WoodWeek – 20 January 2021

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Greetings from your WoodWeek news team. Welcome to 2021. This year it's measured optimism: no NY resolutions, no predictions, just fingers crossed that our businesses are able to keep operating and employing people to support their families. Here in New Zealand we are pleased to be operating successfully behind a currently robust border, while in Australia our valued customers are still dealing with the aftermath of last year’s fires as well as Covid issues between states. It’s challenging for all of us to say the least.

As far as cliches go, I've never been a fan of "We're not out of the woods yet!" Hey, what's wrong with being in the woods anyway, whether you work there or go in for recreation or a spot of forest bathing to soothe the soul. I much prefer the phrase Touch wood (thanks Grant), so we'll run with that for the foreseeable future which hopefully includes running all of our conferences in New Zealand over the next 12 months.

On to the news of a wood nature of the day; enough motivational talk from me. First up it’s our latest statistics on log exports to China.

Touch wood; it’s something City Forests chief executive Grant Dodson does often, but in this case he is speaking figuratively. Australian logs have been shut out of the China market since about the beginning of November and Mr Dodson is holding his breath that the same frosting of relations does not happen to New Zealand. "That’s a huge concern for us," he said, adding, "By and large our government seems to have handled it well so far."

Now that you’ve got your new diary open, it’s time you marked in our Rotorua conferences for your teams:
MobileTECHAg Conference – 23 & 24 March
HarvestTECH and Forest Industry Safety & Technology Conferences – 13 & 14 April
Carbon Forestry Conference – 15 & 16 June
WoodTECH Conference – 3 & 4 August
ForestTECH Conference – 16 & 17 November
Each of these events will include a virtual registration option for delegates outside of our 2200 km Covid moat.

Looking to people, New Forests has appointed Adrian Williams as CFO. At OneFortyOne in Nelson they are in the process of finding a new CEO as Lees Seymour resigned from the role of Executive General Manager late last month.

Finally, and sadly, over the holiday period two people in industry passed away – Professor Geoffrey Sweet died on 26th December and John Novis passed away on 7 January. Our condolences go to their families and colleagues.

So there you have it for your first WoodWeek for 2021. Our team is back on the job and we’re keen to bring you the wood news that matters to you – each and every week – for another year! We look forward to your suggestions for content and your feedback on the issues of the week. As always, any contributions of good (clean) jokes are welcomed.

John Stulen
Communications Director
Innovatek Limited

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Log export market update

Thanks to the team at Champion Freight we have the latest market update across our New Zealand log export markets:

Thanks to our team at Champion Freight we have a graphic summary of the latest monthly update for export log markets. Champion Freight's latest report shows shipments to China month-on-month to end of November were up 3 percent, while exports were down for the month to India (-62%), Japan (-20%) and South Korea (-12%) Overall log export values were up by 2 percent over November last year.

Log export values into China year-on-year (y-o-y) to the end of November were down just 10 percent. The negative trend was mirrored across most other key export markets with India down 59 percent y-o-y. Logs to South Korea, now our second largest log market (but only one-tenth of China), decreased by 10 percent y-o-y to end of November.

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City Forests CEO cautiously optimistic

Touch wood. It is something City Forests chief executive Grant Dodson does often, but in this case he is speaking figuratively. Australian logs have been shut out of the China market since about the beginning of November and Mr Dodson is holding his breath that the same frosting of relations does not happen to New Zealand. "That’s a huge concern for us," he said, adding, "By and large our government seems to have handled it well so far."

He said he made his concerns clear to Minister of Forestry Stuart Nash. "We don’t wish to be dragged into the China-Aussie dispute but, you’re only kind of one or two press releases away ... if one side takes offence, so let’s just hope that doesn’t happen."

The forestry industry in New Zealand would be significantly harmed if it was thrown into the same situation as its Australian counterparts, he said. Overall it was a solid year for City Forests, the Dunedin City Council company posted an after-tax profit of $12.7million, down from $24.2million in 2019.

The drop in profit and dividend paid to the council ($4.5million, down from $8million) was due to deferred harvesting because of Covid-19 restrictions and a build up of European logs going to China. City Forests ended up deferring 60,000 cubic metres of production.

"Of course it’s only a temporary cost because the trees are still growing and that is available to harvest later on, which is what we’re doing right now," Mr Dodson said. Prices increased sharply after the Alert Level 4 lockdown as China returned to work and had used a lot of its inventory.

They moderated in June and July, but have been creeping upwards since, Mr Dodson said. He expected production to increase over the rest of the year and into 2021. City Forests was now increasing harvesting to catch up on what they deferred earlier in the year. "Our budget for the 2021 year is to catch up with the volume that we lost the previous year. Log prices in China are on the move upwards and that’s as a result of the supply from Europe dropping off and the supply from Australia getting excommunicated and that has caused high demand and price increases for New Zealand radiata."

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Source: Otago Daily Times

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Fears our farms will turn into forests

Where once farms firmly wore the crown ruling the country's rolling hills, pine forests are increasingly making a claim for the throne.

Thirty minutes from Gisborne along Wharekopae Road where Hamish Cave farms, the challenge is visible. Looking down on the valley, the land is cut in two.

To the right is a wall of pines trees.

To the left are rolling hills brushed with pockets of vegetation. Barely visible on the left are the thousands of dots covering the hill where pine saplings have been planted, covering what was once a 300-hectare farm. The push to pines is partly financial.

A report written for Beef + Lamb New Zealand showed returns over 60 years from a typical forestry estate was at least double that of farming.

Since the Government made changes so carbon credits could be paid out annually without needing to be repaid at harvest (a system called “averaging”) it has become more attractive for farmland to be converted into forestry. Some see problems in the future.

“There is going to have to be a point of reckoning on how intensively we want to farm,” says Waipaoa ward councillor Kerry Worsnop.

Forestry industry heavily reliant on China - Mrs Worsnop argues government incentives are pushing farmers off hill country and towards high-density farmland to keep up economically. She believes we need to better value low-intensity farming that has good environmental outcomes and high animal welfare.

“With the current model of carbon farming and the Government's incentives, they would like to see what they call ‘low productivity land' turned into forest.

“What that means is by default, you will intensify the remainder of your land. So at some point the industry and the country needs to decide: do they want to have forestry and intensive farming?

“Because you're going to lose the bit in the middle at the moment, which is your low-intensity farming with a low environmental impact.”

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Source: Gisborne Herald

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Australian goes to WTO over China bans

Right now there is not much information flowing on Australia-China trade relations concerning forest and wood products. Here is the most recent update from late December in the mainstream media:

> China has already put a ban on timber imports from Victoria and Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia

> The Federal Government has referred China to the World Trade Organisation over the tariffs on Australian barley

> The World Trade Organisation confirmed the launch of trade dispute consultations between Australia and China earlier this week

Local customs authorities must further strengthen inspections on timber imports from Australia, and return any cargoes found with pests, the administration office said in a statement on its website.

> The ban came after China suspended timber shipments from some Australian states including Victoria and Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia.

> Relations between Canberra and Beijing are being strained, with the Federal Government referring China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the tariffs on Australian barley, while restrictions have also been placed on coal, wine, meat and cotton.

> It was the first time Australia has referred China to the independent umpire over an agricultural commodity.

> In late December the WTO confirmed the launch of trade dispute consultations following the complaint filed by Australia.

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Source: ABC.net.au

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Bringing main street to the forest

A company based in Copenhagen, Denmark, hopes to turn 500,000 people and 10,000 businesses into tree owners by 2030. The company, EcoTree, plans to remove 300,000 tonnes of CO2 a year by turning people into tree owners. Investors can earn 2% a year and 100% of the revenue when the mature tree is eventually cut for sustainable timber. Conserving existing forests and reforesting suitable lands is essential if the world is to create sustainable economies and societies, says 1t.org.

Inspired by the country’s successful bottle return scheme, EcoTree devised a simple model to engage people in forestry by letting them invest in individual trees or whole forests – and reap the benefits when the tree or forest is eventually cut down to make sustainable timber.

Sustainable forestry - EcoTree owns forest land but gives ownership of the trees to individuals and businesses, who see their initial investment grow by 2% each year.

“Once its contribution to the carbon sink eventually declines, the sold trees are selectively cut and generate revenue as sustainable timber, at minimal impact to the forest,” EcoTree explains. Three new trees are then planted for each cut tree.

Investors can buy and track trees on EcoTree’s website and receive 100% of the revenue from the final cut.

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People on the move

New Forests Appoints Adrian Williams as CFO - Sydney-based investment management firm New Forests has appointed Adrian Williams as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) commencing in January 2021.

Mr Williams, a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA), has over 30 years of experience in finance and accounting in both Australian and international organisations. He was most recently Acting Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of AMP Capital, where he oversaw $200 billion of real assets and listed investment portfolios.

New Forests’ Chief Executive Officer, David Brand, says Mr Williams will bring a wealth of knowledge to the company’s senior leadership team as it prepares to grow over the coming decade.

“We are really pleased to have Adrian join us. He has tremendous experience and capacity in supporting the growth of an asset management business like New Forests. “He is also strongly aligned to our aspirations related to sustainability and expanding the role of forests in helping address climate change, supporting the transition to a circular bioeconomy, and supporting economic development in rural communities,” says Mr Brand.

Throughout his career, Adrian has led large finance teams with a focus on team development. He has significant experience in strategy, systems change, and sustainability, and is also actively involved in supporting Indigenous employment and the arts.

As CFO of New Forests, Mr Williams will oversee funds management accounting, corporate accounting, strategic planning, and business management.

Mr Williams says, “I am excited to be joining New Forests and feel a strong sense of alignment with the business and its vision and mission for the forestry sector. New Forests has set the standard in terms of ESG and sustainability and combines that with a strategic plan that is well suited to the needs of both the planet and investors."

“There are significant opportunities for investment and growth as the world adapts to a low carbon future, and I believe that New Forests is uniquely positioned to play an important role in both shaping and contributing to this change. For myself, New Forests represents an opportunity to ‘join the dots’ on my corporate experience, community involvement, and social impact endeavours."

New Forests manages approximately $6.6 billion in funds across Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and the United States on behalf of a range of institutional investment clients. The firm specialises in sustainable forestry, conservation, and rural land investments and has grown substantially over the past 15 years since it was founded.

For more information on New Forests, visit: www.newforests.com.au


OFO Nelson: New CEO to be appointed - Late last month OneFortyOne announced that Lees Seymour has resigned from the role of Executive General Manager, New Zealand, effective from 18 December 2020.

OneFortyOne CEO Andy Giles Knopp said “Lees has made a significant contribution during his time at OneFortyOne. He has been at the heart of the New Zealand business for over 20 years and has been a passionate advocate for the industry, the community, and our people.”

“Lees led OneFortyOne New Zealand during a period of change as it transitioned from Nelson Forests in 2018 and I thank him for his commitment to the business as well as his support and guidance. OneFortyOne will continue to be a strong contributor within the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions.”

“We thank Lees and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

Brent Guild, General Manager Forests and Tracy Goss, General Manager Kaituna Sawmill will lead the New Zealand team as an interim arrangement.

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2021 Technology Events – mark your diaries

After an year not to remember, we have developed our Events Planner for 2021. With lockdown limiting our offering to a series of just 3 webinars, we have more in store for next year. Thanks so much to all of you who supported us and who turned our in record numbers for WoodWorks Conference in October and ForestTECH in November. We think 2021 holds even more potential!

Our planned events will enable you to pencil the dates into your own calendar for next year and industry associations, research organisations and those involved in setting up your own programmes for 2021 to take note of the dates (and ideally look to dovetail in to the tech events timing and location to add value to the industry and those likely to attend).

For those of you who are local industry suppliers, we hope this forward planning will also enable you to schedule your plans to budget and plan to support and attend our relevant conferences. For , everyone we really hope it will enable you to meet with your key customers or distributors in Australia and New Zealand.

Our FIEA and Innovatek conferences being planned for you include:

1. MobileTECH AG 2021
23-24 March 2021, Rotorua, New Zealand
www. www.mobiletech.events + live remote.

2. Forest Industry Safety & Technology Conference
13 April 2021, Rotorua, New Zealand
Note: This is being run in conjunction with the two-day log transport and wood harvesting event, HarvestTECH 2021.

3. HarvestTECH 2021
13-14 April 2021, Rotorua, New Zealand
www.harvesttech.events + live remote.

4. Carbon Forestry 21
15-16 June 2021, Rotorua, New Zealand
www.carbonforestry.events + live remote.

5. WoodTECH 2020
3-4 August 2021, Rotorua, New Zealand
3-4 August 2021, Melbourne, Australia
Note: For the first time, this sawmilling event will be run at the same time in both New Zealand and Australia.
www.woodtech.events + live remote.

6. WoodWorks
21-22 September 2021, Rotorua, New Zealand

7. ForestTECH 2021
16-17 November 2021, Melbourne, Australia
18-19 November 2020, Rotorua, New Zealand

Mark the dates into your 2021 calendar. At this early stage, if you are interested in either presenting or exhibiting, let us know early on and we will consider how we can best work with you for our planned events. Exact dates and venues will depend on how COVID-19 impacts or is contained.

Also attached for your information is a 2021 Innovatek Technology Events Guide which provides you with further information on the schedule of tech events planned for next year.

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Trees that Count thanks Kiwis for gifting

Strong support from Kiwis for native trees - 62,686 more native trees will be planted in New Zealand in 2021 thanks to generous Kiwis who chose to go green for Christmas gifting.

Trees That Count, a programme of the Project Crimson Trust, provides an accessible option to help grow Aotearoa by gifting a native tree. The charity saw a record breaking number of native trees gifted in December 2020, with the 62,686 trees gifted and donated a staggering 119% increase on the December 2019 number.

“We know 2020 has been a challenging year for many of us, so we’re really thrilled to have seen so much support for New Zealand’s big backyard this Christmas,” says CEO Adele Fitzpatrick.

The native tree ‘gifts’ sent will directly translate to trees in the ground in the 2021 winter planting season. While the tree itself is matched to a worthy conservation project to be planted and cared for, the gift recipient is treated to a personalised gift certificate via email: and the knowledge that their native tree will help to grow New Zealand for years to come.

Gifted and donated native trees bring a myriad of benefits to Aotearoa, including restoring ecosystems, cleaning waterways, boosting communities, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. The 62,686 native trees donated this Christmas have the potential to remove over 27,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere over the next fifty years.

“We’re very grateful to generous New Zealanders for helping our native forests have an even bigger positive impact on the climate through their donations—and also to those overseas who have donated or gifted trees,” says Adele.

From 2016 to 2020, Trees That Count supported 560 planting projects around Aotearoa with native trees funded by businesses and individuals through their marketplace. In 2021, that number will rise to more than 700, following a record number of applications for funded native trees from keen planters.

“It’s inspiring to see that so many Kiwis—community groups, farmers, iwi, families, schools and more—are out there restoring our land by planting native rākau,” says Fitzpatrick.

One such project, at Turihaua Station in Gisborne, is grateful to be receiving 3500 funding native trees to support their planting this year. “As custodians of the land we want to make sure we are constantly improving it for the benefit of our three boys like our parents and the generations before us,” says Sarah Williams, environmental scientist and farmer.

Native tree gifts from international tree-huggers also reached an all-time high in December, with 3,120 trees gifted from overseas. The virtual present option proved hugely popular with both expat New Zealanders and those separated from friends or family by COVID restrictions.

“Gifting native trees isn’t limited globally, and also isn’t just for Christmastime. We’ve always got more demand from planting groups, so we fundraise year-round,” says Adele. “We’re excited to see native trees become the gift of choice for many more Kiwis this year, as we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, new births, and just to say thanks.”

More about Trees That Count - Trees That Count is a programme of charitable organisation Project Crimson Trust. Trees That Count runs the country’s first tree marketplace which connects funded and gifted trees to deserving community groups, iwi, local councils, schools and individuals looking to strengthen their own planting projects.

Trees That Count is generously supported by The Tindall Foundation and Te Uru Rākau through the One Billion Trees programme, alongside the many businesses and individuals who are donating through the marketplace.

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Find out more about gifting native trees at treesthatcount.co.nz/gifting

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Australia: Forestry vision gone wrong

The forestry vision that turned into a nightmare - When Nationals politician John Anderson released a policy called Plantations for Australia: The 2020 Vision back in 1997, he had no idea how nightmarish that vision would turn out to be.

Instead of creating thousands of hectares of environmentally friendly native forests and a thriving timber industry, one ASX-listed company has been left with a charred mess and no easy way of cleaning it up.

This is a story of some of the worst government decisions in recent history crashing into the extreme heat of the 2019-20 summer. The drama is set about 200 kilometres south-west of Adelaide on Kangaroo Island, a flat land mass 155 kilometres wide and one-third as long with above average rainfalls and mild summers. And it starts with the Keating goverment’s National Forest Policy Statement of 1992, which stated places like Kangaroo Island were great for growing timber.

In recent years the island has enjoyed a reasonable tourism industry and some primary industries, but lacks real opportunities to grow the population above 5000.

In the late 1990s, the Howard government launched that plantation visions policy and started tax incentives for managed investment schemes (MIS). Billions of dollars poured into timberlands, as investors received huge upfront tax deductions and the promise of profits when trees were harvested ten years later. The policy turned out to be a disaster and was wound back in 2006.

But the seeds of trouble had already been sown on the western end of Kangaroo Island, where a company called Great Southern planted thousands of hectares of Tasmanian blue gum. The company also planned to build the kind of deep-sea port that 200 metre-long timber transportation vessels require, but knew it had until 2015 when the trees matured.

The island is separated from mainland South Australia by 13 kilometres of ocean and is currently only serviced by two 50-metre catamarans, which carry passengers, cars and general freight.

When the tax deduction disappeared in 2006, Australians lost interest in timber investments and the heavily indebted Great Southern struggled. It was knocked out two years later by the global financial crisis.

A few years later a small ASX-listed company called RuralAus bought the blue gums and transformed the asset from a MIS business to fully owned plantation company. In 2013 RuralAus changed its name to Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber (KIPT).

One former Great Southern employee now admits, the choice of Kangaroo Island back in the early 2000s "raised eyebrows within the company" because of the lack of infrastructure. But Great Southern had already bought up all the available flat land with high rainfall and a nearby port it could find in Australia.

"The bit that was missing on Kangaroo Island was the foresight to identify and set aside a site for a port. That was never done," says the current chief executive of KIPT, Keith Lamb.

KIPT knew it had to solve the port problem, but always expected the trees would be harvested gradually as they matured. At least, that was until disaster struck.

Lamb's predecessor, John Sergeant bought a site at Smith Bay in February 2014 for $680,000 on the island’s north and announced plans for a log export facility. The company purchased more plantations and by mid-2017 KIPT had forests worth $81 million. It took out a $57 million loan from the Commonwealth Bank for expansion, including $30 million for the port.

With port planning progressing, KIPT bought a used pontoon for $2.9 million and towed it from South Korea to Vietnam for reconditioning. For the next few years it chipped away at planning applications and gained Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation. The timber assets were expected to generate $850 million over 10 years.

As the trees approached maturity, KIPT welcomed new institutional investors onto its share registry – Washington H Soul Pattinson and Paradice Investments – and maintained the long-term support of Terry Samuel Asset Management. None of these investors wanted to comment on the current state of the company.

In mid-2019 Lamb took over as managing director and in one of his first letters to shareholders said wharf construction would begin in mid-2020 with first log exports in mid-2021. The company had 14,369 hectares of trees that were going to deliver $850 million of profits over the next 10 years. Many were now well past maturity.

"Irrespective of exact timing, we expect 2020-21 to be a transformative year for Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers as approval for the Seaport is received, construction commences, and we prepare to fully realise the value of the plantation assets on behalf of our shareholders," Lamb said in the October 2019 letter.

Then came the fires

Lamb says the optimistic tone of that letter was well justified and there was no way of knowing what lay in store for the trees.

"The blue gums can be harvested really from eight years on, but the sweet spot is around 10 years of age. And the average age of the trees today is 14, so they are well and truly mature and ready to go," Lamb says.

"Or I should say they were on the day the fire started. They were ready to go, we were just awaiting the approval to construct the port."

On December 20, 2019 trading paused on KIPT shares at $2.50 after a lightning storm sparked a bushfire. Lamb says he was leaving for Sydney when the storm struck.

"I turned around and came back to the island and was there for the first campaign," he says. "We had those fires out by the 24th – meaning under control – so I went home for Christmas”.

Trading resumed on Christmas Eve. At this point about $8 million worth of timber had been damaged by fire. KIPT kept refreshing its fire fighting crew from the mainland.

"The forecast was there was going to be more heatwaves and more rolling storms, so I went back to the island on the 29th and as it turned out, on the morning of the 30th the next storm event came through," Lamb recalls.

Shares went into another trading halt on December 30, but resumed trading on January 2. It did not last long. Another storm lit two fires in the national park on the western end of Kangaroo Island on January 3. The previous fires were in easily accessible agricultural land, but this new fire in the vast wilderness was a "worst case scenario".

Amid temperatures of 36 degrees and strong westerly winds, flames ripped through native forests and mature timber plantations. Residents evacuated to townships in the east of the island as thick smoke blocked sunlight.

"That afternoon, all of the rest of the estate that hadn’t either been burnt through the previous wildfire or the backburning activities, was affected by the fire. As a result 95 per cent of the estate was affected by the fire," Lamb says.

The unstoppable fire burnt half the island.

Before the fire, KIPT had 4.5 million tonnes of trees standing in the ground insured for $115 million, but with a maximum payout of about $65 million. Its trees were not incinerated, just damaged.

"We think it is possible to salvage all of that wood, but it is not all going to go into the same high value markets that it was before. We think about two thirds could go out into the higher value markets," Lamb says.

By August 2020 the company’s properties were valued at at $59.3 million and the fire damaged trees had an estimated value of $250 million, depending on the Australian dollar. The kicker is, it will cost about $250 million to harvest the wood, build the wharf, and transport it all off the island.

"Post fire, KIPT is a land bank and cash box," shareholders were told at the 2020 annual general meeting.

"The net tangible asset backing of $2.14 per share in 2020 Annual Report is real and productive, with an added infrastructure play." Shares last traded at $1.20.

In late November KIPT started harvesting the worst burnt pine trees, which will be stored in water until the port is built.

Institutional investors have stuck with the company. In a recent letter to shareholders, Terry Samuel Asset Management’s Fred Woollard noted KIPT was its "biggest loser" for 2019-20, costing almost 9 per cent of the fund.

"KIPT’s outlook is uncertain, but it retains substantial asset value in land and cash. At year end KIPT was 4.6 per cent of the Fund."

Commonwealth Bank’s loan has been repaid thanks the insurance money, and KIPT recently started planting a 24 hectare site in a ‘small but symbolic step’.

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Beaut utes of 2020

For the 2020 year the top three light commercial vehicle sales were Ford with 24% market share (9,112 units) followed by Toyota with 21% (7,985 units) and Mitsubishi with 10% market share (3,831 units).

In December, the Ford Ranger retained the top spot as the best-selling commercial model with 24% share (662 units) followed by the Toyota Hilux with 16% share (443 units) and the Nissan Navara in third place with 9% market share (242 units).

The top three commercial models for the 2020 year the ford Ranger (7,975 units) followed by the Toyota Hilux (5,796 units) and Mitsubishi Triton (3,687 units).

In other new motor vehicle sales segments it looked like this:
> For the 2020 year sales comprised 1,519 pure electric vehicles, 756 PHEVs and 8,664 hybrids.

> Sales of hybrid vehicles for the 2020 year were up 2,789 units on the 2019 year, while pure electric vehicles were down 338 units and PHEVs down 170 units.

Source: Motor Industry Association via Scoop

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Buy and Sell

... and finally ... your midweek laugh...

So, for most of us it's back to the workplace for another year! Over the holiday break (and what fantastic weather we had eh!) we found some funnies for you. Hopefully, you find a laugh or two in this lot and remember, we do still welcome your donations for this section too!


Thanks to my state-of-the-art app, there's an apology in the pipeline

OPINION: I am delighted to learn that, in the last year, Wellington Water has paid private PR contractors over $350,000. While Wellington Water wastes millions of dollars a year on fripperies like pipes, concrete and drains, it’s nice to know that it has its investment priorities right. As we all know, PR damage is way more toxic and long-lasting to a council organisation than damage caused by sludge and sewage.

However, I believe savings can still be made, even in essential areas like public relations. As a Christmas gesture of goodwill to Wellington Water and all profligate local body organisations, I am gifting them my new state-of-the art app APPologise. This app, easily downloadable and simple to use, writes a customised apology for any local body organisation, and will enable it to slash its PR bill.

Whether your Snafu is to do with water, buses or exorbitant leadership courses, APPologise means you can say sorry in thousands of different ways.

How does the app work? Read the following letter and just choose the simple a), b), or c) option to make your special customised apology.

Dear Ratepayer/Taxpayer/Mum

On behalf of a) Wellington Water b) Metlink c) insert local body organisation here, we would like to a) profoundly b) profusely c) sincerely d) not really apologise for the latest a) spill b) leak c) flood d) poonami in your a) street b) CBD c) harbour.

We can assure you that we have been in touch with our a) subcontractors b) PR company c) lawyers d) emotions, who are solving the problem a) immediately b) as soon as they get back from their summer holiday in early February c) God knows when.

In the meantime, please don’t a) panic b) swim c) drive d) breathe in e) contact us, as it will only slow the process a) down b) up. We are working around the a) clock b) corner c) law to solve your problem.

Unfortunately, there may be some delays. We currently have a severe a) labourer b) driver c) common sense shortage and we are finding it difficult to recruit a) good b) highly trained c) any staff.

This is mainly due to a) a skills shortage b) the crap they get from the public c) low wages d) our toxic work environment e) all of the above.

Because of this, we have engaged a) an expensive overseas recruitment company b) an expensive local recruitment company c) with a dartboard to try and find suitable staff.

But first a bit of a) history b) bulls..t. The severe problems we face with Wellington’s a) pipes b) buses c) rental houses d) venues e) local body politicians are due to decades of neglect and underinvestment.

And we don’t even fully know the extent of the problem. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the a) pipes b) drains c) bus stop d) street lights e) city councillor in your street was last checked when a) World War I broke out b) the tramlines got pulled out c) Andy Foster was first elected to council.

Nevertheless, our highly trained staff have been committed to a) solving your problem b) an institution c) stand trial. We really wanted to fix a) the problem b) the drain c) your cat when you first drew it to our attention a) last week b) last month c) during the 1986 mayoral campaign.

Unfortunately, when you called us, all our contractors were a) busy b) sick c) watching the cricket d) earning better money elsewhere, which is why no action was taken. We a) value b) don’t value your business because we are owned by a) you b) a monopoly c) a rich person overseas who couldn’t care less.

You are correct that the 2096 spills this year in Wellington city is way over the target we set of 100 spills. The reason for this is a) the pipes are old b) we have underinvested in infrastructure for decades c) my executive assistant missed out a zero in the press release c) I was stoned when I set the target.

Though we understand your problem is urgent, please do not a) phone b) email c) stalk us as our communications staff are currently experiencing an overflow of a) waste water b) sewage c) sludge d) comms work in our office.

We expect fresh new a) comms staff b) sewage in our office in the new year and they will a) scream b) get right on to your problem c) wonder why on earth they applied to work here d) resign immediately and outsource the work to PR companies.

In the a) meantime b) hope of getting rid of you, I would like to wish you a) Merry Christmas b) Happy Solstice c) interesting devil worship ceremony, and we look forward to being in touch and solving your problem a) in the new year b) when hell freezes over.

Yours sincerely – insert name here.

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1. Remember that cliche - time is money ... well it makes me wonder ... ...


2. Over the holidays I tried to stay out of work mode, but then I came across this bit of wood!

Hope you are enjoying our WoodWeek news - email us a suggestion if you would like to see something new or more on a particular subject.
John Stulen

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