WoodWeek – 15 April 2020

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Greetings from that “new” office we are all getting used to (in New Zealand anyway). To the market first where we have the latest monthly commentary from Hakan Ekstrom at Wood Resources International. He says during January and February 2020, China imported 5.1 million m3 of softwood logs, down from almost 5.7 million m3 in the same period in 2019. Most of China’s log-supplying countries reduced shipments dramatically, with the exception of New Zealand (only down 1% y- o-y) and Central Europe (Germany and Czech Republic were up 200% and 320% y- o-y).

Looking to operational matters, here is a summary from the latest update by Te Uru Rakau working in cooperation with our forest industry leadership group. Wood processing, sawmilling, forest harvesting and forestry management are NOT essential services. However, MPI is working on a phased restart of some businesses to ensure essential service supply is maintained.

See more details in today’s issue or see more at: www.teururakau.govt.nz.

Operators resuming activity will need to adopt best social distancing and health & safety practice to minimise the risk of community spread of Covid- 19. MPI has guidelines to assist industry to develop their own site specific safe operating procedures. More information is available here: Safe work practices for businesses and workers.

Later today our Innovatek team will begin delivering our 8th annual MobileTECH Ag Conference as a webinar series. Next month we will deliver this year’s forest safety conference – our FIEA Forest Safety & Technology Conference as a webinar series starting in late May. Next week we will start working with speakers and sponsors on webinar details. Very soon we will begin offering webinar registrations to our loyal conference delegates for this long-running conference series. Watch this space and www.forestsafety.events.

Finally, looking to the opportunity for wood to lead a “Made in New Zealand” recovery and improved carbon sequestration, wood processors are pushing for wood policy changes by Government. Making wooden construction a priority in government and public buildings will reduce long- term emissions, boost national income and encourage development of a bigger domestic processing industry, forestry advocates say.

Processors are urging the government to implement a national wood procurement policy as part of its Covid-19 recovery plan. Red Stag Timber group chief executive Marty Verry said there had never been a better time to act on a policy which has been on the Labour government’s books since before the 2017 election.

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BREAKING NEWS - 2pm UPDATE: Strict limits on processing

Strict limits as some wood processing resumes - Some wood processors will be cleared to resume limited operations this week in order to ensure supplies of key products during the current lockdown or to avoid costly damage to plant.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ forestry arm - Te Uru Rakau - will oversee a phased increase in activity by sawmills that produce essential goods such as timber for pallets and crates.

Harvesting will not resume, and those mills will be supplied with felled logs already in forest stockpiles and then trucked to mills.

In addition, makers of fibreboard and other engineered wood products will be allowed to restart on a limited basis to use up perishable products such as resin that would otherwise wreck machinery it has been left in or have to be dumped, creating environmental issues.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the government has always been willing to take a pragmatic approach in dealing with potentially anomalous situations arising during the covid-19 lockdown.

In doing so, it had to manage both the health risks and the potential economic risks from the shutdown – the latter of which could have long-lasting and “systemic implications” if not dealt with carefully.

“There’s a lot of expectation on the forestry sector that they will be able to live up to the standards that have been required of them,” Jones told BusinessDesk.

No further widening of processing is expected before decisions are taken by the government next week on the next phase of the lockdown, he said.

All the country’s forestry harvesting was halted last month as the government worked to maximise the number of people kept at home in order to suppress the covid-19 outbreak here.

Sawmills were shut nationwide and only plants making packaging and pallets for essential food, export and medical supplies were allowed to continue operating.

Norske Skog Tasman’s paper mill at Kawerau was allowed to continue operating until April 12 to ensure sufficient domestic newsprint supplies, while Oji Fibre Solutions was required to concentrate its activities at its Kinleith mill in order to keep supplying packaging and tissue makers.

In a statement today, Jones said a national stocktake last week showed supplies for several key products would be exhausted before April 22.

As well as timber for pallets, shortages were also expected in wood supply for domestic heating in Canterbury, for wood pellet production for prisons and food processors and for wood chip for fuel and animal welfare in the central North Island.

Additional logs were also needed for Oji’s operation at Kinleith, and commercial nurseries have also been allowed to resume work in order to keep seedlings for the industry alive until the end of lockdown.

Jones said public health remains an “absolute priority” and that was reflected in the staged and minimal reopening of only those parts of the industry that were needed for essential supplies.

Source: BusinessDesk


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Forest nurseries now essential services

When the New Zealand government raised the COVID-19 Alert to Level Four all forest operations had to cease as forestry was not deemed an essential industry. PF Olsen supports the government efforts to manage COVID-19 proactively, so we can return to work as soon as possible.

The New Zealand Forest Nursery Growers (of which PF Olsen Nursery Manager Kevin Haine is President) managed to successfully lobby the government to include nurseries on the essential services list. This means we will have quality seedlings ready for planting this winter.

In readiness for the start-up of the forest industry sector, a working group representing forestry, harvesting/engineering, transport, processing and port operations has been set-up. This group will focus on the development of protocols that manage the risk of COVID-19 in our industry, to keep people safe and enable the industry to operate safely in L3 or L4 (if permitted).

PF Olsen has representation in Lawrie Scott (Forestry group) and Nic Steens (Harvesting/Engineering group, H&S Risk Management). The working group aims to have a protocols document with government agencies for review by mid-April.

Source: PF Olsen and https://www.nzfnga.co.nz


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Forestry: Plan for supporting essential services

Covid-19: Supporting essential services by continuing essential activity across the forestry sector.

(Also see: www.teururakau.govt.nz)

Wood processing, sawmilling, forest harvesting and forestry management are NOT essential services. However, MPI is working on a phased restart of some businesses to ensure essential service supply is maintained.

Businesses will need to register as an essential service and can start this process by emailing info@mpi.govt.nz and request a forestry registration form. Businesses can restart while the registration form is being processed.

Once this registration process is completed, a registration number will be issued.

Operators resuming activity will need to adopt best social distancing and health and safety practice to minimise the risk of community spread of Covid-19. MPI has guidelines to assist industry to develop their own site specific safe operating procedures. More information is available here: Safe work practices for businesses and workers.

Phased restart: From 14 April
  • Sawmills will be able to resume production of essential service products such as sawn timber for pallet manufacture or wood for heating using log stock that already exists at their place of business. Dispatch from sawmills is still restricted to only material required for the provision of domestic essential services. Transporting logs between sawmills and sites will be allowed, to create sufficient scale at some operations rather than running multiple sites for short periods.

  • Loading and cartage of existing log stockpiles in the forest, and other points of the supply chain, will be allowed to resume to provide feedstock exclusively for Oji’s Kinleith pulp mill, firewood and solid fuel producers.

  • MDF and other Engineered Wood Products plants will be permitted to restart production on a limited basis to prevent perishable inputs e.g. resins from compromising the supply chain and creating significant adverse environment effects. This production will only utilise existing raw materials that are already on site or in the associated supply chain.

From 20 April
  • Loading and cartage of existing log stockpiles in the forest, and other points of the supply chain, will be allowed to resume to sawmills to support the domestic production of other essential service inputs e.g. pallet material.

After 23rd April
  • Forestry management and harvesting are not essential services under Alert Level 4.

  • MPI will continue to work with industry to determine how harvesting could be undertaken to keep essential services operating, in the event that Alert Level 4 remains in place.


The information given here is current at time of publishing but MPI will continue to give updates as more information comes to hand and further decisions are made.

Financial help is available for the forestry sector who are not part of the restart.

A range of government support is available, including a wage subsidy, business finance guarantee, business cash flow and tax measures amongst others. If you’re an employer, contractor, sole trader or are self-employed you may qualify.

The wage subsidy is a lump sum payment for the employer to pass on to employees and covers 12 weeks per employee. The aim is to help keep your businesses going, if you face laying off staff or reducing their hours because of COVID-19.

More information on support packages is available on covid19.govt.nz


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Open letter to Shane Jones

An Open Letter to Shane Jones, Minister of Forestry, Thursday, 9 April 2020
From: Adrian Loo

Dear Minister Jones, Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Adrian. I am an employee in the forestry industry, a Future Forester, a graduate of Canterbury University and, albeit very small, a forest owner.

Since starting out in the forestry industry 4 years ago I have been lucky enough to experience your leadership first-hand and hear your passionate encouragement of the forest industry and forest owners within it. During this time, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to speak at the beehive and describe the amazing opportunities for people involved with forestry. For me the forestry industry represents a world of incredible opportunities, amazing people and is an industry that I am extremely proud to be a part of.

Last year I was honoured to be invited to speak directly with His Royal Highness Prince Charles about our industry. During this meeting I gave explicit support for the opportunities you are providing farmers and landowners under the One Billion Trees Programme. I described how amazing it was to see these rural landowners committing to forestry with the support of the Government and our Minister Shane Jones leading at the helm.

Suffice to say I was shocked when I heard your interview with Heather Du Plessis-Allan earlier this week. Shocked at the comments uttered with such disregard for our country’s forest owners. In utter shock that you, the Minister of Forestry, our Government representative would speak in such derogatory terms about the forest owners. Forest owners that you have been actively encouraging to expand their investment in New Zealand. Investment that has directly led to job creation, economic growth and most important investment that is actively combating climate change.

More >>

Source: Adrian Loo and Scoop News





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China log imports drop

Softwood log export summary - During January and February 2020, China imported 5.1 million m3 of softwood logs, down from almost 5.7 million m3 in the same period in 2019 (the total import value fell from 800 million dollars to 640 million dollars).

Record high log inventories (over 7 million m3) at Chinese ports, reduced demand for forest products as a consequence of the coronavirus, and labor shortages at ports and wood processing facilities have resulted in sharp declines in log imports in 2020. All log- supplying countries reduced shipments dramatically with the exception of New Zealand (only down 1% y-o-y) and Central Europe (Germany and the Czech Republic were up 200% and 320 % y-o-y). Total import volumes to China in February 2020 were the lowest since February 2016.

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Source: WRI Market Insights Report 2020





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Wood processors push for wood policy

Processors push wooden construction as part of covid-19 recovery - Making wooden construction a priority in government and public buildings will reduce long-term emissions, boost national income and encourage development of a bigger domestic processing industry, forestry advocates say.

Processors are urging the government to implement a national wood procurement policy as part of its covid-19 recovery plan.

Red Stag Timber group chief executive Marty Verry said there had never been a better time to act on a policy which has been on the Labour government’s books since before the 2017 election.

Making wood a priority in government housing, schools and other public buildings has the potential to speed construction, lower costs and underpin the development of further local processing, according to a presentation prepared for officials as part of the sector’s proposed industry transformation plan.

Increasing wood’s share in the construction market by 25 percent would increase demand by 1.5 million cubic metres a year and provide sufficient scale for exports of structural timber, laminated products and other components to increase by about 723,000 cubic metres.

Replacing imported cement and steel with wood improve the country’s balance of payments by about $500 million a year, while the increased demand would generate close to 1,800 jobs in forestry, processing, trucking and shipping.

“This is the time to do it,” Verry told BusinessDesk.

The government is trying to accelerate construction activity to help keep money flowing during the balance of 2020 and in 2021 as lockdowns being imposed globally bring travel to a halt and shut much of the world economy.

A range of possible scenarios published by Treasury today all signal a sharp contraction in the local economy and a jump in unemployment. In the most benign scenario, where the current lockdown lasts only four weeks, unemployment reaches 13.5 percent by June, but is back near pre-covid levels by 2024. Another $20 billion of state spending could limit that spike in unemployment to 8.5 percent.

Last week, the Climate Change Commission urged the government to avoid long- term investments that risked “locking-in” higher emission pathways and encouraged it to bring forward potentially “transformative” climate change investments that need to be made anyway. The wood processor group said steel and concrete will still be needed in construction, even in buildings primarily made from wood.

But they said using more wood reduces the weight of buildings, can improve their performance in earthquakes and requires lighter foundations. That in turn reduces demand for steel and concrete, the manufacture of which is estimated to account for up to 13 percent of global emissions.

“A 25 percent change in market share to wood is forecast to result in 920,000 tonnes of CO2 annually being sequestered by forests and not being released by concrete and steel use,” the group said of New Zealand’s emissions.

Nor did the group believe the policy would breach World Trade Organisation rules or the Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia. The policy would be “country agnostic” with developers free to import wooden components if they wished.

More >>

Source: BusinessDesk

Photo credit: naturally:wood


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Tumut turns to export for fire-recovery logs

In Tumut NSW salvage operations in softwood plantations impacted by this season’s fires are well underway - Local crews are now working at a significantly higher rate of production than normal, planting programs ramping up to restock plantations and preparations underway for some export operations.

Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Regional Manager Dean Anderson said Forestry Corporation is placing all the burnt wood it possibly can with local customers to allow as much as possible of the unburnt plantation to continue to grow to be there for the future.

“Unfortunately burnt wood does not last forever and some of the trees burnt are either too small or too young for the local sawmills. Some of these logs exceed what Visy can take, so they will be exported so we can clean the sites up ready for replanting as soon as possible,” Mr Anderson said.

“While timber from older trees is suitable to be processed into house frames, furniture and other essential renewable wood products, trees between 12-24 years old are generally not large enough for sawlog processing."

“Our local industry cannot process this timber, but there is an opportunity to export it to offset some of the cost of the operations required to remove trees from fire-affected sites and prepare them for replanting."

“Everything that can be processed locally will go to our local industry, and the surplus that is not suitable for domestic markets will be transported by truck to the Port of Melbourne for export."

“There is a significant task ahead of us, we will be looking to harvest about twice what we would normally harvest in a year from the full region just from the Green Hills area in less than 12 months."

“With all this extra activity concentrated around Green Hills between Wondalga and Tumbarumba, we are asking the community to keep an eye out for trucks and please be patient, as there will be new drivers in the area taking our hills very carefully.”

Source Forestry Corporation NSW





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Forest study challenges carbon assumptions

Australian forest study may challenge climate change optimism – As Australia's forests burned earlier this year, people around the world worried about the impact of all that smoke on our climate. At the same time, researchers in New South Wales were finalising a study looking at the capacity for forests to consume and store carbon from the atmosphere.

The results were not comforting. In fact, they cast doubt over many of the climate models being used to predict carbon levels into the future.

A forest of cranes - In a unique experiment, Professor Belinda Medlyn and her team from Western Sydney University pumped carbon from a commercial supplier into a forest of 90-year-old trees. They laid pipelines and built tubular structures in the forest to deliver the carbon into the air above the canopy.

For four years they kept the carbon levels 38 per cent higher than normal while they tracked the movement of carbon through the forest ecosystem and they built cranes to take them high enough to measure the results. They looked at how the trees and the plants in the understory take up the CO2 and found that it passes through the ecosystem in a number of different ways, according to Professor Medlyn.

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Photo credit: Western University Sydney

Source: ABC Science Online


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New mill map now available

This story was so popular last week, we've decided to run it again.

Every two years we highlight who's who in Australasia’s wood processing and manufacturing industry on our popular FIEA Forest Products Industry Map. Our 2020 map has just been printed.

This is our fourth edition of the full colour 980mm x 680mm map. It features 171 wood processing operations including over 65 sawmills cutting in excess of 25,000m3 sawn lumber per annum (with sawn production levels), all fibreboard, particleboard, plywood, pulp & paper, veneer/LVL/CLT, paperboard and chip export operations along with major wood manufacturing operations.

Since the last edition produced in early 2018 there have been over 50 major updates to mill locations, ownership and production. Changes in the last two years have indeed been significant. Our new map is now the most up-to-date industry reference providing an essential mapping resource for New Zealand and Australian forest products companies.

A folded copy of the map will be inserted into FIEA's industry partner magazine issues in April/May. But they often disappear from the magazines quickly, so you can purchase your own folded or flat laminated copies of the new map now before we sell out.

So, you can place your own orders now on the FIEA website (www.fiea.org.nz) or by clicking here.

Note: Orders are being taken now and the maps will be posted as soon as we can.



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Cellulose poised from comeback

Cellulose is an ancient material that may be poised for a major comeback. It has been utilised for millennia as the primary component of paper books, cotton clothing, and nata de coco, a tropical dessert made from coconut water. While books made of dead trees and plain old shirts might seem passé in world increasingly filled with tablets and smartphones, researchers at Osaka University have shown that cellulose might have just what it takes to make our modern electronic screens cheaper and provide sharper, more vibrant images.

Cellulose, a naturally occurring polymer, consists of many long molecular chains. Because of its rigidity and strength, cellulose helps maintain the structural integrity of the cell walls in plants. It makes up about 99% of the nanofibers that comprise nata de coco, and helps create its unique and tasty texture.

The team at Osaka University achieved better results using unidirectionally- aligned cellulose nanofiber films created by stretching hydrogels from nata de coco at various rates. Nata de coco nanofibers allow the cellulose chains to be straight on the molecular level, and this is helpful for the precise determination of the intrinsic birefringence--that is, the maximum birefringence of fully extended polymer chains. The researchers were also able to measure the birefringence more accurately through improvements in method. "Using high quality samples and methods, we were able to reliably determine the inherent birefringence of cellulose, for which very different values had been previously estimated," says senior author Masaya Nogi.

The main application the researchers envision is as light compensation films for liquid crystal displays (LCDs), since they operate by controlling the brightness of pixels with filters that allow only one orientation of light to pass through. Potentially, any smartphone, computer, or television that has an LCD screen could see improved contrast, along with reduced color unevenness and light leakage with the addition of cellulose nanofiber films.

"Cellulose nanofibers are promising light compensation materials for optoelectronics, such as flexible displays and electronic paper, since they simultaneously have good transparency, flexibility, dimensional stability, and thermal conductivity," says lead author Kojiro Uetani. "So look for this ancient material in your future high-tech devices."


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... almost finally ... A pandemic and a piano

The pandemic and the unplayable piano - Vera Brandes was a 17-year- old girl in 1975. She was also a jazz fan and had began organising jazz concerts because of the lack of live performances in Germany at the time. Tim Harford relayed the story of Vera in a recent podcast.

Vera had managed to convince world-renowned jazz pianist Keith Jarrett to perform at the prestigious Cologne Opera House. How exactly a 17-year-old manages to do this is probably quite a story in itself. Anyway, Keith Jarrett arrives at the Opera House and he discovers that there’s been a terrible mistake.

Keith insisted on a Bosendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano. But there had been a mix-up and the opera house staff assumed the old Bosendorfer baby grand that was backstage was for the concert. This piano was only used for rehearsals. It was old, out of tune and the pedals stuck. The upper registers were tinny and the bass was weak. Keith and his producer Manfred Eicher inspected the piano and they both know it was totally unacceptable. The piano was unplayable.

Vera was trying everything to get a replacement, but it was too late. When it became clear that the piano couldn’t be replaced, Keith quit and refused to play. Vera was in a bad spot. She’d sold 1,400 tickets to eager fans. The famous opera house had never allowed an event like this to take place and she was about to let a lot of people down.

So she did the only thing she could do, she begged Keith not to pull out. Keith’s producer sided with Vera and pointed out that the recording equipment was set up and they were paying the sound engineers so they may as well go ahead with the concert.

At least they would have a recording as proof of what a terrible concert sounded like. Keith eventually agreed to continue with the concert. He played the concert and everyone loved it. The recording is known as The Koln Concert and its the biggest selling piano album ever made.

How could this concert become such a raging success when the piano was unplayable? Keith Jarrett was forced to avoid the upper and lower tones of the piano. He had to stay in the middle tones. This gave the piece a soothing quality.

To compensate for the lack of volume from the baby grand, he used repetitive bass riffs with his left hand and pounded on the keys creating as much volume as possible. He couldn’t play the way he usually played and this wasn’t the music he ever imagined playing.

He couldn’t relax into his usual flow. He had to concentrate on every note, remembering to avoid the faulty keys. The result was something new, fresh and exciting.

Constraints or obstacles are important for all of us. Because they force us to do things a little differently. Whether its how we run a farm or business or how we write an article or design a house or plan a wedding. When we are faced with an obstacle or a constraint that is out of our control we tend to become much more alert than we usually would. We can’t just go through the motions on autopilot.

This forces us to watch very carefully to stay on top of things. We do this because we don’t have control of the situation. A good constraint also has an element of danger to it. This sort of alertness is exciting. Keith Jerrett had the pressure of letting 1,400 people down by playing badly. There was the danger of his reputation being damaged.

When faced with a big obstacle or constraint, it forces us to behave and act in a way we normally wouldn’t do. It forces us to consider options that we normally wouldn’t consider.

That’s why fresh new innovation and ideas come from obstacles or failures. The book ‘The Cat in The Hat’ was written after the challenge was made to write a children’s book with only 225 distinct words. The constraint resulted in a truly unique book.

But when we are faced with our own version of an unplayable piano, we always try and run away. Just like Keith did. We never voluntarily put obstacles in our own way and most of us don’t want something new, fresh or exciting either.

Right now, we are all being forced to play the ultimate unplayable piano. We can't run away from this. Some of our friends will lose their jobs and many others will lose their businesses because of this virus. It's not likely that the recovery will happen soon or quickly.

The worst is yet to come. We have no choice but to make the best of it and use this for good. After all, it’s the danger of the unplayable piano that’s exciting, fresh and results in new things.

More >>


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...and finally...

Just be careful because people are going crazy from being in lock down! Actually I've just been talking about this with the microwave and toaster while drinking coffee and we all agreed that things are getting bad. I didn't mention anything to the washing machine as she puts a different spin on everything. Certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant. In the end the iron straightened me out as she said everything will be fine, no situation is too pressing.

The vacuum was very unsympathetic... told me to just suck it up, but the fan was more optimistic and hoped it would all soon blow over! The toilet looked a bit flushed when I asked its opinion and didn’t say anything but the door knob told me to get a grip.

The front door said I was unhinged and so the curtains told me to ...yes, you guessed it ...pull myself together.

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John Stulen, Editor

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