WoodWeek – 19 February 2020

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Welcome to this week's wood news update. We have plenty of it for you today. On the back of wood processors seeking government action complaining that log prices are too high due to subsidised overseas wood processors, there is now considerable pain across the workforce in the logging industry. Earlier this week, there was a brief news comment that Shane Jones was directing MPI management to look at options for relief for log exporters, but nothing has been made public since.

We have some positive news from the Gisborne region. A grassroots community effort fired up last Friday to help local forestry workers. Locals recognised that many contractors and workers will face income instability over the coming weeks and months. Gisborne has had ongoing disruptions for the forestry industry and sluggish exports from Eastland Port continue to create uncertainty for forestry businesses and workers up and down the East Coast.

Meanwhile, a father whose son was killed working between a log loader and a container being loaded with logs is reaching out to stop companies hiring workers until they are proven to be safe. Since this story broke, he was interviewed on TVNZ news last night. He spoke very well and his suggested changes for preventing harm seemed sound. WorkSafe appears receptive to taking his concerns on board.

On the subject of safety, a quick reminder that early-bird discount rates are still available for our FIEA Forest Safety & Technology Conference series. We've had great input from industry safety leaders. Our speakers will bring new perspectives on key safety issues. We have very experienced specialists and leaders in change with proven practical ways to affect people’s attitude. In New Zealand, we have a dual focus on culture in the workplace and fatigue. In Australia we are bringing a focus on proven techniques and real-world tools for managing fatigue. From dealing with different cultures, backgrounds and individuals’ needs in both logging and transport operations, there is plenty of expertise on offer. We are delivering the series in both Rotorua and Melbourne.

Last but not least, we have the latest innovations in electric vehicles tough enough to survive and thrive in the forest. The advanced Nikola electric pickup (read ‘ute’) is designed to target and exceed every electric or petrol pickup in its class. Watch out Ford Ranger! Watch out Holden Colorado! (oops, scrap that now)

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Tairawhiti: Worker wellbeing first priority

Worker wellbeing top priority for East Coast leadership - Ongoing disruptions for the forestry industry and sluggish exports from Eastland Port continue to create uncertainty for forestry businesses and workers up and down the East Coast.

Recognising that many contractors and workers face earnings instability over the coming weeks and months, a grassroots community effort fired up last Friday to help local forestry wellness coach Wade Brunt scale up his Jogging for Logging initiative into a dedicated worker wellness centre.

A fundraising campaign to secure the $40,000 establishment budget kicked off Monday morning and within 24 hours, the target required to open the centre had been pledged by supporters.

Regional development trust Trust Tairawhiti were first to pledge $10,000 to get the effort underway. Gavin Murphy, Trust Tairawhiti CEO said “the worker wellness centre ticks a number of boxes under the Trust’s wellbeing framework (He Tohu Ora) and we’re pleased to know that it can be a connection point for a number of existing services to reach into the forestry community at this critical time”.

Eastland Group, which includes the operation of the Eastland Port, were also keen to see this effort reach target and added another $10,000. Matt Todd, Eastland Group Chief Executive said, “This initiative shows Tairawhiti at its best – individuals and organisations sharing their ideas and expertise to get a worker wellness centre up and running. At Eastland Group we have a focus on building mental wellbeing and resilience in the workplace, and understand that this facility will make a meaningful difference to so many people throughout the region. I encourage other businesses, particularly the major forestry companies, to rally round and lend their support. Together we can expand this facility’s reach from Gisborne right up the coast.”

Andrew Gaddum, Eastland Port Chief Operating Officer said “We’re seeing the far-reaching impacts first hand. The ongoing uncertainty is creating extra pressure on crews, trucking companies and support businesses. While log trucks are rolling in to the port and ships are loading at the moment, no one knows what the coming weeks will bring. But what we do know is that, as a region, we need to work together to look after each other. This wellness centre is a collaborative, grassroots effort that will provide long term resources for forestry workers and their whanau.”

Mayor Stoltz was quick to acknowledge the value of the effort with a $5,000 pledge from Gisborne District Council.

Ngati Porou Holdings is also putting $10,000 towards the opening of the centre. Group chief executive, Herewini Te Koha, says it’s a no brainer that Ngati Porou helps to support the affected workers and families. “Obviously, forestry is a big employer across Ngati Porou”, says Mr Te Koha. “It’s a challenging sector at the best of times, so we need to pull together when extraordinary events like coronavirus threaten the stability of local businesses and households”.

Mr Te Koha comments “We understand that the Government is looking at a relief package, nationally. In the meantime, we’re getting behind the locally-led response, especially those that we know will reach the most affected”.

A generous offer of significantly discounted lease space from Gisborne Harriers Club means a location has been secured. An anonymous donor in the local community provided a further $5,000 earlier this week to ensure the centre would open very soon.

Community leader and centre coordinator Wade Brunt says, “I know this is a very challenging time for everyone in the forestry industry. Every company and every crew is doing it tough. Talking within my networks in the industry, I know we can make this place a zone for positivity and practical support for whanau. We’ll take time to listen and engage with the forestry crew and whanau to figure out how we can best support, whether it’s a quick group workout, a deep freezer for kai or bringing in some experts for a chat. It’s a place of aroha - sharing, caring and connecting.”

With the opening of the Gisborne centre guaranteed, Mr Brunt is looking forward to connecting this effort to individual forestry companies and contractors over the coming weeks. He says, “the next challenge will be working out how we link with all our whanau and community efforts all the way up the coast”.

Source: Scoop News


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Aratu Forests sentenced on resource breaches

Aratu Forests sentenced in relation to 2018 Queen’s Birthday storm - On Monday, Aratu Forests Limited, previously known as Hikurangi Forest Farms, was sentenced in relation to breaches of the Resource Management Act that occurred following the Queen’s Birthday storm in June 2018.

Aratu Forests Limited CEO Ian Brown said the company respects the decision of the court and takes full responsibility for the non-compliances identified as a result of the storm.

“We are deeply sorry for the impact this has had on our neighbours and the wider community, as well as the rivers and coast in the area. We acknowledge the hardship that our neighbours in the Mangatokerau valley have gone through as a result of the floods and debris, and we unreservedly apologise for the suffering they have endured.”

“We are determined to restore the environment, rebuild the trust of the community and continue working with partners to ensure this doesn’t happen again. There remains much to do, but under our new ownership Aratu Forests Limited is committed to demonstrating that forestry has a key role to play as a long-term sustainable land use in the Gisborne region. We are about responsible investment which includes outstanding environmental outcomes as a key part of our business” said Mr Brown.

Source: Aratu Forests





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Australia: Industry to seek support

Timber industry to call for new support package following devastating fires - In Australia, the crippled timber industry is facing more than $40 million in lost revenue and damaged machinery following bushfires which devastated the eastern states since November. Industry representatives are lobbying for a new government support package for forestry contractors, which have already put hundreds of crews out of work in three states, amid warnings there is "no relief in sight".

Early estimates are that contractors have lost up to $15 million in revenue from the fires which burned through state forests and plantations over summer, with more than 40 pieces of equipment valued at $27 million damaged or lost.

Contractors from NSW and Victoria now warn that unless there is urgent attention to their plight their businesses will not survive. Businesses have also reported difficulties in accessing the bushfire relief programs such as the $75,000 grants for primary producers, an amount also only a fraction of what many are losing each week.

Australian Forest Contractors Association general manager Stacey Gardiner said many businesses had suffered direct impacts to their businesses through fires and the indirect effects were now contributing to the "significant costs" facing the industry. She said contractors would need support to help repay loans and equipment leases, fund timber salvage and purchase specialised equipment.

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Source: Sydney Morning Herald



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Markets: US South log exports to China

Trade issues - Tariffs didn’t cripple all US-China trade activity - Much has been said about how extensively the US-China trade war has stifled softwood sales between the two countries since tit-for-tat tariffs were imposed on lumber and log shipments beginning in August 2018. However, 2019 import and export statistics show that trade between the US and China held up well by historical standards in many key items despite tariff s ranging from 20-25 percent imposed for much of the year.

Southern yellow pine (SYP) log exports to China, for example, will likely finish 2019 with the second-largest volume on record at a projected 1.1 million m3, despite a 31 percent decline compared to 2018 through November. Tariffs stemming from the trade war drew the blame for sapping the momentum from surging SYP log exports to China, but volumes remained strong by historical standards despite heavy competition from New Zealand, Europe, and other suppliers.

US exporters note that the Chinese government subsidises the country’s SYP log exports, and those subsidies offset most of the higher costs imposed by the tariffs. The log imports help support China’s remanufacturing sector, which eases the trade war’s impact on the country’s wood products industry.

SYP log exports to China nearly doubled to a record 1.525 million m3 in 2018, posting a third consecutive annual gain. SYP surpassed Western Hemlock in 2018 as the most commonly shipped softwood log species from the US to China.



Source: Fastmarkets Random Lengths


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New Zealand: Harvesting restart

China bound: Forestry companies restart log harvesting (RNZ) - The Forest Owners Association says despite a significant slump in prices, logs bound for China are starting to be harvested again by many large forestry companies.

The novel coronavirus outbreak, combined with an already oversupplied market, resulted in logs backing up at Chinese ports. In response, many forestry companies in New Zealand last week cut back or completely stopped harvesting, leaving some contractors without work.

Te Uru Rakau deputy director-general Julie Collins told Morning Report this was usually a quiet period for log exports to China - but the coronavirus had exacerbated that. Collins said the key issue for the sector in New Zealand was how quickly wood processing companies in China resumed work and the whole wood supply chain is back up and running.

She said there had been some signs of improvement. Forestry companies with holds on their logging operations had indicated they were going to resume harvesting, but at a lower rate, she said.

Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir said while log prices were well down, sawmills in China were getting back to work after the extended Chinese New Year holiday period. This had prompted large New Zealand forestry companies to resume work.

"I think pretty much all but big companies that have locked in supply agreements with China are restarting," Weir said.

AgriHQ said prices for A-grade logs, which were considered the benchmark grade, had fallen sharply in recent weeks to $105 dollars per JASm3 (Japanese Agricultural Standard cubic metre), down from $125 JASm3 in December.

Weir said owners of high-cost forests would be lucky to break even with those prices. The East Coast had some of the most expensive wood to harvest because of harder access and are some distance away from the port, he said.

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Source: RNZ



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Biomass and renewable energy targets

The Bioenergy Association of New Zealand (BANZ) is encouraging the forest industry to have input to the Government's latest consultation phase for "Accelerating Renewable Energy" in New Zealand.

A public discussion document provides background to the plans and the consultation. Wood and forest residues for process heat is just part of the much wider renewable energy and energy efficiency objectives the Government is inviting discussion on.

BANZ executive officer is spearheading efforts to contribute the plans Government is forming. His view of the situation is outlined below:

Biomass for bioenergy should never run out - The development of a Forest Strategy by Te Uru Rakau and MBIE’s proposals for a Renewable Energy Strategy both provide opportunities for development of policies which can significantly contribute to achievement of a net zero carbon economy by 2050. However, these policies need to be bold and more progressive than current thinking which appears to be based more on continuation of the status quo. They also need to consider and be considered in light of the Government's one billion tree programme and Zero carbon legislation. Helping farmers to become zero net greenhouse gas emitters also requires leadership.

We need to change how we think of biomass fuel supply. An aspect of biomass energy is that we can grow as much biomass that we want whereas we can’t create more coal or natural gas.

New Zealand is fortunate in that plants grow quickly, and land is generally well managed so that adoption of a goal of having adequate quantities of biomass from forestry, agriculture and waste to meet future energy needs is achievable.

Current thinking about future supplies of biomass for production of industrial heat is constrained by perceptions about what is currently available. Instead we should be analysing what biomass fuel is required in future and taking action to ensure that it is available at the lowest cost.

Government is seeking submissions on these strategies. All those interested in biomass energy should be providing submissions to both agencies on why proactive wood and plant policies based on aspirational vision of the economy and communities we want to have in 2050 need to be established, supported by plans on how the vision is to be achieved. We don’t want a continuation of the status quo based on current practices.

Appendix 4: Biomass fuel switching map


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Source: BANZ


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Father wants tighter rules for employers

Father of worker crushed to death wants changes to workplace safety - A grieving father wants a crackdown on logging companies, saying they should have to prove they are safe before they are allowed to hire workers. Doug Laing's son, Les, died three years ago when he was crushed between a shipping container and an excavator.

His employer, Guru NZ, was sentenced yesterday in the Manukau District Court and must pay almost half a million dollars in fines and reparations.

In September 2017, Les was helping put logs in a container that was so warped the doors wouldn't close. The workers decided to use a large excavator to try to slam the doors shut. When the machine's heavy grapple hand came unhooked, Les was trapped between it and the shipping container, fatally crushed him.

His father said the family would never be the same - he was angry and he wanted change.

"The loss of Les' life would be in vain if there weren't significant improvements across the board in attitudes towards workplace safety," Laing said.

He had this warning for employers -"There'll be a lot of employers, particularly in Auckland industrial sites, that have to [ask whether] they want to get hit by fines, and have the guilt of having a staff member that loses their life, or do they want to wake up now and get their A into G."

Guru NZ has been fined $330,750, and must pay $110,000 to the family for the emotional harm caused.

WorkSafe, which brought the charges, said the work practices were unsafe and cost someone their life. Chief inspector Steve Kelly said no-one should have been within seven metres of the excavator while it was in use.

"The risks of crushing injuries are well-known in the logging industry. Workers on foot in these environments should not be in close proximity to any kind of heavy machinery," Kelly said.

Fifteen forestry and logging workers have been killed on the job since Les Laing's death.

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Source: RNZ


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WorkSafe seeing data more clearly

Workplace deaths: WorkSafe making amends for 'low quality data' - The official count in 2018 of 42 deaths shot up to 86 last year prior to the Whakaari/White Island tragedy; the total in the end was 108 deaths for the year. WorkSafe is now including ACC work-related death numbers after realising it had entertained a blind spot over transport deaths for years.

"Last year, we saw the clear picture for the first time," WorkSafe's new chief executive Phil Parkes told RNZ on Monday morning. He is changing tack with the help of $150 million of new funding from ACC.

But even as that is under way, the agency is being criticised for doing fewer investigations - it says it is prioritising resources into intervening sooner to stop accidents, so it doesn't have to investigate afterwards.

Also, the police are making very few health and safety inquiries into road crashes on behalf of WorkSafe.

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Source: RNZ


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Southport forecast falls

Falling log volumes trim South Port's profit forecast - South Port New Zealand expects annual earnings to fall as much as 16.2 percent because of reduced log exports and fertiliser imports.

In reporting a flat first-half net profit, the port operator lowered its guidance for the year ending June to a range of $8.2 million to $8.7 million, compared with $9.8 million the previous year.

At the annual shareholders' meeting in November, the company had forecast a 10 percent decline in annual net profit, itself a downgrade from the 5 percent fall the company predicted in August.

Revenue for the six months ended Dec. 31 rose 3.2 percent to $21.6 million. Net profit was virtually flat at $4.6 million, which South Port chairman Rex Chapman said was "a pleasing result" considering adverse market conditions.

“Bulk cargoes, particularly logs and fertiliser, came under pressure due to market conditions and inclement weather patterns respectively,” he said.

Log exports through South Port fell by 84,000 tonnes, approximately 16 percent, as an oversupply of logs caused a build-up of stock on wharves in China.

The New Zealand Forest Owners' Association said warmer winters and longer summers had led to very high rates of spruce beetle infestation in Europe, with large areas of forests being clear-felled and salvaged logs then being railed and shipped to China.

Source: BusinessDesk


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Save the planet: Drive this truck!

The World's Most Advanced Zero-Emission FCEV / BEV Pickup Truck - Nikola Corporation is excited to announce the product launch of the Nikola Badger electric pickup truck with an estimated range of 600 miles.

Unlike anything on the market, the advanced electric pickup is designed to target and exceed every electric or petrol pickup in its class. The Badger is engineered to deliver 980 ft. lbs. of torque, 906 peak HP and 455 continuous HP. The Badger will be built in conjunction with another OEM utilizing their certified parts and manufacturing facilities.

The electric pickup is designed to handle what a construction company could throw at it and is engineered to outperform all electric pickup trucks on the market in both continuous towing, HP and range. The Badger will be outfitted with a 15-kilowatt power outlet for tools, lights and compressors, which is enough power to assist a construction site for approximately 12 hours without a generator.

The Badger was designed to handle 0-100 mph launches with minimal loss of performance and to operate on grades up to 40% through advanced software blending of batteries and fuel-cell. With a fully loaded trailer and combined vehicle weight of 18,000 lbs., the Badger will be able to launch from a standstill on a 30% grade without motor stall.

"Nikola has billions worth of technology in our semi-truck program, so why not build it into a pickup truck?" said Trevor Milton, CEO, Nikola Corporation. "I have been working on this pickup program for years and believe the market is now ready for something that can handle a full day's worth of work without running out of energy. This electric truck can be used for work, weekend getaways, towing, off-roading or to hit the ski slopes without performance loss. No other electric pickup can operate in these temperatures and conditions."

Heavy D, a reality TV star from the "Diesel Brothers," has partnered with Nikola to design, build and test the Badger in real world environments, which is anticipated to attract millions of viewers and followers through the process. The partnership will follow the Badger build from concept through production.

"My audience, hard-core truck enthusiasts, has expected me to push the limits of truck power and capabilities since my beginnings," said Heavy D, AKA Dave Sparks. "Being able to pull back the curtain of a production truck build is a rare opportunity where we can include the everyday truck owner to participate in the final outcome of design, exterior choices and performance specs. I wanted to be part of that story and now I have the opportunity with Nikola."

"The Nikola Badger is a game changer. The program will help drive down the cost of the fuel-cell components on our semi-truck while accelerating the hydrogen station rollout. Giving customers the option to order a fuel-cell or battery electric version will ensure we drive the cost down for everyone across our lineup," said Mark Russell, president of Nikola Corporation.

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almost finally ... Rayonier's Valentine connection

Happy Valentine's Day! (ok, we're only a week late ...)

Here's an interesting fact: the pretty green leaves used in bouquets like this one come from a plant called salal.

Companies harvest bales of it on Rayonier's forestlands in the US Pacific Northwest and send it all over the world for flower arrangements!


















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... and finally ... funny observations

Difference between childhood and adulthood:

1.Going to bed early
2.Not leaving my house
3.Not going to a party

My childhood punishments have become my adult goals.

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Moving on to the Irish who as adults often remind us of kids:

Murphy showed up at Mass one Sunday and the priest almost fell down when he saw him. He'd never been to church in his life. After Mass, the priest caught up with him and said, "Murphy, I am so glad ya decided to come to Mass. What made ya come?"

Murphy said, "I got to be honest with you Father, a while back, I misplaced me hat and I really, really love that hat. I know that McGlynn had a hat just like mine and I knew he came to church every Sunday. I also knew that he had to take off his hat during Mass and figured he would leave it in the back of church. So, I was going to leave after Communion and steal McGlynn's hat."

The priest said, "Well, Murphy, I notice that ya didn't steal McGlynn's hat. What changed your mind?"

Murphy replied, "Well, after I heard your sermon on the Ten Commandments, I decided that I didn't need to steal McGlynn's hat after all."

With a tear in his eye the priest gave Murphy a big smile and said; "After I talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' ya decided you would rather do without your hat than burn in Hell?"

Murphy slowly shook his head. "No, Father, after ya talked about 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery'..... I remembered where I left me hat."

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The two cities in USA with the highest alcohol consumption are Las Vegas and Washington, DC. The difference between the two is that in Las Vegas the drunks are gambling with their own money.



That's all for this week's wood news.

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John Stulen
Editor
Innovatek Limited
PO Box 1230
Rotorua, New Zealand
Mob: +64 27 275 8011
Web: www.woodweek.com

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