Friday Offcuts – 29 June 2012

growing trees cutting and milling timber forest products
We have a technology focus for a number of the stories covered in this week's issue. Wood powered vehicles feature in several of them. A steam locomotive in the US is about to get a new lease of life with its boiler being retrofitted to run on torrefied woody biomass. As well as demonstrating that solid biofuel can power a steam locomotive, the partnership behind the venture has also set itself the lofty goal of breaking the world speed record.

In the UK we have a new wooden bike constructed in time for the London Olympics and in Sweden, Volvo has recently been testing a new liquid biofuel produced from wood or by-products and waste from agricultural production. Tests at this stage on 10 trucks running on Swedish roads appear promising with predictions that this type of fuel could replace up to 50% of the diesel that's currently being consumed by commercial vehicles around Europe within the next 20 years. Closer to home we have a video for you of New Zealand’s first built 60 tonne Madill 124 Swing Yarder in action on some steep slopes.

On the theme of wood wastes, an FWPA funded project has been looking at the long-term storage of carbon in wood and paper in Australian landfills. Recent research has found that as well as sawn lumber, composite wood products like particleboard, MDF and plywood also retain the vast majority of carbon over long periods in landfills – a period much longer than that assumed in carbon accounting schemes currently being used. These results are going to be important, not only in designing future carbon trading schemes but for countering some of the "claims" being made by other building materials on their environmental credentials.

To finish the technology wrap-up this week, we've got news on innovative control tools being developed as part of a new Global Timber Tracking Network and we’ve run another of those “future of manufacturing” stories. A few weeks ago in the 25 May issue we showed you some pretty amazing 3D-printed guitars designed by a Kiwi mechatronics professor. This one's about a Dutch artist using a Chinese industrial robot to produce his own 3-D printed furniture. Enjoy.


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New timber tracking tools to stop illegal logging

A new strategy aimed at monitoring the supply chain of timber products using genetic and stable isotope markers will play a vital role in international efforts to combat illegal logging, say scientists, policy analysts and forestry experts who gathered at a recent workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to lay the groundwork for the project.

The Global Timber Tracking Network (GTTN), coordinated by Bioversity International as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry , is leading efforts to promote the use of innovative control tools based on the application of DNA and stable isotope research to identify timber species and trace their origins.

“Genetic data provides a level of evidence that you can’t contest. Because the DNA is in every cell of wood, you can’t falsify that data,” said Andrew Lowe, professor of plant conservation biology at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “The database we’re setting up will serve as an important resource for providing checks on the forestry industry.”

The Global Timber Tracking Network aims to create a global database featuring genetic and stable isotope markers for commonly traded timber species, a landmark tool designed to reinforce certification standards and legislation and to complement existing paper-based documentation that can be easily falsified.

Using DNA and stable isotope markers to track the supply chain of timber products will provide a practical mechanism for producer and consumer countries alike to enforce regulations to curb illegal logging. The GTTN database will allow importers to verify the precise species and origin of wood and wood products and provide tangible proof that the products were genuinely derived from a sustainably managed forest or other legally harvested timber.

The GTTN database will be used to test whether the data generated by analyses of wood samples match the stated species and origin on product labels. Creating the database will require integrating data generated by different research techniques and collected by scientists working in various locations around the world. Global standards must be established for sampling and for lab analysis of genetic and stable isotope data in order to ensure the techniques used to gather and analyse the data are repeatable and verifiable.

“Reaching agreement on standards may be the most difficult aspect of making the timber tracking system operational,” said Loo. More >>


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New Zealand Log Prices - June 2012

In market prices have firmed a little further over the past month. Total demand from China has eased back but demand for New Zealand logs is relatively high compared with other sources. At present logs sourced from the Pacific North West (PNW) are too expensive for the Chinese market and therefore the cheaper radiata logs from New Zealand are given preference.

While higher prices may seem desirable for exporters, if in-market prices move up significantly then New Zealand is likely to lose market share to competing northern hemisphere suppliers. At present inventory levels in China are estimated to be around 2.8 million cubic metres. This is sufficient to meet current demand levels but significant stocks have not build up.

Demand for logs within China is subdued at present with the future trend dependent on government spending. The Chinese government recently announced a stimulus package which is designed to boost consumer spending within China. This package includes interest rate cuts which should help the building sector along.

The Agrifax Log Price Indicator moved up 3 points this month to 82 points. Prices were generally firmer across most grades of logs and across all regions. Prices were led upwards by higher returns for export grade logs. The New Zealand dollar depreciated further over the past month and dipped to its lowest level recorded this year.

Shipping prices have also eased in favour of exporters. Domestic grade log price movements were mixed depending on grade and region. Pruned log prices firmed slightly in most regions over the past month. Pulp prices generally softened as supply exceeds current demand. Recent demand for logs for pulp and paper production was constrained by the extended seasonal closure of the Kinleith mill in the central North Island.

Demand for roundwood firmed in most regions. The Agrifax Log Price Indicator is currently 10 points lower than it was at the same time last year and below the yearly averages for both 2011 and 2010.

North Island

  • Domestic: Grades price movements are mixed.
  • Export: Grades are up NZ$4/t to NZ$14/t.

South Island

  • Domestic: Grades are steady, industrial pulp price are up by NZ$8/t.
  • Export: Grades are up NZ$8/t to NZ$18/t.

For more detailed reports contact NZX Agrifax at www.nzxagri.com/agrifax

The Agrifax log price data is a weighted average of prices collected each month from a range of New Zealand log buyers and sellers. Log prices shown in the table will vary regionally and by supplier and should only be used to provide a broad trend of log price movements.


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The SplinterBike Quantum ready for London Olympics

In Offcuts we’ve featured an all-wooden bike named SplinterBike in a previous issue that went on to be viewed by over 320,000 visitors to the Power of Making exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. A second version was used to set a new speed record for 100 percent wooden bikes in August 2011 and now the creator of both, Michael Thompson, has built a special SplinterBike Quantum (SBQ) edition for the 2012 London Olympics.

A few design changes have been made to allow a variety of visitors to the Adain Avion event at the London 2012 Festival to mount up and ride an all-wooden bike for themselves including adjustable seat height and a different gearing setup.

Thompson says that he's so far spent around 1,600 hours designing, prototyping, building and testing the various versions of SplinterBike, and has put all that experience to good use when creating the Quantum edition. The SBQ is made up of 88 individual components which took 40 hours on a CNC machine to produce.

Thompson spent another 400 hours sandwiching all the pieces between the new bike's monocoque frame and, despite design decisions aimed at keeping the weight down, the Quantum actually ended up being 6 kg (13.2 pounds) heavier than the original at 39 kg (85.9 pounds).

More >>


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Wood costs in Brazil highest in 20 years

Wood costs for pulp mills and sawmills in Brazil have gone up over the past few years, reaching their highest levels in over 20 years in 2011, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly. However, towards the end of the year, Eucalyptus and pine log prices fell, mainly because of the strengthening US dollar.

Eucalyptus log prices in Brazil reached a peak in the 3Q last year, but fell back almost eight percent in the 4Q/11 in US dollar terms because of the strengthening dollar. Current price levels are still among the highest since the Wood Resource Quarterly (www.woodprices.com) started tracking Brazilian wood prices in 1990.

Prices for Eucalyptus pulpwood traded in the open market are high not only from a historical perspective, but also as compared to many other regions around the world. Only pulp mills in Europe and Australia had higher hardwood fiber costs than Brazil in late 2011, while North America, Chile, Russia and Indonesia all had lower hardwood log prices than the world’s largest market pulp exporter.

Wood fibre cost is by far the most important cost component for Brazilian pulpmills, more so than for most other pulp mills in the world. In the 4Q/11, wood costs accounted for as much as 72 percent of the total cash costs in Brazil, according to Fisher International. This is substantially higher than the global average of 61 percent.

For the sawmilling industry in Brazil, 2011 was a better year than the previous year, with higher demand both from their domestic market and from abroad. Lumber exports in 2011 were up six percent to their highest levels in three years, with shipments to China, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Morocco increasing the most.

As a result of the higher lumber production, sawlog prices have trended upward for almost three years, reaching an all-time high in the 2Q/11, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly. During the second half of 2011, log prices fell in US dollar terms, while there were only small price adjustments in the Brazilian Real terms.

Domestic demand for lumber is expected to continue to improve in 2012 with the construction sector gearing up for the World Cup in soccer (2014) and the Olympic Games (2016). If the US dollar continues to strengthen against the Brazilian Real, exports may also contribute to a better year for the Brazilian lumber industry than that of the past two years. This development is likely to put upward pressure on sawlog prices in the coming year.

Source: pulppapernews


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Carbon Calculator helps timber pallet recycling

Costs of disposal of end-of-life wood pallets and packaging crates are a huge problem for many NSW businesses. It is estimated that there are 140,000 tonnes of waste wood pallets and crates sent to landfills in Sydney alone each year.

Stephen Mitchell, sustainability program manager with the Timber Development Association of NSW, has launched the online end-of-life wood pallets and packaging diversion calculator at Direct Pallets and Recycling, a new recycling centre at Ingleburn in Sydney’s south-west.

Direct Pallets and Recycling, a Sydney-based pallet supply, repair and reuse company, began producing poultry bedding from waste timber pallets, crates and clean timber off-cuts just last month. Rob James, owner of Direct Pallets and Recycling, said: “At this facility, businesses pay a recycling fee per tonne or per pallet that is around 75 per cent less than landfilling. This is on top of reduced transport costs. I built this recycling plant in response both to a clear demand for disposal alternatives to landfill for waste wood and the need for poultry bedding by NSW poultry farmers.”

Mr Mitchell said: “The lower cost of recycling saves businesses money as well as being better for the environment. A whole range of recycling options is now available for waste wood, including reuse, mulching, and now animal bedding, and even recycling wood waste into new building products. Using our newly developed online carbon benefits calculator it is estimated that diverting one tonne of timber packaging from landfill results in 0.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reduction.”

The development of the online calculator and markets for animal bedding for end-of life wood pallets and packaging has been supported by the NSW Government via the NSW Environment Protection Authority. The online calculator can be found at www.timberstewardship.org.au

Source: Transport & Logistics News


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Paper demand trending down relative to GDP

Until the turn of the millennium, printing and writing paper demand tended to grow roughly in line with real GDP. The proliferation of electronic media has dealt a substantial blow to this relationship. Over the course of the 1990s, global real GDP expanded at an average annual rate of 3.2% while global P&W paper production expanded by 3.5%. By contrast, over the decade ending in 2010, global real GDP expanded by 3.7% per year (thanks to rapid growth in the emerging economies) while global paper production increased at only a 1.3% average annual rate.

The weakening link between P&W paper demand and real GDP is depicted for several key countries in the graph below. The black line shows the ratio of apparent consumption of P&W paper to real GDP on a global basis. The United States has been a key bellwether when it comes to the relative decline of the P&W paper sector. The relationship weakened a bit later in other advanced economies such as Japan and France. Most worryingly for stakeholders in the global pulp and paper industry, the downward trend in this key ratio appears to be gaining traction in the emerging economies as evidenced by China and Brazil in the graph.

Bottom Line: Even though the GDP of emerging economies will continue to grow over the next decade, we should not expect those economies to make up for decreases in P&W paper consumption of the advanced economies. In fact, at similar stages of development, the P&W consumption in emerging economies will plateau well below levels reached by advanced economies at similar stages of economic development.

The Link Between Printing and Writing Paper Demand and Real GDP Has Weakened

By Brendan Lowney, Forest Economic Advisors, Source: FPInnovations


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REDD+ a challenge to implement says new study

Implementation of a UN-backed scheme that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by protecting tropical forests is fraught with challenges but these can be overcome with technical solutions and increased political will, according to the authors of a new publication from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Analysing REDD+: Challenges and Choices, released last week on the side-lines of the Rio +20 summit, reports on the current state of REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, as well as the conservation and sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The study – drawing on three years of research across Asia, Africa and Latin America – offers fresh insights into the challenges faced by REDD+, and suggests new ways of addressing some of them.

Seven years since the idea of reducing emissions through avoided deforestation was launched, the publication takes a critical look at REDD+, asking how it has changed, how it is unfolding in specific national policy arenas – and highlighting the choices for making REDD+ more effective, efficient, and equitable.

As REDD+ has moved from an idea into the real world, the difficulties have mounted. Those challenges are both practical and political. They range from how to measure and monitor the carbon emissions avoided by leaving a forest standing, to deciding who should get the money generated by REDD+, to achieving coordination among local, regional, national and international levels of governance.

Analysing REDD+, which was published as part of CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+, presents a new, step-wise approach to developing reference levels at the national level, which would allow all countries to build these all-important reference levels, even if they have low levels of institutional capacity and ability to collect data.

The book also reveals some encouraging news regarding the location of REDD+ pilot projects. The success of REDD+ in actually reducing carbon emissions depends on interventions happening in areas of high deforestation. Analysing REDD+'s detailed study of project locations in Brazil and Indonesia finds that REDD+ projects are more likely to be established in areas with high deforestation rates and high forest carbon densities – suggesting the projects have the potential to make an impact.

Click here to download a copy of Analysing REDD+: Challenges and Choices.


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Wood products carbon storage in landfill

How much carbon is stored in discarded wood products buried in landfill? It turns out to be a lot more than most people expect. The carbon in wood and composite wood products is effectively locked up for much longer than is assumed in carbon accounting schemes. Acknowledging this in future accounting schemes could help increase wood’s competitive advantage.

Fabiano Ximenes from the NSW Department of Primary Industries is investigating the long-term storage of carbon in wood and paper in Australian landfills. The project is funded by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry through the Forest Industries Climate Change Research fund, and Laminex.

"We’ve been working on the issue close to 10 years now. Initially we focused on sawn wood products and the research results clearly suggest there is a high level of carbon storage in those products. This project is testing the assumption that the same levels of carbon storage would be found in composite wood products such as particleboard, MDF and plywood," says Fabiano.

Initially the researchers dug up wood and paper products buried for between 15 and 20 years in landfills in Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane to measure the levels of decomposition. Back in the laboratory they created ‘ideal landfill conditions’ in bioreactor jars to accurately establish how much MDF, particleboard, paper products decomposed, releasing greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.

The research results are very exciting for timber products; MDF and particleboard show very higher carbon retention rates of around 96% to 98%. These results are in close agreement with those from a recently published study conducted in the US, which also subjected particleboard and MDF to ideal landfill conditions.

"For these timber products our research has conclusively demonstrated that the vast majority of the carbon in the wood is retained in storage. In some ways it doesn’t matter if the product is in landfill for 10, 20, 50 or 100 years, our results are suggesting there is no difference in the levels of decomposition because there’s virtually none," says Fabiano. "We can safely claim that because of this long-term storage those products are having a real mitigation effect from a greenhouse gas perspective. We are using this as an argument to say let’s look at forest products and at the life cycle of carbon in those products, and see how we can appropriately include them in future carbon trading schemes."

Such detailed knowledge of product-specific decomposition rates may help to increase wood’s competitive advantage in the future against other building products that release greater volumes of greenhouse gases.

Source: R&D Works

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Building activity update

US BUILDING ACTIVITY

US building statistics indicate a lift in building activity. Data for April 2012 shows privately owned house starts were up 2.6% in April on the previous month and up by 29% when compared with April 2011. The number of privately owned new house permits issued in for the 4 months to April 2012 was 26% higher than in the same period in 2011. This indicates demand for lumber within the US market should continue to increase.

NEW ZEALAND BUILDING ACTIVITY

Building activity in the domestic market during Q1 2012 was down on Q1 2011 but now looks set to pick up. April building consent numbers were up, with 1230 new dwellings approved during the month, a 33% increase from April 2011. The largest number of consents for residential dwellings was granted in the Auckland region (360), of which 62 were apartments. 282 new dwellings were approved in the Canterbury region in April 2012, representing a 42% year-on-year increase.

AUSTRALIAN BUILDING ACTIVITY

The dwelling approval rate in Australia continues to fall as it has done so for the past 17 months. Total dwellings approved in April 2012 were down 16.6% on April 2011 numbers. On a seasonally adjusted basis the data looks even weaker, with total approvals down 8.7% on the previous month and 24.1% from a year ago.

Source: www.nzxagri.com/agrifax


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New Madill goes to work

As covered in a recent issue of WoodWeek, in what's seen as a real boost to the New Zealand Forest industry, Brightwater has just completed construction of the first New Zealand built Madill 124 Swing Yarder, manufactured at the company's Christchurch facility. The massive 60 tonne, 21 metre high, track mounted Swing Yarder is used by forest logging crews on steep slopes to haul logs from the tree stump to an extraction site.

The machine was purchased by Alister Peacocke of Peacocke Logging and is currently operating in the Kaingaroa Forest in the central North Island. Commissioning took place two weeks ago and a camera crew was there to film the Madill 124 in action for the first time.





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Smartphones used to fight wildfires

Spades and hoses are not the only things that rural fire-fighters can use to fight wildfires; thanks to Crown Research Institute Scion, they can also use their smartphones. Fire researchers at Scion have developed an Android-based smart phone application that helps fire managers to predict fire behaviour.

Fire managers can input wind speed, relative humidity, slope, and other factors into their phone and the software calculates how hot and how fast a fire is likely to spread in different vegetation types.
Senior fire scientist, Grant Pearce says this tool is based on 20 years of research into how fire is likely to behave in New Zealand conditions.

“We used data collected from experimental burns and wildfires to develop tools that help fire managers to make decisions about how best to tackle any given fire,” he explains. “These tools started out as paper-based lookup tables and field manuals. Over time, we evolved these into software applications, which are now designed to run on smartphones.”

Grant says that fire managers were keen to have everything at their fingertips in an emergency. “People used to just use their phones for calling 111. Now fire-fighters can use them to calculate a fire’s rate of spread, its fire intensity, flame length and a whole lot of other useful measures for managing the fire fighting.”

The software was presented to fire agencies at the 4th Fire Research Workshop in Rotorua on 14-15 June. The development of an Apple-based application will begin following the completion of the android version.

Development of this smart phone application was funded by the Forest and Rural Fire Association of New Zealand (FRFANZ), with production of the underlying fire behaviour models funded by the Ministry for Science and Innovation (MSI) and rural fire end-user organisations.


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Steam locomotive will run on torrefied biomass

A partnership between Sustainable Rail International and the University of Minnesota is working to revitalize an old world transportation technology with a new world approach to biomass.
The partnership, named the Coalition for Sustainable Rail, will implement torrified woody biomass research performed at UM in SRI’s plans to retrofit a steam locomotive. “Currently there are no steam locomotives working in revenue passenger service (aside from train museums),” according to Davidison Ward, president of CSR. “This project is a first step toward refining modern steam locomotive technology.”

Ward, a graduate of UM, said he was aware of biofuels research at the school before he founded SRI. Although most trains today operate using a diesel-electric genset system, his team approached the school about the ability of a modern steam locomotive to efficiently combust solid fuel, and the partnership began. According the SRI, the project has a simple goal: create the world’s cleanest, most powerful passenger locomotive, proving the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology.

The aim for the project is also to break the world record for steam locomotive speed (roughly 130 miles per hour), in part, to demonstrate the viability of the technology. Don Fosnacht, director of the university’s Center for Applied Research and Technology Development, said the project is precisely the kind of innovative research that can set the school apart. “The idea of integrating cutting-edge materials, science and engineering into a technology base that has not been touched since the 1960s is quite unique, and entering into an industry with as much potential for growth as the U.S. railroad market just adds to the project’s impact.”

Ward and his team will help develop the school’s torrefaction facility and in the future, Ward believes the technology advancements used to retrofit the steam locomotive boiler will be transferred to small power and heat generation systems. Biomass Power & Thermal


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Breakthrough seen with bio-based adhesives

New Zealand manufacturers of medium density fibreboard (MDF) have been working for many years to reduce formaldehyde in response to regulatory pressure from Japan. Similar concerns have more recently emerged in the US and Europe, resulting in higher demand for “green” panel products.

Suitable alternatives to standard adhesives do not grow on trees. Or so everyone thought. Three years ago, chemistry scientists at Scion initiated an entirely new research programme to create bioadhesives.
Project leader Dr Warren Grigsby says their aim was to make adhesives that do not require any formaldehyde or petrochemicals, using a green chemistry approach.

“We now have proof of concept at pilot scale and are focused on providing underpinning science that will lead to commercialisation,” Warren says. “As with any new product development, there is more work to be done to achieve a commercially viable solution. We find this stage of research is best done in partnership with industrial manufacturers.”

With architects, designers and furniture makers all seeking this kind of product, Warren believes the technology is poised for global uptake. “The green approach could offer local manufacturers a competitive advantage over wood panel processing plants located overseas. Scion is keen to speak with manufacturers who may be interested in exploring this opportunity.”

Source: Scion Connections


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Log trucks powered by wood

Volvo has been field testing vehicles powered by bio-DME, a fuel produced from biomass. 10 specially adapted Volvo trucks have been operating on Swedish roads. They look like conventional trucks and travel the same speed, but are powered by bio-DME, a fuel produced from biomass. These fuels are totally renewable, and reduce carbon emissions by 95% compared to diesel. The tests have reached their halfway stage and the results are looking good.

Bio-DME, which is a dimethyl ether produced from biomass, is a liquid, and is produced from wood or by-products, and waste from agricultural production. Predictions have been made that bio-DME could replace up to 50% of the diesel currently being consumed by commercial vehicles in Europe within the next 20 years. The bio-DME being used in the trials is produced from black liquor, a by-product from the production of pulp.

The black liquor is first converted to a gas using pure oxygen, and thereby producing syngas, a gas that can be synthesised. The gas is then washed and converted into bio-DME. The pulp mill would have traditionally burnt the black liquor to produce power and steam, but the mills are compensated by being supplied logging residues.

After 40,000 km of driving per truck, the drivers are all very satisfied with the trucks performances. For more information click here


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3D Printer creates chairs from recycled refrigerators

Dirk Vander Kooij’s furniture is attracting a lot of attention. The 28-year-old Dutch interior artist and his 3D-printing robot have been snapping up awards at major design exhibitions in Europe for their work in 3D printed furniture. His latest exhibition took place at the Domus Academy in Milan.

In 2010, while still a student at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, Kooij acquired an industrial robot from China and reconfigured it into a 3D printer capable of printing furniture with material recycled from discarded refrigerators. The robot prints furniture in layers of thick plastic lines, a process Kooij says is both efficient and shows how the form is built. (If you ever took an introductory class in pottery, you probably built a misshapen pot using a similar method.)

Kooij claims his robot can produce 4,000 chairs per year, but those chairs aren’t about to appear in Ikea any time soon. At present, his furniture — such as his $1,000 “Endless” rocking chair — is limited to the budgets of collectors. Source: Mashable.com


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...and one to end the week on....traffic management in the bush









And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
PO Box 904
Level Two, 2 Dowling Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 470 1902
Fax: +64 3 470 1904
Web page: www.fridayoffcuts.com


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

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