try and meet the unprecedented demand for building materials.

These shortages combined with the increasing emphasis being placed on sustainability by new residential home builds has also been a shot in the arm for companies producing alternate products. Companies like Ortech Industries for example, an Australian owned company, has seen inquiries recently really ramp up. They manufacture a building panel made entirely out of reclaimed wheat and rice straw. The company labels itself as the “manufacturer of the world’s most sustainable building material” and already boasts a host of high-profile commercial projects that have used their 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable panels. Details on the product are contained in this week’s story.

In the new tech space this week, Elon Musk has again been “reaching for the stars” with the announcement this week that Tesla are working on and planning to roll out a “Tesla Bot”. It’s a walking, talking semi-intelligent humanoid robot designed to carry out all of those manual and repetitive tasks. Very “Tesla like”, ambitious and with some amazing PR. Equally ambitious, the world's first commercial flight has taken off using sustainable aviation fuel derived from gasified woodchips.

And continuing with the tech theme, drone technologies and applications are also covered in detail this week. DroneSeed, one of the early pioneers of forest planting using swarms of heavy-lift drones, have expanded their already comprehensive offering. They’ve acquired a major US forestry seed collection and seedling supply business. This new acquisition expands their aerial drone base seeding to now include seed collection, seedling cultivation in nurseries, and on-the-ground tree planting services.

We’ve also included this week an in-depth story on drones being used for monitoring early bushfire detection in Australia. And moving up in both drone size and weight, trials have been successfully completed in Japan for the first passenger-grade drone which will open options for transporting both goods and people in future. Their target is to have these up and operating commercially in just two years’ time. And on that uplifting note, stay safe, and enjoy this week’s read.



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Building Green is right for our times

Marty Verry: Building green - Stuart Nash on right side of climate history. The NZ Government is using its own procurement to show how to build green by using less high-emission materials like concrete and steel. The lobbyists from those sectors have attacked the move.

History will prove Stuart Nash right. In June, MBIE published a requirement that government departments must choose the lowest carbon option for any new buildings it procures, leases or funds.

The policy is primarily aimed at the carbon from the materials used, known as "Embodied Carbon". Embodied Carbon has become the big area of climate change focus for building designers and regulators globally because it counts for up to 20 per cent of CO2 emissions.

Because wood absorbs CO2 as it grows, and conversely steel and cement emit around 8 per cent of world emissions each, the policy was quickly labelled a "wood first" policy by steel and concrete professional lobbyists.

The NZ Government has a three-pronged attack. The first is to lead with its own building procurement policy. As mentioned, this has become a requirement of government departments effective immediately.

The second is to showcase a range of mass timber demonstration buildings in a PGP partnership with Red Stag. The first, a five-storey apartment building made primarily from cross-laminated timber, or CLT, demonstrated that the mass timber used had a lower overall project cost than the concrete and steel comparison designs. It also extracted 82 tonnes of upfront carbon from the atmosphere compared to the approximately 800 tonnes emitted by the steel and concrete options.

Want a building consent? Cut the carbon. The third is to regulate Embodied Carbon. This is pending under the "Building for Climate Change" regulation currently being consulted on. In future, designers will need to measure embodied carbon in a building and then demonstrate it comes in under regulated caps on carbon in order to get a building consent. This is the path many other countries are heading down.

Marty Verry is Group CEO and Chair of Red Stag Group. He is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming 6th Annual WoodWorks Conference & Exhibitions in Rotorua. Seats for this popular mass timber architecture and construction management event are close to selling out. Details on the event and programme can be found on the event website.

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Source: NZ Herald

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DroneSeed acquires major forestry seed supplier

Driven by increasing demand for reforestation in the face of wildfires & climate change, acquisition of Silvaseed Co. positions DroneSeed as vertically-integrated leader in reforestation.

DroneSeed announced that it has acquired Silvaseed Company, a 130 year-old titan in the forestry seed collection and seedling supply business. The move expands DroneSeed’s reforestation services beyond aerial drone-based seeding to span seed collection, seedling cultivation in nurseries, and on-the-ground tree planting services.

The acquisition comes at a critical time in the forestry industry, with skyrocketing demand for reforestation and many tree nurseries facing significant seed and seedling shortages.

“With the compounding crises of climate change, wildfires and forest loss, accelerating the pace and scale of reforestation is essential,” said Grant Canary, CEO of DroneSeed. “By creating the industry’s first vertically-integrated reforestation company, we now offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ of reforestation services for landowners and foresters: starting from seed supply, to aerial enhanced seeding, to seedling cultivation, to traditional replanting, and more. We’re thrilled to build on Silvaseed’s track record and are doubling capacity at Silvaseed to meet intensifying demand.”

Tackling the national shortage of tree seed & seedlings is critical to mitigate the exponentially increasing loss of forests due to wildfire and climate change. Forests are naturally regenerating fewer acres as fires impact larger areas, burn hotter, and natural “seed banks” in the soil and treetops get torched.

There aren’t enough seeds or nursery capacity to regrow the trees being lost each year—the existing reforestation supply-chain evolved to boost regeneration in a minor percentage of fires, and now climate change fueled wildfire has increased demand many times over and supply of seed and seedlings hasn’t increased. DroneSeed is eager to begin addressing this by building upon Silvaseed’s robust infrastructure and utilizing its aerial tech.

Matthew Aghai, DroneSeed’s Senior Director of Biological Research & Development, will serve as interim general manager of Silvaseed with support from industry veteran Arnoud de Villegas. The company will continue seed collection and seedling operations with the Silvaseed name and brand.



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Gasified woodchips power first commercial flight

UK-headed Velocys plc, a developer of advanced biofuels gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology has announced that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced from woody biomass residue feedstock using the company’s proprietary technology has been used in a commercial flight by Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL).

The flight, JL 515 from Tokyo to Sapporo, was completed on June 17, 2021, and is the first commercial flight in the world to use aviation fuel derived from gasified woodchips and synthesized into SAF.

This important milestone follows on from the collaboration agreement signed with TOYO Engineering Corporation (Toyo) to commence the development of Toyo’s commercial projects to produce SAF and other renewable fuels in Japan using Velocys microchannel FT technology.

The flight is the first commercial flight in the world to use aviation fuel derived from gasified woodchips and synthesized into SAF. The fuel was produced in a Velocys FT reactor from the hydrogen and carbon gases generated by the gasification of the woodchips at the demonstration plant in Nagoya in 2020.

Velocys is pleased to announce the validation of SAF derived from woody biomass as evidenced by the use of 25 percent SAF blend in this first in the world commercial flight using woodchips derived jet fuel. SAF synthesized with the Velocys FT technology from gasified forestry residue has a 70 percent lower Carbon Intensity than conventional fossil jet fuel.

In addition, FT-SAF offers significant additional air quality improvements thanks to 90 percent lower particulate emissions, 99 percent lower sulphur emissions, and lower nitrogen oxide emissions than conventional fossil fuels, said Henrik Wareborn, CEO of Velocys.

The demonstration facility produced 2366 litres of neat aviation fuel blendstock which was tested to ensure that it met the required international standard, ASTM D7566 Annex 1. SAF that meets this specification can be blended into conventional jet fuel at any ratio of up to 50 percent.

Source: Bioenergy International



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Large Australian forestry show cancelled

Mid-week came the news that a decision had been reached to cancel AUSTimber2020/21. Like many events over the past 18 months, Austimber has faced numerous challenges, including two reschedules in 2020 resulting from the Black Summer Bushfires and then at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past few months, Austimber recommenced planning, and significant preparation work has taken place for the November show. However, over the past weeks, we have seen the continual worsening COVID-19 situation from the Delta strain and government lockdown measures across Australia which demonstrates the unpredictability of delivering an event of this size in this environment.

Recently some exhibitors communicated their concerns and provided notification of their intent to change their exhibiting arrangements at the AUSTimber 2020/21 show in November, including no live demonstrations occurring during the show and significantly limiting their overall participation. The reasons cited included additional costs, planning and logistics required amid growing concerns of the pandemic and the associated restrictions across Australia.

The health, safety and wellbeing of everyone delivering and attending the AUSTimber show have always been paramount. Many options have been assessed on how the event could still be delivered and have been exhausted—particularly recognising the important contribution AUSTimber makes to the industry and the Gippsland region, impacted first by bushfires and now by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the compounding costs of deferring the show on two prior occasions combined with the continued uncertain outlook resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have meant it is not financially feasible or possible to reschedule the show again, and therefore the show must be cancelled.

Source: AFCA

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Biofuel truck use damaging to the environment?

CEAC warns that use of trucks with biodiesel will cause far more damage to environment than using electric trucks, overseas studies have found that production of biofuels for use in diesel truck engines will speed up the climate change, not slow it down as is depicted here from University of Waikato Troy Baisden, Professor (Environmental Sciences), University of Waikato.

Growing, transporting and producing biofuels would have some visible impacts, just as today’s fossil fuel production has a footprint that includes mining, drilling, refining, storage and transport. Depending on the location, new forests might change local landscapes and economies, with specific effects such as lower river flows.

In 2018, Scion estimated that converting 30% of transport fuel to biofuel would require an area three times the size of Stewart Island and use 55 truckloads per hour. The idea of a biofuel economy is both fascinating and uncertain because it could have dramatic effects on land use, across large areas, with potential benefits such as reduced nitrate leaching or erosion.

Future environmental effects are hard to predict because biofuel technologies are still developing, and the future costs of energy and emissions are uncertain. But so are the costs and benefits of many alternatives.

Ideas and debate continue to develop regarding the use of hydrogen as a fuel, either in transport or to augment batteries, if efficiency can be improved, or for combustion where it could even be added to natural gas. But hydrogen is only green if it is produced with clean, renewable power.

Wins cannot be made by using Biofuels as explained here right now, to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from road freight transport. Clearly instead we must switch back to use “low carbon emission rail freight “as it is a sure winner here’ and the world is switching back to rail, so must we.

We will then have a ‘true clean low emissions road freight truck fleet’ to go forward now rather than later till it is to late to protect our future generations and our environment together.

Source: CEAC, Scoop



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The world’s most sustainable building panels?

The Durra Panel has been used in some of Australia’s largest commercial undertakings and the company behind the ultra-sustainable product says the residential construction industry is rapidly catching on too.

On its website, Ortech Industries labels itself “manufacturer of the world’s most sustainable building material.” It’s a lofty claim but also not easy to dispute.

Featuring a core made entirely out of reclaimed wheat and rice straw the panels are 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable, as well as being highly fire resistant and locally produced in the Victorian regional city of Bendigo.

Coming in a range of finishes they are commonly used as wall and ceiling panels for large stadiums and auditoriums due to their sound-absorbing acoustic qualities. Just some of the projects that have made use of the panels are Sydney’s ICC, Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne Convention Centre, Perth Arena, Auckland’s Life Church and even Village Roadshow’s immense sound studio in Queensland.

Ortech general manager Ainslee Haslemore said that while commercial projects were the “bread and butter” of the company, residential enquiries were on the rise, particularly over the past 12 months.

While there are other compressed straw panel products on the market, Haslemore said her company’s manufacturing process was unique, using heat and pressure to form a solid core, which draws out a natural binding polymer from the straw. This means no additional chemical binding agents, glues or resins are used, aside from a water based PVA glue to cover the panel in recycled Kraft liner paper.

Growing popularity for the material over the past year has coincided with another materials shortage in Australia, this time caused by the pandemic. The company is using this momentum to promote the panels and undertake more marketing than they ever have in the past.

Ortech already employs 35 people and is looking to hire a further six as the company expands and rolls out a modular building branch of the business called Placeit, which inserts the Durra Panels into a prefabricated steel frame for better efficiency during the construction phase.

Source: thefifthestate



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NZ container depots continue to struggle

COVID19 Lockdowns across New Zealand are expected to create further pressure on an already heavily disrupted shipping logistics. ContainerCo managing director Ken Harris said exporters and importers continue to take the brunt of global shipping disruptions and the latest level 4 lockdown in New Zealand will have an impact on the availability of shipping containers.

“There is already a tight supply of shipping containers suitable for use by exporters and Auckland facilities holding other empty containers for sending offshore are full. Importers are required to return shipping containers to these facilities and face stiff costs if they are unable to do this.

Around 1 million TEU of shipping containers come into New Zealand each year, and movements out of the country are a similar volume. Ken says as a result of world-wide shipping disruptions key container handling facilities in Auckland have already been operating well over capacity.

ContainerCo operates several key container servicing facilities in Auckland as well as other parts of New Zealand, most of which are operating well above efficient volume levels, with several key yards holding over 130% of nominal capacity.

The company has been delaying needed substantial investment into engineering and technology projects to minimise supply chain disruption, however with a return to normal shipping patterns looking unlikely for some years ContainerCo has decided to progress this vital work.

“We will re-build specialised facilities covering around 8 hectares in Auckland, improving supply chain resilience and capacity as well as reducing carbon footprint. Our investment will double capacity within six years plus to greatly improve depot efficiency.

ContainerCo is looking to acquire additional land in Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Hamilton and long-term lease arrangements are also being looked at and where possible sites will be developed to accommodate specialised logistics facilities such as cross docks. “We are also looking to acquire land in other regions and locations to ensure that the company can efficiently support local container redelivery from importer to exporter.”

The ongoing growth of trade through Tauranga is also needing new container facilities to increase capacity and ContainerCo has plans to build an additional specialised facility in Tauranga over the next five years to improve the supply chain for exporters.

ContainerCo is also supporting the development of the One-Stop Modal depot management and will commission four new EV trucks in the next five months. A year-long trial of these systems at a ContainerCo depot in Auckland has demonstrated that this software is a significant step forward, eliminating manual processes and enabling increased depot automation.

“We have trialled an EV truck for over a year and the new units will offer better range and driver comfort. A further four are to be delivered in 2022, and it is expected the programme will continue. While shuttle operations are the primary design use, in the future units are expected to be able to cover freight legs between Hamilton, Auckland, and Tauranga.

More >>

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NZIF announces 2021 award winners

The New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF) has announced the winners of its prestigious 2021 awards. In what has been an exceptionally volatile year for many, the forestry sector remains a significant contributor to the New Zealand economy.

“The NZIF relishes the opportunity to celebrate with ‘the best of the best’ and to proudly champion the recipients of NZIF’s awards” said NZIF President James Treadwell.

This year’s recipient was acknowledged for their diverse range of skills and experience. From hard graft and commitment at grass roots level to high level policy planning and execution and academic leadership. The NZ Forester of the Year award, which was presented in Wairarapa on Monday night by Minister Nash (Minister of Forestry) went to Paul Millen.

The NZIF Forester of the Year is a highly coveted prize which rewards a person for their outstanding contribution to the forestry sector throughout the year. Paul is described as a visionary with the ability to bridge both academic and industry groups. He understands the science and can communicate this to people at all levels from professional foresters to tree enthusiasts. He has massive drive, energy, and capacity for work, and has made and will no doubt continue to make an outstanding contribution to the NZ forest industry.

The NZIF has also appointed a new Fellow, Murray Dudfield, particularly for his tireless work on rural fires over three decades.

Source: NZIF

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Passenger drones take flight in Japan

EHang Holdings has announced that the EHang 216, the company’s flagship model, has been tested successfully in Japan. The successful unmanned and autonomous trial served to “showcase safe, autonomous, eco-friendly urban air mobility (“UAM”) solutions,” says an EHang press release. The test was the first passenger-grade advanced aviation vehicle (AAV) given permission from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan (“MLIT”) for outdoor open airspace trial flights in Japan.



Japan is moving quickly towards implementing passenger drones. “In 2018, the Japanese government established the “Public-Private Council for Air Transportation Revolution” and formulated a Roadmap towards Air Transportation Revolution,” says the EHang press release. According to the Roadmap, MLIT’s Civil Aviation Bureau is working on regulations and processes, with a goal of beginning commercial transportation of goods and people in passenger drones by 2023.

In June, Japan’s government established the Next Generation Aviation Mobility planning office to focus on the needs of industry, regulators, and local governments.

Source: Dronelife

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Plans for Tesla humanoid robots unveiled

Elon Musk has revealed that his company, Tesla, is working on a prototype of a human robot that he says will be available next year. According to The Verge, the humanoid robot that the Elon Musk-owned Tesla is working on will be around five feet, eight inches tall. It will weigh 125 pounds, according to the Tesla CEO, and will have a screen as its face.

With its upcoming humanoid robot that will be powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Tesla plans to "develop the next generation of automation, including a general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot capable of performing tasks that are unsafe, repetitive or boring."

According to Elon Musk, the AI-powered humanoid robot is being designed by Tesla at a mechanical level. "You can run away from it and most likely overpower it," Musk said as quoted by The Verge.



Tesla's humanoid robot will not, however, be the first humanoid robot to ever exist. Other examples of humanoid robots that have been made include Sophia the Humanoid Robot and the FEDOR humanoid robots Russia sent to outer space in 2018.

Further commentary on the announcement.

Source: Tech Times & Tesla



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Using drones for early bushfire detection

According to the NSW Fire and Environment Summary, about a quarter of New South Wales’ best koala habitat were burned in the bushfires.

Other areas of Australia are also not untouched by this tragedy. In Victoria, bushfires have destroyed koalas reserves and other endangered habitats leading to heavy losses of flora and fauna.

Forest officers and environmentalists are having a hard time trying to track these bushfires and predict the damages done by these disasters. Add to that the thick jungle canopies, and rescuers find themselves trapped trying to navigate through the fires.

Manually inspecting hundreds of acres of foliage can take anywhere between a few weeks to a couple of months. And drones cater to all terrain mapping requirements, covering hundreds of acres in just a few hours!

Read on to know more about the use of drones in bushfire detection and damage control.

Satellites, cameras and drones: fire detection for bushfires

Before we understand the modern-day usage of drones and its impact on forestry, let's first understand the origins of this technology. In the 1980s, US researchers made some remarkable breakthroughs in fire detection. In a satellite image captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientists noticed tiny white specks on a satellite image.

This satellite image was taken over the Persian Gulf ’s polar by one of the environmental satellites orbiting in space. Wondering what those white spots were! Well, they were thermal signatures of gas flares that emitted from oilfields.

With this discovery researchers had opened a whole new technology of fire detection. The trouble was, scientists had some initial troubles trying to distinguish oilfields from bushfires. Over time, the algorithms improved, leading to a more streamlined solution for bushfire detection. And to achieve this, drones and specialised sensors and satellites were brought into the mix.

Currently, an early bushfire detection system is under development and requires funding to purchase drone equipment, an array of sensors and other tools. This initiative is headed by professor Joe Dong, who is working with UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute.

Professor Dong is working on a system of array sensors that can detect changes in the atmosphere to track exactly when the bushfires can commence. These sensors also calculate the intensity of the bushfires well in advance so that the authorities have ample time to prepare.

For the full article on Drones to monitor Australia for early bushfire prevention, click here

Source: Chris Patchell, General Manager & Director of Operations, Avian UAS

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Father and son graduate forestry course together

A father and son duo from Southland have shown there’s value in getting back to the books, even after four decades in the game. Bobby Baird and his 65-year-old father Robert completed their Level 4 New Zealand Certificate in Forest Harvesting with Competenz together in May.

All employees went through the forestry training together alongside the Bairds and received their qualifications at the Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards ceremony held in Dunedin. Robert had practical experience gained during four decades in the bush and said the vocational training included in the certificate was helping keep people safe.

“When I started out in the industry there was nothing like this training. People were getting hurt,” he said. “Training and putting people on courses improves safety – it helps people understand the dangers. Some of the younger guys raise their eyebrows when I tell them the stories about the old-timers.”

Bobby said the staff was processing 480 to 600 tonnes of logs every day. “They’re a great crew,” Bobby said. “Everyone gets on with the job and I don’t have to manage them – they know what they’re doing.”

Bobby had been studying throughout his working life and said Neville Mueller from Competenz had made the whole learning experience simple for everybody. He said Robert, who previously wasn’t looking forward to all the paperwork involved with studying, was now reconsidering his recent choice to retire after going through the course as a team.

“He made lots of big noises about retirement,” he said, “but it’s really good, we’re a close-knit team.”

Source & Photo: Stuff

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NSW seed collection underway

Seed collection is now underway to grow another million native seedlings to replant another 1,000 hectares of hardwood timber plantations in State forests on the north coast of NSW next year. Forestry Corporation’s Nursery Manager Kath French said Grafton Nursery staff were currently collecting seeds from specially selected trees in preparation for the 2022 planting season.

“We have doubled the capacity of Grafton nursery, allowing us to grow a million eucalypt seedlings this year to replant hardwood timber plantations, and we’re now getting ready to plant another million eucalypt seedlings in 2022,” Ms French said. “Our nursery staff have been gathering seeds from trees in Wedding Bells State Forest near Coffs Harbour that we’ll propagate and nurture so they can be planted early next year.

Source: FCNSW



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... and one to end the week on ... need a push

A man and his wife are awakened at 3 o'clock in the morning by a loud pounding on the door. The man gets up and goes to the door where a drunken stranger is standing in the pouring rain, asking for a push.

"Not a chance," says the husband, "it is three o'clock in the morning!" He slams the door and returns to bed.

"Who was that?" asked his wife.

"Just some drunk guy asking for a push," he answers.

"Did you help him?" she asks.

"No, I did not, it is three in the morning and it is pouring outside!"

"Well, you have a short memory," says his wife. "Can't you remember about three months ago when we broke down and those two guys helped us? I think you should help him, and you should be ashamed of yourself!"

The man does as he is told, gets dressed, and goes out into the pouring rain. He calls out into the dark, "Hello, are you still there?"

"Yes," comes back the answer.

"Do you still need a push?" calls out the husband.

"Yes, please!" comes the reply from the dark.

"Where are you?" asks the husband.

"Over here on the swing!" says the drunk.



And one extra. Just another bad day at the office.




And on that note, enjoy your weekend. For any advertisers in this newsletter, we've had a few inquiries this week on plans for sending out the newsletter under the current kiwi lock-down. Rest assured, as we did throughout previous lock-downs over the last 18 months, our plans are to continue to send out this industry newsletter first thing on Friday morning, next week, the week after that and into the foreseeable future. So, keep those ads rolling in.

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: www.fridayoffcuts.com


This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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