Friday Offcuts – 29 May 2020

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The issue of revitalising the Australian housing industry - and the suppliers whose futures are inextricably tied to building and construction - has been covered in recent issues. As a consequence of COVID-19, this part of the country’s economy is shaping up to be one of the industry’s worst hit. The forecasts have provided grim reading with predictions for the demand for sawn timber plummeting by around 50 per cent by the end of this year. Going onto the front foot, Master Builders Australia (MBA) earlier this week released an action plan calling for a raft of economic stimulus measures to encourage new housing construction.

They’re at pains to argue that it’s not subsidies that they’re looking for. They’re after a stimulus to help the nearly 400,000 building business along with the 1.2 million people that are employed in housing and construction. According to new economic modelling commissioned by the MBA, the AU$13.2 billion Stimulus Action Plan would stimulate over AU$30 billion in new economic activity and create more than 100,000 new jobs in construction across Australia. A link to the Ernst & Young modelling undertaken to support this week’s call is contained in the story below.

Responses and reaction by New Zealand forest owners to the “Log Traders” Bill has again been harsh this week as submissions are being heard by Parliaments Environment Select Committee. The process being used to ram through legislation under urgency continues to be condemned by a large cross section of the industry. One forest owner referred to the legislation as having potentially the “most significant impact on the value of forests (and perversely, processing profitability) that the industry has seen in more than 30 years”. An unusual ally also came to support under-fire forestry owners this week, Federated Farmers. Together, foresters and farmers are united in their stance on any government moves being brought in that will instruct the country’s primary producers on how much of the food and fibre that they grow should be processed in New Zealand. This they’re arguing, should be a commercial rather than a Government decision.

In the forest technology space this week we’ve included a story on another tree planting drone company. This time it’s a new Canadian start-up working on reforesting land burnt through recent wild fires in Ontario. They’re using a swarm of drones using pneumatic firing devices that can shoot seed pods deep into the soil. The pods are designed to store moisture, so the seedlings they claim are able to survive where drought or drier conditions are expected. Drone companies undertaking tree planting trials with New Zealand and Australian forestry companies have also just been built into this year’s ForestTECH 2020 event being organised with the industry at the moment. Further details will follow. In this week’s issue we’ve included a second call for Expressions of Interest to present in November. If keen on being involved, please get back to us.

And finally, registrations continue to pour in for the two virtual series of webinars that have been set up specifically for local forestry and wood processing companies, the Forest Safety & Technology 2020 series that will run on 16-18 June and a series of six 60-90 minute interactive webinars for WoodTECH 2020 series which are running for local wood processing and manufacturing companies between 13-24 July. Full details can be seen on either event website. That’s’ it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.



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Call made for AU$13 Billion Stimulus Action Plan

An AU$13.2 billion building and construction stimulus action will stimulate over AU$30 billion in new economic activity and create more than 100,000 new jobs across the economy according to new economic modelling commission by Master Builders Australia.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders said, we are seeking stimulus not subsidies from government, we want National Cabinet to urgently implement this independently modelled stimulus package and establish a special task force to fast track commencement of construction activity.”

Ernst & Young modelling (see link below) shows that a AU$13.2 billion investment by governments in a Master Builders proposed stimulus package will mean:

- AU$30.9 billion in GDP from the AU$13.2 billion investment.
- Creation of 105,500 jobs in construction and across the economy.
- AU$17.6 billion in expanded construction activity (new dwelling starts, renovations and commercial construction activity).

“Building and construction is shaping up to be one of the industries worst hit in the long term by the COVID-19 economic crisis. We know from previous downturns that it takes four times longer for our industry to recover than the rest of the economy,” Denita Wawn said.

“This economic crisis is not the result of a market failure; it is the result of the lockdown imposed by governments in response to the public health emergency of COVID-19. We are asking our political leaders to show the same courage and vision in supporting our industry as they showed in responding to the health emergency,” she said.

“Work for builders and tradies in 2020/21 is fast evaporating and the indications are that 2021/22 will not be much better. There is no time to spare in meeting this threat to the viability of nearly 400,000 building business and the jobs of 1.2 million people employed in our industry,” Denita Wawn said.

“We also want to see a dedicated building and construction industry taskforce established to oversee the implementation of the stimulus action plan. For stimulus to occur building activity needs to commence. Builders and tradies cannot sustain their businesses and jobs on promises. We have seen that governments can fast track construction activity in response to natural disasters and COVID-19 is shaping up as an economic disaster,” Denita Wawn said.

Ernst & Young was commissioned to model a stimulus package comprised of the following programs:

- A $40,000 uncapped the new home building grant.
- AU$17 billion in additional economic activity resulting from AU$5.2 billion investment by government.
- The creation of 58,311 jobs right across the economy almost replenishing the 77,580 jobs lost in construction since the start of the Covid-19.
- Delivering 14,000 extra new homes.

Resilience renovation program (funding for renovations to make homes resilient to natural disasters or to make homes more accessible).

- AU$7 billion in economic activity for AU$4 billion investment by government.
- Creating 24,036 jobs.
For commercial programs (programs including funding for cladding/asbestos rectification, a10% drop in developer charges, 5% increase in government spending in health, defence and education)

- AU$6.8 billion in economic activity for AU$4 billion investment by government. This excludes wider economic benefits in relation to health, safety and building quality.
- Creating 23,118 jobs.

For more information, read the EY modelling in Rebuilding Australia, Vol 4, Stimlus Plan to Support Jobs and Boost GDP.

Source: masterbuilders.com.au



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Rushed log legislation deserves the chop

Federated Farmers and the Forest Owners Association in New Zealand are joining forces to condemn the Log Brokers Bill as a Trojan horse to potentially force farmers and foresters to subsidise local processing industries from reduced export earnings.

The unwarranted rush over the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill risks unintended consequences, including retaliatory action by nations we trade with, Federated Farmers forestry spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says. The period for consultation is tighter than even the emergency actions on high-powered automatic firearms spurred by the Christchurch mosque attacks. "The bill has come from nowhere and should be sent back to the drawing board for proper consultation," says Hoggard, who appeared before Parliament’s Environment Select Committee today (25 May).

The Forest Owners Association President, Phil Taylor, says both organisations are united on this issue. "It seems the Bill is designed to use local processing as an instrument to provide employment, and instead of the government paying for it, they want to instead introduce a forestry cross-subsidy. That’s never happened before in New Zealand," Taylor says. "That amounts to another tax, which is introduced with no idea of whether it would produce more jobs or not. The government has dreamt this up under urgency and done no research."

Hoggard says it is understandable why Forestry Minister Shane Jones is keen to see steady supplies of competitively priced timber available to the domestic processing industry but a raft of new regulations, costs and extra red tape won’t help achieve this. "Federated Farmers is against any government moves to instruct primary producers on how much of the food and fibre they grow will be processed here in New Zealand. "These are commercial considerations. We need to have the right to buy and sell, and take our own risks in the marketplace. It’s not a decision for government to make."

There are many farm foresters among Federated Farmers members, and growing trees is an option the government has encouraged for diversification and carbon sequestration reasons. "Those farm foresters want the option to choose to sell to an exporter or to a local sawmill at a time they choose. Whoever offers the best terms. That’s the same for our meat or dairy production."

Hoggard says the log traders bill has arrived with very little advance warning or analysis. "This ridiculously short time frame has meant there has been no ability for affected parties to consult with the Ministry for Primary Industries and amongst the sector to consider implications, gather thoughts and ideas, and to ensure that where there are concerns, we can arrive at solutions."

Proposals include regulations that could be arbitrarily applied to various forestry sector participants in such a way as to favour domestic wood processors over log exporters and forest owners. That could well contravene New Zealand’s obligations in free trade agreements with key markets and our staunch support of free trade under the WTO.

"This Bill risks undermining New Zealand’s credibility going forward as well as opening the door to potential trade retaliatory measures on our other exports, such as meat and dairy. It opens the door for the sort of poor policy we rail against when followed by other countries."

Source: Forest Owners Association, Federated Farmers

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Increasing your mill's productivity with a culture shift

As outlined in previous issues, an exciting new format for dry-mill and wood manufacturing operations has been set up to ensure that the two-yearly WoodTECH series, originally scheduled to be run in New Zealand and Australia in August, can be run this year.

A series of short 60-90-minute interactive webinars have been set up and will be run between 13-24 July 2020. Like the original event, the new webinar series will be showcasing local and international leaders as well as some of the early adopters of new and emerging technologies best suited to local wood manufacturing operations. Further information and details on the series of new WoodTECH 2020 webinars can be seen on the event website.

Part of this year’s WoodTECH 2020 programme includes an inspirational case study of an Australian wood manufacturing company. They have been able to turn their business around, not by focussing on new equipment, changing processes or systems, but by focussing in on the culture of their business.

Seven years ago, Brisbane based sustainable timber specialist Kennedy’s Timbers had stagnated, were facing issues on all fronts, in a tough competitive market and at a risk of closure. However, a commitment to creating a positive workplace environment has proven successful for Brisbane-based Kennedy’s Timbers in turning their business around. It culminated in them being named Queensland’s Small Employer of the Year at the Queensland Training Awards last year.

Kennedy’s whose projects include Howard Smith Wharves has found that with a positive workplace culture, both staff and productivity can thrive, which has been the case for the timber business. Owner Mr Michael Kennedy attributes the success of the business to creating an engaging culture which he said was an important formula within the business structure.

“You can spend time on other areas of your business, like continuous improvement, lean manufacturing, but nothing works without getting your culture right,” Mr Kennedy said. “I can make money by slashing costs, being pushy and demanding, but that is a miserable way of doing business. Invest in your culture on an ongoing basis, it needs to be in your veins, you have to live it,” he added.

Investing in the company’s culture has not only retained staff numbers, it has also increased productivity levels and turnover. Twice as profitable as other similar companies within the industry, Kennedy’s Timbers now has 600% lower staff turnover, three times lower staff absenteeism, fewer lost time injury days and one of the lowest Work Cover premiums in the Queensland manufacturing sector. The average length of service of staff has substantially increased from 1 to 6.7 years. Kennedy has also been able to expand and purchase competitors in Victoria and New South Wales and also establish distributors in Western Australia and New Zealand.

While Kennedy’s has always been profitable, there had been staff-retention issues, absenteeism, product complaints and until culture was addressed nothing worked over a sustained period. “The entire staff turned over every year, staff absenteeism was through the roof, workplace accidents all too common and profitability well below industry average. We knew we had good people, but we were struggling to manage them well, get the most out of them and retain them,” Mr Kennedy said.

Dubbed the ‘Aussiest’ of timber guys, Mr Kennedy had heard of the importance of workplace culture, but wrote it off as ‘fluffy’ and intangible. However, with everything else failing, he engaged workplace culture specialist Dr Tony Watt after hearing him speak at a business event. Staff are encouraged to lead the workplace culture program, something Mr Kennedy said was a little scary and alarming to begin with.

“You lose control to a certain degree. It is confronting as you think you are a decent boss, but perception is reality,” he said. The Culture Doctor’s program identified the values and beliefs of the staff and aligned them with those of Kennedy’s company policy. With a new focus on safety; a continuous improvement to customer service; family; respected, work ready teams, Kennedy’s instilled micro-strategies to implement this new commitment to workplace culture.

The program assisted Mr Kennedy to identify the changes he needed to make as a manager and as a result, the culture has been transformed taking the business from strength to strength both doubling in size while improving productivity with just half the staff. It has future proofed the business against market downturns and external shocks. “You can’t see values and beliefs, but you can see the behaviours of people and the behaviours of companies. So what matters is not what you say, but how you behave,’’ said Dr Watt.

The 60-minute webinar aimed at local wood products and manufacturing companies planned for Friday 24 July will feature the CEO and Founder of Kennedys Timbers, Michael Kennedy along with workplace culture specialist Dr Tony Watt who worked with the company to get it where it is today. If wanting to learn more about this process and more importantly, lessons from implementing the program within the company, you can register on line here.



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Tree planting drones working on forest restoration

On land north of Toronto that previously burned in a wildfire, drones are hovering over fields and firing seed pods into the ground, planting native pine and spruce trees to help restore habitat for birds. Flash Forest, the Canadian start-up behind the project, plans to use its technology to plant 40,000 trees in the area this month. By the end of the year, as it expands to other regions, it will plant hundreds of thousands of trees. By 2028, the start-up aims to have planted a full 1 billion trees.

The company, along with a number of other companies employing tree planting drones (and already working with local companies on in-field trials) such as DroneSeed and AirSeed Technologies, believes that technology can help the world reach ambitious goals to restore forests to stem biodiversity loss and fight climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that it’s necessary to plant 1 billion hectares of trees—a forest roughly the size of the entire United States—to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Existing forests need to be protected while new trees are planted; right now, that isn’t working well. “There are a lot of different attempts to tackle reforestation,” says Flash Forest cofounder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom. “But despite all of them, they’re still failing, with a net loss of 7 billion trees every year.”



Drones don’t address deforestation, which is arguably an even more critical issue than planting trees, since older trees can store much more carbon. But to restore forests that have already been lost, the drones can work more quickly and cheaply than humans planting with shovels.

Flash Forest’s tech can currently plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods a day; as the technology advances, a pair of pilots will be able to plant 100,000 trees in a day (by hand, someone might typically be able to plant around 1,500 trees in a day, Ahlstrom says). The company aims to bring the cost down to 50 cents per tree, or around a fourth of the cost of some other tree restoration efforts.

When it begins work at a site, the start-up first sends mapping drones to survey the area, using software to identify the best places to plant based on the soil and existing plants. Next, a swarm of drones begins precisely dropping seed pods, packed in a proprietary mix that the company says encourages the seeds to germinate weeks before they otherwise would have.

The seed pods are also designed to store moisture, so the seedlings can survive even with months of drought. In some areas, such as hilly terrain or in mangrove forests, the drones use a pneumatic firing device that shoots seed pods deeper into the soil. “It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t,” Ahlstrom says.

More >> Photo: Flash Forest

Source: fastcompany.com



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Benefits of automated in-cab driver monitoring

Guardian, the in-cab fatigue management system from Seeing Machines, recently was part of a breakthrough study into driver behaviour at Monash University, the results of which are likely going to have a positive impact on the industry for years to come. In this article, Ron Finemore Transport consider it a mandatory investment.

Automated in-cab driver monitoring and how it has revolutionised the workplace and transport safety along with technologies to monitor, coach and improve driver performance and behaviour will be a key focus for the eagerly awaited series of forest safety webinars being run for local forestry, wood harvesting and wood transport companies on 16-18 June. Full details can be found and registrations made on the event website, Forest Safety & Technology 2020.


Driver distraction and drowsiness, often the result of fatigue, have come under increasing scrutiny in recent times. As the road freight task increases to meet demands subject to burgeoning population growth and its resultant consumer economy, the transport industry, governments and the broader community have long been looking for a watershed moment to reduce incidents of road crashes in Australia in which fatigue is present up to 44 per cent of the time.

Now after a landmark study, a Co-operative Research Centre Project (CRC-P) funded by Australian Government, led by Seeing Machines in partnership with the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), they might have found it. The study, using Guardian technology supplied by in-cab safety monitoring specialist, Seeing Machines, found that truck drivers are twice as likely to crash when fatigued and 11 times more likely to crash when both fatigued and distracted.

In what has been described as a breakthrough innovation never reportedly achieved before, the study also detected where a driver was looking as part of the distraction monitoring in real-time testing. The fatigue prevention and driver-monitoring technology were tested in working fleet trucks on the road in partnership with Ron Finemore Transport which included the participation of 100 of its drivers who enrolled to take part in the study.

Collectively, they drove 22,000 trips across 1.5 million kilometres. Seeing Machines considers it the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind in the world. The Guardian technology actively monitors for and alerts commercial drivers to fatigue and distraction in real-time. Real-time in-vehicle monitoring of driver state has increasingly, more recently, shown its value within contemporary safety management systems in the workplace. This includes monitoring critical safety events such as lane departure, monitoring vehicle control inputs like steering, pedal use and what is known as camera-based approaches like that offered by Guardian in which driver head pose, gaze and eyelid behaviour is monitored.

Seeing Machines and Ron Finemore Transport with Volvo Trucks Australia, used automotive grade technology alongside Guardian, to study driver behaviour well before a microsleep resulted. With the direct input of Ron Finemore Transport, the team fitted ten fleet trucks with the technology and monitored drivers for nine months. As a direct result from the study, the team has created a comprehensive distraction warning system for drivers.

Ron Finemore Transport began its journey with Guardian technology in 2015. According to Darren Wood, Ron Finemore Transport General Manager – Technology and Innovation, it was a result of having some minor incidents on-road of which they were unable to determine the root cause. “There had to be a better way of establishing what was happening out on the road in the cab,” he says. “As a business that prides itself on its safety culture, we thought that wasn’t where we wanted to be in the longer term.”

Prior to investing in the Seeing Machines technology Ron Finemore Transport trialled some competing technology from North America. While it was adequate, the notifications were transmitted 24 hours after they had happened. The insights crucially weren’t in real time. After pursuing further discussions with Seeing Machines, Ron Finemore Transport insisted they develop a forward-facing camera which was integrated into the existing technology.

While Seeing Machines set about finding a solution, Ron Finemore Transport fitted up ten of its vehicles with the technology and, almost instantly, commenced receiving feedback about some of the issues they had long suspected was happening in their business but had no evidence to prove otherwise. It promptly led to the transport company installing the technology into every one of its vehicles in a six-month period.

More >>.

Source: CRT News, primemovermag, Photo: Seeing Machines



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ForestTECH 2020 – Early Expressions of Interest

We calling on early expressions of interest to present at this year’s November series of ForestTECH 2020.

ForestTECH – what is it?

Forestry resource managers, remote sensing, GIS and mapping specialists, inventory foresters, researchers and key technology suppliers attend ForestTECH each year. The annual forest technology series has been running since 2007. It typically comprises a two-day conference, practical workshops and trade exhibitions. It runs in both New Zealand and Australia and has firmly established itself on the international forestry calendar. As well as Australian and New Zealand companies, forestry companies and technology providers from the USA, Canada, Europe, SE Asia, South Africa and South America are regularly involved with the technology updates.

Changed format for 2020:

As a consequence of COVID-19, restrictions on international travel, border controls and social distancing requirements, industry events across the globe for at least the first half of 2020 have had to be either cancelled or postponed. Technology events run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association in Australia, New Zealand and Canada have, as a consequence, been run either as webinars or virtual events since March 2020. At this stage, the plan is to run the ForestTECH 2020 series in early-mid November as originally planned. It’s anticipated that travel between Australia and New Zealand will be permitted by November 2020. At this stage, it’s too early to gauge if presenters or delegates from outside Australasia will be able to attend the 2020 event in person. If this is the case, arrangements will be made for remote presentations along with live interactive presenter panel discussions and Q&A sessions. Likewise, live virtual presentations may also be set up for delegates outside of Australasia to participate.

So, what’s planned for 2020:

Remote sensing, data capture and inventory management:

ForestTECH 2020 will again be providing insights into new data collection technologies that have been developed and are being used operationally out in the forest along with advances that have been made on processing and better interpreting the big data streams now routinely being collected out in the field. Updates on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, the IOT, machine and deep learning, robotics, automation, daily satellite imagery, UAV’s and the use of virtual and augmented reality and how they’re being integrated into day to day operations of forestry companies will also be covered. This though will be streamlined into one of the two days being planned for the two-day programme in both countries.

Forest establishment, mechanised planting and silviculture:

In addition, one day of the ForestTECH 2020 programme is this year being set aside to showcase a raft of new technologies that have or are being developed to improve efficiencies around forest establishment and silviculture. An increasing number of presentations given at recent ForestTECH events have covered research and trials being undertaken on planting with drones, survival counts of tree seedlings using satellite imagery, drones and deep learning. There’s also a resurgence of interest being shown by forestry companies in mechanised or automated operations for planting and silviculture to address the growing issues of labour shortages for forest operations.

Interested in Presenting?

If interested in presenting at the ForestTECH 2020 series this year, please register your early interest by emailing brent.apthorp@fiea.org.nz.

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NZ farm foresters recommend action in Wood Sector

In conjunction with other sector associations, the NZ Farm Forestry Association, has made five important post Covid-19 recommendations to New Zealand’s Ministers of Forestry and Agriculture for specific actions in the wood sector that could assist with employment, generating revenue, and creating sustainable wealth.

These actions, if all were implemented, could lead to a trebling of export earnings and associated greater employment.

The NZ Farm Forestry Association is a national body representing the 14,500 small-scale forest owners. The Jack and Jill farm foresters in NZ are unique in the wood sector. They are independent small-scale investors and farmers and have an enthusiastic vision for more diverse forests and more innovative manufacturing sector. Also, the ideals of this group are largely complimentary to the pastoral sector and operate within sensible economic principles, while addressing environmental and climate change goals.

Recommendations

Public relations spokesperson for the association, Graham West, comments that “Our members are passionate about trees and hold a broader and more New Zealand centric view of the wood sector”. “However, if the sector is to occupy more land, it will need to be more than just enthusiastic, it will need to step up in terms of export earnings and supply stability” says Graham.

The association’s executive has been working on a new strategy and vision for some time and post Covid-19 is the right time for new thinking and a better plan for generating domestic wealth and achieving environmental mitigation.

“We have put five key recommendations to ministers and are happy to roll up our sleeves and help get the job done” said Graham. Specifically, we ask for:

1. The allocation $1 billion of the Provincial Growth Fund for the introduction and partnering of new wood processing technologies (such as biopackaging and bioplastics), that also achieve sustainability goals raised in many post Covid-19 commentaries. This investment could transform the use of exported logs that has a potential five-fold value multiplier.

2. Accelerate the transition of all industries into paying for their full carbon emissions under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to help rebuild Government revenues and meet climate change goals. “We want long term sustainability and that comes from a level playing field for emitters and resource users”. says Graham.

3. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to actively reassure rural communities and rebuild ‘stakeholder’ relations with landowners and forest investors. This is to reduce land use conflict and accelerate the uptake of the ideas around resilient landscapes and income diversification.

4. MPI to review some of its policy settings to promote the diversification of fast-growing plantation forest species. This is needed to reduce the biosecurity and market risks associated with concentrating on a single species.

5. The Government to host a post-Covid-19 “Forestry Industry Development Conference" that would promote sector unity; confirm a sector strategy that aligned with climate change goals; and develop a list of priorities and projects to rebuild supply chains and create additional exports, revenues and employment.

“The wood sector can contribute a significant and sustainable improvement to New Zealand’s economy and wellbeing” says Association president Hamish Levack, “we are fully aware that in terms of wealth creation and delivery of national environmental targets it has been underperforming to date. We support greater domestic processing of export logs as a means of addressing some of these needs”.

Small scale forest owners believe that a broader range of issues need addressing post Covid-19 including building resilience and sustainability in the economy and export industries. “We are confident our views are shared by many of the 14,500 entities that own small scale forests, and who currently produce around 40% of the national harvest” says Hamish. The owners of these entities are citizens, voters and parents committed to the future of the country and are ready to help make a better future for New Zealand.

Source: NZFFA

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Australian bushfires to worsen in future fire seasons

The coronavirus pandemic is hampering bushfire recovery efforts and planning for future fire seasons amid warnings Australia will face even more dangerous fire conditions.

Australia is experiencing longer fire seasons with more extreme fire danger days, the Bureau of Meteorology has told the bushfires royal commission. Large fires like the 2019-20 bushfires are occurring more frequently and fire weather will intensify into the future, its head of climate monitoring Dr Karl Braganza says.

"This isn't a one-off event that we're looking at here," he told the royal commission as its hearings began. He said since the 2003 Canberra fires, all states and territories had experienced significant fires that challenged the response and thinking about fire weather. "The frequency of these events, if we look at the historical record, seems to be increasing."

Research by the bureau and the CSIRO shows the fire danger is very likely to increase in the future for many regions of Australia, exacerbated by the increased occurrence of extreme heat. "These dangerous weather conditions for bushfires are likely to occur at least in part due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions," senior CSIRO scientist Dr Helen Cleugh said.

Southern Australia is also expected to continue to experience an increase in dangerous pyroconvection conditions, where fires burning in heavily forested areas generate their own weather and thunderstorms. "The risk of fire danger is both due to the long-term drying and warming, which is conditioning the landscape, but also the extreme fire weather that is observed partly due to climate change," Dr Cleugh said.

Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements chair Mark Binskin said coronavirus-related measures are further compounding the ongoing effects of the Black Summer bushfires for grieving communities. "The tragic loss of life, the destruction of homes, the significant loss of livestock and millions of hectares of forest has been devastating, and continues to deeply affect people and their recovery," he said.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Dominique Hogan-Doran SC said as a result of the pandemic, the recovery from the devastating impacts of the fires has been slow and fragmented. "Planning for future seasons appears to have been interrupted," she said.

Dr Braganza noted the outlook going into the next fire season was for wetter conditions for Australia compared with the past two years. "At this point, what we would be saying is your chances of getting the sort of season that you saw in 2018-19 and 2019-20 are reduced," he said. "...Beyond that, it's difficult to say except that the trends probably load the dice towards worse fire seasons in general."

Source: AAP

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Forestry reform bill 'cumbersome and unworkable'

There has been scathing criticism of the NZ government's latest forestry reforms at a parliamentary select committee. The reforms are part of the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on Budget night] and has already surfaced for consideration at a parliamentary select committee.

This law would require forestry advisers, log traders and exporters to join a register and agree to work on nationally agreed standards. The aim was to reduce the number of logs being exported raw and to direct more towards New Zealand sawmills and create jobs as a result. A series of submitters told Parliament's Environment Select Committee the law was badly designed and would be expensive and ineffectual.

One submitter, chief executive Tony Clifford of Hawke's Bay wood company Pan Pac, said the law would give too much power over the industry to a small group of people. "One of our key concerns is the power [in the bill] to make rules and impose costs onto the industry when very little cost-benefit analysis has been undertaken," he said. "In our case, we just see [the law] as being cumbersome and unworkable."

Other criticism came from Don Wallace of the Farm Forestry Association, representing about 100,000 people owning shares in 14,000 small forests - many of them making little money. He questioned the need for a new forestry authority when its work was already being done by several state and private organisations.

"We make a small amount of money out of our forests but we will lose much of that if we have to pay for another agency to duplicate the work of others that already exist."

Jon Tanner of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association came out in support of the changes, saying his industry was suffering from a shortage of logs and needed help. "Wood processing companies are going under as we struggle to acquire a supply of logs," Dr Tanner said. "We have recently lost a thousand jobs in six months, and that was before Covid-19."

Tanner said governments overseas were encouraging aggressive buying of New Zealand logs, at prices New Zealand mills could not afford, by subsidising their own industries, in contravention of WTO trading rules.

Rotorua forestry consultant Don Hammond told the select committee the proposed legislation was so bad, it did not appear to know what the problem was, let alone how to fix it, and would only make everything more expensive. "This is cost-add, not value-add, and New Zealand has been a shocker for doing this over many years."

More >>

Source: RNZ

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New Tasmanian forest industry group formed

The Tasmanian forest products industry has formed a new body, the Tasmanian Forest Products Association to represent its interests and concerns to the community and with local, State and Federal governments.

The TFPA’s membership includes all the major growers and processors who are part of Tasmania’s sustainable forest products industry, in native forestry and plantation, softwood and hardwood. The TFPA will be led by an inaugural chair, Bryan Hayes.

“The formation of the organisation heralds a new era of cooperation between all parts of the industry,” Mr Hayes said. “It will be a united, cohesive organisation closely aligned with the Australian Forest Products Association with the primary purpose of representing Tasmania’s forest industries when it is working on policy and related matters with governments at all levels, in the media and in communities where forestry is often a major economic driver.”

The TFPA has now started a search for the right person to head the new body as its first Chief Executive Officer, with the responsibility of working with the board to set and guide its priorities as it takes over the role which the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) has performed since 1983, leading the industry through some challenging times.

Mr Hayes paid tribute to FIAT saying: “the steadfast role they have played in advocating for the industry is to be applauded. But it is time to reinvent how we represent ourselves to reflect the change and diversity that now exists in the modern Tasmanian forest industry”.

Mr Hayes noted that the creation of TFPA comes at a difficult time. “All industries are at a critical economic juncture having weathered CoVid-19,” Mr Hayes said. “However, we are well placed to continue to supply markets with the essential products Tasmania’s forest industry provides and work with the Government to lead the State out of the economic difficulties we will face in the wake of the pandemic,” Mr Hayes said.

For further comment on the formation of the new body, click here.



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NZ forestry student picks up major award

A University of Canterbury forestry student has just received top forest industry honours with a major scholarship being awarded. This year’s Southern Wood Council (SWC) Scholarship has been awarded to Nic Melvin, a Bachelor of Forestry Science student, studying at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch.

Nic, from a strong forestry and farming background in Dipton, Southland has also had long family history within the industry. Both sides of the family can trace their family history back to Southland’s early settlement way back in the 1860’s. His father has been a contract tree feller and has run his own portable sawmilling operation, which Nic has been involved with from a very early age. The Melvin family, on coming to Southland were also sawmillers so it obviously runs in the blood. Having had “hands on experience” since a very young age, Nic wanted to pursue a degree in forestry science and is now completing his second year in the degree course at Canterbury University.

“I am pursuing a career in forestry as I want to work outdoors and do something where I can make a difference. Coming from Dipton, a small rural community in Southland, I have a great appreciation of the needs such communities face” said Nic. “By studying this professional degree, I am learning the skills necessary to help make a difference in the forestry industry, one that is growing and changing but short on the qualified professionals it needs”.

The Scholarship is the eighth that has been awarded to students as part of an annual scholarship programme set up by the Council in 2011. The annual scholarship awarded by the SWC is one of the most prestigious and valuable awarded to forestry students in New Zealand. In any one year, the SWC can have up to $13,500 committed to three student scholarships.

“The Annual Scholarship is an opportunity for forestry and wood products companies in the lower South Island to put back something into the industry and to support outstanding students studying towards either the Forestry Science or Forest Engineering courses at the School of Forestry” says SWC Chairman, Grant Dodson. “The SWC is delighted to award this year’s scholarship to Nic and the industry is keen to continue to support the current scholarship recipients, both in their study – and in their future employment” says Mr Dodson.

The University Scholarship is offered each year by the SWC. In addition, the Wood Council runs the largest gathering of its type for forestry contractors and those working within the local forestry, wood products and transport industries through an annual Training Awards evening. This year, because of COVID-19 the May awards evening unfortunately had to be cancelled but is planned to run again in May 2021.

Source: Southern Wood Council

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First State of the World’s Forests report produced

The State of the World’s Forests 2020 has been produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the first time.

As FAO and UNEP prepare to lead the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021, the report looks at the need to protect the vast numbers of plants and animals found in the world’s forests, which are home to the majority of terrestrial biodiversity.

Published on the International Day for Biological Diversity, The State of the World's Forests 2020, highlights that since 1990, some 420 million hectares of trees have been lost to agriculture and other land uses.

While global deforestation slowed in the last decade, some 10 million hectares are still being lost each year. With agricultural expansion the main driver, the report highlights the need for transformational change in the way we produce and consume food.

Forests also have a direct impact on human survival, providing more than 86 million green jobs and supporting the livelihoods of many others. The report emphasizes the need for large-scale forest restoration efforts and notes that solutions that balance conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity are both critical and possible.

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Soil surrounding Kauri forests lacks protective microbes

A new study suggests that kauri dieback in New Zealand may be connected to the lack of protective fungi in plantation pine forest soil.

Published in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, the study by Bio-Protection Research Centre PhD candidate Alexa Byers and others looked at the differences in the bacteria and fungi living in the soil of kauri forest and surrounding pine plantations in the Waipoua area of Northland.

She found soil in the pine forests neighbouring kauri forests lacked several species of fungi and bacteria that protect plants, promote growth, and improve their health (for example, Trichoderma and Pseudomonas).

“The loss of core microbiota from native soil microbial communities… surrounding remnant kauri fragments could be altering the forest’s ability to respond to pathogen invasion,” Ms Byers wrote.

“Understanding the ecological impacts of these changes to the soil microbial communities surrounding remaining kauri fragments is important to protect the long-term health and functioning of these fragments.” She also found some non-native fungi were now present in kauri forest soil. “The differences in soil microbial diversity between forest systems could potentially result in the exposure of kauri fragments to introduced microbial communities which now have kauri within their range.”

The introduction of invasive species into native ecosystems through non-native trees was a recognised driver of disease in forests, Ms Byers wrote. “This risk is particularly high for Phytophthora species, with the plant nursery trade being identified as a vector for introduction and dispersal into new ecosystems globally.” Kauri dieback is caused by Phytophthora agathidicida.

Dr Amanda Black, who is one of Ms Byers’ supervisors and a co-author of the study, said the results showed more research was needed into the relationship between fragmented kauri forests and the pine and pasture ecosystems surrounding them.

“We have just 7,500 ha of original kauri forest left, and it exists as fragments, surrounded by 60,000 ha of plantation forests and regenerating kauri forest,” Dr Black said. “We need to understand what part this plays in the spread of kauri dieback.”

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... and one to end the week on ... under lockdown

So, what have you done all day?

I changed a lightbulb.

Is that all? I did the laundry, vacuumed the house, washed the windows, cooked three meals, and more, and you just changed a lightbulb?

Yeah, watch this, I filmed it.





One more - an oldie but a goodie. Two businessmen in a new shopping mall.....were sitting down for a break in their soon-to-be new shop...

As yet, the shop wasn't ready, with only a few shelves set up.

One said to the other, "I bet any minute now some pensioner is going to walk by,put their face to the window, and ask what we're selling."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when, sure enough, a curious old woman walked to the window, had a peek, and in a soft voice asked, "What are you selling here?"

One of the men replied sarcastically, "We're selling a***-holes."

Without skipping a beat, the old dear said, “Must be doing well... Only two left!."






And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
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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