WoodWeek – 1 July 2020

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Greetings from this week's cold hard forest news edition. A new report has accused a forestry bill going through Parliament of increasing costs for the forestry business and reducing the value of the New Zealand economy. It also warned that the bill could conflict with trading agreements that New Zealand had signed with other countries.

To put a finer point on it - this new report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), commissioned by the Forest Owners Association. It estimates the scheme would curb New Zealand's GDP by between $16.5 million and $30.9m, and said any sawmilling jobs created would cost more than twice the amount of money people could earn from doing those jobs.

Looking to log export markets now, while shipments to China month- on-month to end of May were down 22 percent, overall log exports were down just 12 percent. That's because exports to South Korea actually increased 40 percent month-on-month for May.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, it seems the blokes and gals you've seen on your screen on Sunday night on Country Calendar are not about to take this carbon forestry thing lying down. Their not-so-hard-hit-yet shady farming faction is gearing up to launch a community-centric TV campaign from Wednesday this week to raise awareness of the impact of carbon forestry on New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector.

The group is alarmed the Government’s reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will incentivise the conversion of productive farmland into pine plantations by fossil fuel emitters. It is also concerned at changes to the Overseas Investment Act, which they say streamlines the purchase of land to plant carbon forestry at the expense of rural communities.

If that is enough bad news for one week, we have almost run out of good quality belly-laugh jokes - so this is a call for submissions. Thanks in advance for your support when we need it most. And the jokes too, but send money if you don't have any jokes to provide.

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NZIER - Bill not good for NZ

NZIER - Forestry Amendment Bill would hurt GDP, damage industry - A new report has accused a forestry bill going through Parliament of increasing costs for the forestry business and reducing the value of the New Zealand economy.

It also warned that the bill could conflict with trading agreements that New Zealand had signed with other countries.

The Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill, which aims to ensure logs are sent to local processors instead of being exported raw, was introduced just after the Budget and has already been through a select committee.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones had accused "log mongers" of selling Northland logs en masse to China, leaving not enough available for local saw mills to do their job, a move that would harm employment opportunities.

However, critics of the bill have called it cumbersome and expensive, and it would require many people in the log trade to become registered.

These criticisms have now been supported in a new report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), commissioned by the Forest Owners Association.

It estimated the scheme would curb New Zealand's GDP by between $16.5 million and $30.9m, and said any sawmilling jobs created would cost more than twice the amount of money people could earn from doing those jobs.

"Yes, jobs are created in the short term, but at a huge cost," the report read. "Rather than diverting log supply to create employment for wood processing workers, it would be simpler to give those people the average wage in the wood processing sector."

"The key issue is that this Bill has the potential to transfer value from one internationally competitive part of the industry to a less competitive part of the industry."

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Source: RNZ

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Log export update: Korea takes up the slack

Thanks to the Champion Freight team here is a graphic summary of the latest monthly update for export log markets.

Champion Freight's latest report shows while total log export values to China year-on-year to the end of May were down 22 percent, and overall log exports decreased by 25 percent across all markets. Logs to South Korea, now our second largest log market, decreased by 21 percent in May y-o- y.

Shipments to China shipments month-on-month to end of May were down just 22 percent and overall log exports just 12 percent. Log export values to South Korea actually increased 40 percent month-on-month for May.

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A robot walked into a pub

Okay, maybe not, but let's say a robot drove into a kiwifruit orchard - No, this is not some sort of joke. Okay, robots don't have the time or inclination to go to the pub. However, I'm sure there are plenty of Robotics Plus engineers who celebrated their recent innovation award win there though.

We liked their work so much we included them in several recent and upcoming webinars and conferences:
  • Our Forest Safety & Technology Webinar Series in mid-June.
  • Our ForestTECHX International Conference in Vancouver (now re-scheduled to mid-March 2021).
  • Our planned MobileTECH 2021 Conference series.
TVNZ liked Robotics Plus so much they did a story on their Sunday programme this past week. To watch it and see the results of their ingenious work go to: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/sunday

RNZ liked what they saw too, but they focused on the kiwifruit robotic innovations with clips of their robotic log scaler injected in-between.

Easing horticulture labour shortages with robots - The widespread shortage of horticultural labour throughout the regions could be eased in future by fruit picking robots and autonomous vehicles to spray crops. Tauranga based Robotics Plus co-founder Steve Saunders has gone from being a grower to leading the global agri-tech company.

The company is working on a range solutions that could be applied to ease the issue of crops rotting because of the lack of seasonal labour - particularly relevant during the COVID-19 restrictions. Asparagus harvesting, apple sorting and packing and picking a variety of fruit could in future be harvested by robotics machines.

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Farmers take their fight to the TV screens

50 Shades Of Green Launches TV Campaign - This not-so-poor farming faction is gearing up to launch a hard-hitting TV campaign from Wednesday this week to raise awareness of the impact of carbon forestry on New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector.

The group is alarmed the Government’s reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will incentivise the conversion of productive farmland into pine plantations by fossil fuel emitters. It is also concerned at changes to the Overseas Investment Act, which streamline the purchase of land to plant carbon forestry at the expense of rural communities.

The campaign airs across Mediaworks and TVNZ.

“We are concerned by the settings in climate change policy driving significant land use away from pastoral agriculture to exotic plantation forestry for carbon forestry,” says spokesperson Pattie O’Boyle.

“The legislation does not have effective safeguards in place to prevent this from happening. In fact, it encourages it. If the Government really cares about rural communities, they must establish a mechanism so limits can be placed on the amount of forestry offsets that can be used by fossil fuel emitters. If at all."

“The phrase ' carbon farming' is also a misnomer. A farmer tends the land - as a caretaker for the next generation. Carbon Forestry is a one-off corporate investment in land accruing a large amount of cash over 17 years then abandoning both the land and the surrounding communities."

“The best climate action we can take for the world is to maintain our low carbon impact food production in New Zealand and continue to meet high animal and environmental standards.”

Initial analysis indicates since the change in legislation (Oct 2018) about 70,000 hectares of productive sheep and beef land has been, or is in the process of being, converted into forestry. This is approximately 13 times more than the average annual amount of afforestation in New Zealand over the past five years.

“Agriculture last year earned 63% of NZ’s export income and it is expected to account for even more as a result of COVID-19."

“Only one third of NZ’s land area is suitable for agriculture. Planting 70,000 ha/year of productive land into carbon farming is figuratively like every year cutting off a finger from NZ’s productive hand.”

The TV campaign has been produced because they don’t think the vision of a New Zealand covered in pine is a vision that resonates with most citizens.

Here's a sneak peek: https://vimeo.com/432019160/6b62 0d4c74

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OPINION: Should New Zealand export its logs?

OPINION: Should New Zealand export its logs by Rudolf van Rensburg - New Zealand currently exports around NZD3.5 billion of unprocessed roundwood a year. New innovative wood products combined with environmentally friendly construction can create value-adding alternatives which would more than double the current value of roundwood exports.

The export of commodities in return for a free flow of finished goods in a global free trading market is being questioned, particularly in respect of growing supply chain risk, security and the need to create local employment in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic. As a result, is it time for New Zealand to consider more ‘on-shoring’ processing of one of its major primary export products?

New Zealand harvests ~36 million cubic meters of roundwood annually with about 60% of this volume (22 million cubic meters) exported as roundwood mostly to China (around 80%). Domestic processing includes sawmilling for timber, laminated products, panel products and pulp. Local mills compete on price with the export market to secure volume.

Chinese demand for softwood timber arises from three industry segments; construction (which accounts for ~50% of the demand), packaging (~15%) and the furniture manufacturing and finishing timbers (~35%). Within the construction segment, New Zealand wood is largely used in concrete forming applications (including plywood) which is a low-value use and counter-intuitive given the 30-or so year production (growth) time required to produce logs.

China’s concrete use is in large part driven by its rapid rate of urbanisation. The use of concrete and its significant impact on the environment is being increasingly questioned. The Guardian in 2019 reported that China pours more concrete every two years than the US did in the entire 20th century.

It further reports, that concrete mixing accounts for about a 10 per cent of the world’s industrial water use. It is understood to worsen the silicosis problem and other respiratory diseases. The dust from concrete stocks and mixers reportedly contributes up to 10% of the coarse particulate matter that chokes Delhi. The Asia Institute, in a recent (March 2020) podcast, focused on the high demand for sand, a non-renewable resource which makes up about two thirds of concrete material. Sand is further used in the production of glass and microchips.

It is estimated that the world uses 40-50 billion tonnes of sand annually, a volume sufficient to build a 27m wide wall, 29m high around the planet each year. Sand suitable for concrete manufacture, is mined from sand bars, riverbeds and estuaries with consequential environmental impacts such as downstream erosion, sedimentation and flooding.

Countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia have all supplied sand to meet demand from Asia’s economies and rising living standards are set to boost demand. The United Nation’s Environmental program in 2019 referred to sand mining as one of the major sustainability challenges of the 21st century. The BBC reported in late 2018 that cement, another key ingredient in concrete is the source of about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions according to think tank Chatham House. Wood is an environmentally friendly, sustainable construction material. Innovative products such as cross laminated timber (CLT) and glued laminated timber (Glulam) are increasingly being used to construct multi- story buildings.

Further, in Australia the National Construction Code was changed in 2019 to allow up to 8 story buildings to be constructed from CLT. The “25 King” building in Brisbane is one example of what can be achieved using new technologies and materials. In New Zealand, Red Stag is planning to build a CLT plant in Rotorua and are constructing demonstration buildings in Christchurch. Commerical interest is also increasing with Robert Jones Holdings planning a multi-story office block in Wellington CBD.

New Zealand’s XLam started to produce small volumes of CLT in Nelson but the plant closed in 2019 sighting the small scale and manual operations impacting profitability. XLam now plans to supply the growing New Zealand market from its production facility in Australia (Wodonga). New Zealand plantation growers understandably seek to maximise value return while minimising risk. In the absence of large scale, internationally competitive domestic value adding operations, roundwood exports ticks both boxes. It is the role of government to provide the vision, environment and leadership to foster new initiatives. There is no reason why New Zealand could not establish itself as a major CLT and/or Glulam producer and designer of wooden buildings, exporting value-added, pre-manufactured and environmentally friendly building components to Asian markets.

The Asia Pacific is a major wood deficit region and New Zealand is well positioned to potentially play a leading role in introducing a new generation of green buildings to the region. A new generation of buildings will not only be constructed from a renewable resource but will also be much more energy efficient for heating and cooling. With the right vision and leadership, markets such as Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China can be developed over time.

Domestic projects can showcase possibilities, including the construction of wood-based earthquake safe buildings. Such a transition will require vision and leadership. It was a vision that resulted in the creation of New Zealand’s softwood plantation industry a century ago. In the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, nations and corporations will re-think supply chain risk and opportunities to restructure their economies with a fresh focus on local manufacturing and value add. Is now the time for New Zealand to write the next chapter in its plantation forestry strategy?

Rudolf van Rensburg is a director at Margules Groome Consulting.

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Drone developer targets regional councils

Drone ‘mosaic’ plans to helps find erosion before compliance failure - A drone "mosaic" of harvested forestry blocks is letting regional authorities see the wood for the trees, and could cut down environmental issues.

Marlborough company GeoInsight Limited is using drones, 360-degree cameras and an e-bike to "stitch together" images of forestry blocks and help the Marlborough District Council streamline compliance checks.

Of the council's 17 monitoring programmes, forestry is ranked the highest, due to its potential for adverse environmental impacts like land instability, erosion, and driving out native plants and animals.

GeoInsight co-founder Mark Spencer said the same issues cropped up "time and time again" during his decade-long stint as an environment officer at the council, so he teamed up with fellow co-founder and former council business analysis Rob Besaans to create 'RemoteHQ'.

The pair had spent three years developing the software while on independent compliance checks for the council, designing it to be used in the six years post-harvest, when blocks were vulnerable to weather.

"What typically happens is a company comes in, takes all the trees off [a block] and says, 'see you later landowner. Good luck with that'. The block will sit idle during that 'window of vulnerability' period and landowners just really hope that no big weather events come through. If there is, a lot of the time ... they tend not to do a lot of maintenance."

"It's important that pressure is put on either the landowner or the company to maintain what they put in place, otherwise we get erosion. The software would help make compliance "proactive, rather than reactive", he said.

The pair would send up a drone to photograph the forestry block, with images "stitched together" to create a high-definition mosaic. Shots were also taken on foot. An e-bike was used to get around forestry blocks and move equipment.

Spencer said the technology allowed compliance officers to spot issues that weren't visible on foot. He recalled a drone spotting "cracks" on a hillside, which could have triggered a compliance failure if wet weather had dumped forestry materials into the stream below. After identifying spots that were a compliance failure, concern or excellent, the pair broadcast the results online on the RemoteHQ website for the council, public and other forestry members to see.

A council compliance officer could then use the software to point out problems to forest managers and landowners, with the aim of stopping environmental issues before they occurred.

GeoInsight's fees were paid by landowners, not ratepayers, Spencer said. The pair were developing the software from their own pocket. Besaans described the software as a "radically new approach" to environmental management, one underpinned by public transparency.

"We set up GeoInsight ... to eliminate erosion and sedimentation across New Zealand, starting with the Marlborough region," he said. The pair's long-term goal was to see RemoteHQ used by other regional councils.

Councillor Gerald Hope, who held the environment protection and compliance portfolio in Marlborough, said the software was "forward-looking".

"It's great for monitoring and compliance. It's also very good for the [forestry] industry at large to measure their success or failure," he said.

Councillor David Oddie, who said last year the forestry industry needed to take a "serious look" at itself after years of compliance issues, supported the software at a council meeting earlier this month, saying it was "positive" work.

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Truckies: Teltrac Navman introduce RUC automation

Teletrac Navman’s New Electronic Distance Recorder For Trailers Gets Approval And Industry Tick - Saving transport businesses money when they need it the most.

Teletrac Navman’s brand-new, custom-built electronic distance recorder for trailers has secured NZTA approval and will be rolling out from July. The device was designed with practical input from Kiwi transport operators, and uses ground-breaking new technology developed right here in New Zealand.

The device is part of Teletrac Navman’s electronic Road User Charges (RUC) system, and will automate RUC licence payment and display, and calculate off-road rebates for heavy trailers independently of prime movers. It is a self-contained, sealed device that generates power directly from the wheel’s rotation. There are no wires and no interference with the trailer ABS, EBS or other systems. Operators can self-install the device and use it as part of their Teletrac Navman RUC management solution.

“In the development of this solution, we spoke with our transport operator customers to get feedback on exactly what they needed - and this solution is a result,” says Ian Daniel, vice president and managing director Asia Pacific. “Automated RUC management is a very popular technology. Our customers wanted something they could easily install themselves, that was self-contained and self-powered, and had a large clear screen. This device ticks all the boxes for a busy operator.”

“Feedback from customers is that electronic RUC saves them hours of admin time and even brings in a steady flow of rebates for off-road travel. With the upcoming increases in Road User Charges, every kilometre left unclaimed represents even more lost value to a business. Staying on top of regular rebates also assists a business with its cashflow.”

The electronic distance recorder is already hotly demanded by customers, to provide them with a simple, fast and cost-effective way to manage Road User Charges for trailers.

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OPINION: Farmers don't understand douglas fir

OPINION: Planting Douglas fir seems at odds with plans to eradicate wilding pines (Nicol Horrell) - In the midst of short cold winter days, it’s always something of a milestone to pass the shortest day knowing we are on a slow but inevitable path towards longer warmer days.

One of the compensations of winter is the stunning sunsets and sunrises highlighting the skeletal outlines of deciduous trees in a backdrop of red, orange and pink glowing skies silhouetting our mountains and hills.

The first month of winter in the south has been relatively dry and mild, which also coincides with significant numbers of sheep, deer and cattle transitioning onto winter fodder crops. It has been encouraging to see clear evidence during our monitoring flights of the farming community stepping up in the management of grazing winter crops.

I recently attended the Government announcement of $100 million over the next four years to deal with the wilding pines, nationally. The announcement was made by the Minister for Primary Industries, Damien O’Connor at the Skyline complex in Queenstown.

With a view of the Remarkables mountain range, the Minister’s point of the need to protect our outstanding landscapes was well-made. The news that Mataura Valley Station can plant Douglas fir seems to fly in the face of reality and is totally at odds with efforts to eradicate wildings, even with controls to reduce the risk.

The growing debate over the ability to convert large scale hill country farms, including extensive tussock land into forestry as a permitted activity subject to certain criteria, adds pressure to an anomaly that needs to be addressed.

The promised review of the National Environmental Standards (NES) for Plantation Forestry, which I understand is underway, provides the Government with the opportunity to create a more risk-based framework starting with a permitted activity for low risk proposals, but ramping up to publicly notified discretionary consents at the other end of the risk spectrum. The current NES is too permissive and doesn’t place enough accountability for the spread of wilding pines like Douglas fir.

It also fails to provide an opportunity for regional councils to comment on issues such as biodiversity, outstanding landscapes and potential water depletion from catchments already under pressure in dry seasons.

The $100 million funding package is great news for groups such as the Mid Dome Wilding Pines Trust which have worked tirelessly to rid the area and spread of this pest species.

However, regulation that allows the planting of Douglas fir in the wrong place has the ability to undermine their best efforts. There is an old saying that if we don’t learn the lessons of history we are doomed to repeat them.

We have plenty of land that is well suited to be planted in trees, but unless there is more structure and guidance to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place we will again have to deal with the unforeseen social and economic consequences in the future.

Nicol Horrell (pictured) is chairman of Environment Southland (Photo credit: Stuff).

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Source: Stuff News

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Public consultation on Nelson forests closing soon

Consultation on how Nelson City Council manages its commercial forests will close this week - The council is seeking public feedback on its plan to seek Forest Stewardship Certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a globally-recognised forestry standards authority.

The city council owns several forestry blocks, managed by PF Olsen, in the Brook, Maitai, Roding, and Marsden Valley. PF Olsen has prepared a Forest Management Plan for the next five years, from June 2020 until June 2025, to achieve the certification.

The plan includes reference to Nelson Council's plan to convert some of its commercial forestry blocks from Douglas Pine, which is prone to spreading, to either radiata for continued commercial harvesting, or back into native forest.

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Government funds wood waste recycling

Expanding Wood Waste Recycling Plant In Bay Of Plenty, Waikato - Growing Goodwood: An extra 4,000 tonnes of offcuts and scraps of untreated wood per year will soon be able to be recycled into useful products such as horticultural and garden mulch, playground safety surfacing and animal bedding as a result of a $660,000 investment from the Waste Minimisation Fund, Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced on Saturday.

“New Zealanders care deeply about our environment. Goodwood Limited (Goodwood) is a great example of our circular economy in action - producing high quality products from off-cuts and waste that would otherwise go to landfill” said Eugenie Sage.

The new funding allows Goodwood to expand their capacity by 50 per cent, through the purchase of a truck and 10 open-top containers for businesses to stockpile wood waste on-site. It will also allow the purchase of heavy equipment for the Hamilton yard, eliminating the need to transport machinery back and forth between the Mount Maunganui and Waikato yards.

The Mount Maunganui-based business has collected more than 30,000 tonnes of untreated wood waste from businesses, mostly sawmills, throughout the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions – and diverts it from landfill by transforming it into useful, sustainable items.

With the new project underway, Goodwood employs 9 locals and makes a useful contribution to ensuring people are employed in the Bay of Plenty.

The Government is committed to reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and to increasing material recovery and recycling. Businesses, industry, families and communities all have a role to play in reducing our waste in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“We have a rubbish record on waste to landfill that this Government is working alongside New Zealanders to change. This wood waste recovery project has been trialled and proven it can succeed in the Bay of Plenty, it would be great to see similar operations elsewhere” said Eugene Sage.

Source: Scoop News

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11 years ago: Kaingaroa forest lands handback

Looking back: 11 years since Kaingaroa forest lands handed back - The land that was returned to the Collective on 1 July 2009 is currently rented out to commercial businesses, under agreements called Crown Forest Licences (CFLs).

The vast majority of the settlement land is part of Kaingaroa Forest, and the CFLs for Kaingaroa Forest were previously held by a company called Kaingaroa Timberlands.

Return Area Process - The Collective decided to terminate all of the CFLs on 1 July 2009, by issuing a "notice of termination". The notice period is 15 months. This means that from 1 October 2010, as blocks of land are harvested by Kaingaroa Timberlands, they will be returned to CNI Iwi Holdings Limited who will take over the responsibility for those blocks of land.

Over the next 35 years (from 2010), CNI Iwi Holdings Limited will be responsible for two types of land - land that is still under Crown Forest Licence (CFL), and land that has been harvested and returned to CNI Iwi Holdings Limited on behalf of the Collective.

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Source: CNI Holdings, Kete Kawerau and Parliament files<

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Buy and Sell

... and finally ... Dad and Mum jokes

A thief has removed all motorway signs in Yorkshire ... Police are currently looking for Leeds.

Found a skeleton in my attic ... turns out he was the 1846 world hide and seek champion.

My wife says we need a new dipstick for the car, the old one won’t reach the oil.

I didn’t think orthopaedic shoes would help, but I stand corrected.

Let's not tell some people when quarantine is over.

A friendly neighbour dropped in on a friend and found her sitting at the kitchen table, staring blankly at a half-empty cup of coffee; her three kids squabbling loudly in the other room.

"What's wrong, Marge?" she asked.

Marge told her that she had "morning sickness".

Surprised the neighbor said, "I didn't even know you were pregnant."

"I'm not," the harried woman replied. "I'm just damn sick of mornings."

Thanks for keeping up with the latest wood news with us!
Have a safe and productive week.

John Stulen, Editor

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