Friday Offcuts – 7 June 2024

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Welcome to this week's edition of Friday Offcuts.

Over the past week, several noteworthy developments have emerged. The New South Wales government has allocated A$13 million to enhance fire protection measures in the Murray region. In New Zealand, the repeal of legislation surrounding log traders and forest advisors aims to reduce regulatory costs for growers. Additionally, Australia has removed the 'water rule,' which has deterred new timber plantings from participating in the Emissions Reduction Fund, potentially unlocking more investment.

In research news, New Zealand scientist Dr. Murry Cave will present his findings on the impact of woody debris during recent cyclones at a conference in Canada next week. Meanwhile, researchers have created a comprehensive map of worldwide forest biodiversity, and a Michigan Technological University team is developing new resins to enable the use of hardwood in cross-laminated timber production. Additionally, mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto are collaborating on trials of battery-electric haul trucks in Australia.

With Environmental Forestry 2024, being held in Rotorua, NZ, only a couple of weeks away, we have a couple of free 'WIDE Trust' places available. To qualify, you must be under 35, have not yet registered and have not received a WIDE Trust place before. If interested, contact Gordon Thomson.

Read these and more in another packed edition of Friday Offcuts. Enjoy.

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A$13 million boost to protect critical NSW timber supplies

The Softwoods Working Group welcomes the announcement of a A$13 million forestry funding package aimed at protecting critical timber supplies in the Murray region ahead of the 2024/25 bushfire season. This funding will support critical fire prevention, detection, and response initiatives in the Murray Region. The package was developed after extensive consultation with forestry industry groups and government agencies.

Strengthening and protecting the State’s softwood forestry industry is a key part of the NSW Government’s strategy to provide jobs and stimulate investment in regional NSW. Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty announced the funding yesterday in the Murraguldrie State Forest alongside representatives from the NSW timber industry.

The funding announcement significantly improves the region's readiness for bushfire season.

SWG Chairperson, Peter Crowe commended the Minister on the well considered funding. "The Softwoods Working Group (SWG) commends the minister for well targeted funding for essential projects which will significantly enhance fire protection for the valuable plantation in the NSW Murray. The SWG and its members look forward to aiding the Minister and the department on the most valuable infrastructure investments for communities, industry and the region broadly."

Ms Porteous, Executive Officer of the SWG commented on the need for future proofing the region. “The 2019/2020 fires are still too fresh for many community members. This funding will allow the industry, communities and critical RFS volunteers to be better prepared and react to future fire events”.

Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty stated: "The clearest message we have received from forestry industry representatives in the region is that all effort needs to be put into protecting the forests from bushfires, this package goes a long way to doing this.

While the NSW Government has made it clear we are focused on expanding plantation assets, we understand from industry that it is also very important that we boost protection of the remaining plantation resources. I recognise this is the highest priority for the softwood sector."

The Minister also said, “I also want to thank the Forest Industries Advisory Council, the Softwoods Working Group, the Australian Forest Products Association, Forestry Corporation and other NSW agencies and industry representatives for their input and efforts in this important area."

Independent Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said: "As a strong supporter of initiatives that will help protect our region’s valuable plantations from future bushfires, I welcome this announcement and thank the Minister for acting on our representations on this issue."

NSW Government media release

Source: The Softwoods Working Group

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Repeal of forest regulation a relief for cost-struck growers

Forest owners say the repeal of legislation surrounding log traders and forest advisors will provide relief and assurance to growers facing increased regulatory cost and complexities.

The repeal, announced last week by Minister of Forestry Hon Todd McClay, will do away with the compulsory registration required of log traders and forestry advisors under the Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forest Advisors) Amendment Act (2020), and refund any fees or levies paid this season.

New Zealand Forest Owners Association chief executive, Dr Elizabeth Heeg, says assurance schemes are important for maintaining integrity throughout the supply chain, but that the introduction of the registration scheme through the Act was an unnecessary and costly intervention for growers. 

The registration scheme was meant to improve information across the forestry and wood processing supply chain, improve professional standards, and build greater confidence in the sector,” Elizabeth says. Unfortunately, it has achieved the opposite – delivering added cost rather than added value.”

Forest owners and employees required to register ended up paying fees for a system duplicating the work of pre- existing schemes. Those fees were also passed onto small forest owners with smaller revenue streams. 

Fees were imposed without a sufficient consultation period with forest owners, and the scheme was overbuilt – landing the sector with a costly registration scheme that didn’t deliver.” Elizabeth says the issue is not about having an agreed standard, it’s about ensuring regulation does not duplicate or undercut the assurance systems, standards or services that are already available. 

Forest owners are very supportive of ensuring a high degree of performance standards across the supply chain and often opt into voluntary schemes to achieve that,” she says. The New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF) is one such example, maintaining a robust Code of Ethics and strong performance standards that all members who register must follow to ensure they provide the best service.

Forest owners understand that to be a valued part of rural communities, they must uphold those high professional standards. Minister McClay’s decision will restore forest owners’ confidence and ensure continued sector growth without burgeoning regulatory costs. We look forward to having further conversations with the Minister on helping forestry achieve its potential domestically and abroad.” 

The repeal is said to come into effect by July 2024.

Source: New Zealand Forest Owners Association

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Major barrier removed to unlock Australian forestry investment

After a long campaign by the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Australia’s forest industry can now celebrate the removal of the ‘water rule’ that for years has deterred new timber plantings participating in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), AFPA Chief Executive Officer, Diana Hallam said today.

As of 1 June 2024, the water rule that had added conditions that plantation forestry needed to meet to participate in the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) Scheme has been removed.

“This week is a great week for Australia’s forestry industry. The removal of the water rule means plantation and farm forestry projects will now be treated the same as other carbon methods and not excluded from many areas that are suitable for tree planting. The removal of the water rule will now enable farmers in many areas to invest in trees, diversify their income and create market options to help them achieve net zero,” Diana Hallam said.

“It’s a Berlin Wall sized barrier coming down that for years has hindered new investment in much needed timber trees. The removal of these restrictions nationally is great news because Australia desperately needs new production tree plantings to grow future timber and wood fibre supply and decarbonise the economy.

“Just last month, AFPA released How Timber Can Help Solve Australia’s Housing Crisis, a plan for how our sector can help supply the timber to build 50,000 much needed new homes, to help solve Australia’s housing crisis. The removal of the water rule is one very important cog in the wheel of success towards this goal.

“We thank the Albanese Government, in particular Ministers Murray Watt, Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek, for honouring its 2022 election commitment to remove the water rule, as well as the Coalition for taking the same policy to the election. This recognition and bipartisan support for industry investment is very important for our sector.

“AFPA will continue to work with Minister Watt and the rest of the Government on how to leverage the removal of the water rule, including through the plantation establishment grants and other policies relevant to boosting the forestry sector,” Diana Hallam concluded.

Source: The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

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NZ scientist takes woody debris expertise to world stage

Principal Scientist at Gisborne District Council, Dr Murry Cave, is set to share his groundbreaking research on the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle and the role of Large Woody Debris (LWD) in Tairāwhiti at the 5th International Wood in World Rivers Conference in Gaspe, Quebec.

Dr Cave’s work first gained international attention after a presentation at the New Zealand Rivers Conference in late 2023. Professor Ian Rutherford from the University of Melbourne was in the audience and said he was particularly struck by the significance of LWD during cyclones Hale and Gabrielle – including the loss and damage to bridges, community impact, and the tragic death of a young boy on Waikanae Beach after Cyclone Hale.

“Professor Rutherford felt this story needed to be told to an international audience and I was invited to present two papers at the conference,” says Dr Cave.

The first will delve into the impact of LWD on Tairāwhiti, while the second outlines a novel methodology for determining the relative contribution of various woody types to LWD in NZ. Dr Cave says he developed the methodology after Cyclone Cook in 2017, which left a trail of woody debris from the forests to the sea, particularly in Ūawa and Tolaga Bay Beach.

In addition to the conference, Dr Cave plans to visit the British Columbia Ministry of Forestry and the Forest Protection Agency and look at a forest land debris flow predictor tool developed by a major British Columbia geotechnical engineering consultancy on his way to Quebec.

There is a lot we can learn from the British Columbia experience. In particular, the parallels between Canada’s First Nations role in forestry and the role of Whenua Maori in Tairāwhiti,” he says.

Dr Cave hopes his research can contribute significantly to the global understanding of LWD dynamics and its implications for river ecosystems. The 5th International Wood in World Rivers Conference will take place from 10-14 June 2024.

Source: Inside Government

Environmental Forestry 2024

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PF Olsen NZ log market report – May 2024

Market Summary

At Wharf Gate (AWG) log prices remained flat with very little market movement. Log Inventory has started to reduce in China. Modest price increases are expected for June log sales, but this is unlikely to translate to increased AWG prices in New Zealand, as shipping costs remain high and the NZD has recently strengthened against the USD.

Domestic demand for sawn timber remains very low, and many sawmills now plan to reduce production of structural lumber to match orders. The PF Olsen Log Price Index remains at $113. This is $6 below the two-year average, and $7 below the three and five-year averages.

Domestic Log Market Domestic demand for sawn timber is poor and slipping. Construction activity remains very low in New Zealand. Some sawmills are offering significant discounts to move product, as mills compete for market share. This is at a time when the costs of production have increased, so many mills are getting squeezed in the middle.

Sales of clear boards into Europe are relatively strong, but high shipping costs and a stronger NZD will reduce the returns from these sales. Sales of sawn timber into Asia are steady, but there is some price pressure developing.

Export Log Markets - China

China log inventory has reduced, with softwood levels (which is mainly New Zealand radiata pine) at about 3.2m m3. Daily off-take remains at 70-75k per day.

The sale price for A grade pine logs in China during May has been around 116 USD. Exporters expect log prices will increase in June.

The China Caixin Manufacturing PMI increased in April to 51.4 from 51.1 in March. (Any number above 50 signals manufacturing growth). New export orders grew at the fastest rate in three and half years.

China has announced wide-ranging measures to assist its ailing property sector. He Lifeng (vice premier and the Communist Party’s top economic official) wants municipal governments to buy unsold homes and convert them into affordable social housing. To facilitate this, in a coordinated move, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced it will establish a nationwide program to provide 300 billion yuan (41.5b USD) in loans to fund this state purchase of unsold homes.

Central government will also encourage commercial banks to support local state-owned enterprises to buy unsold homes in an effort to raise the potential capital input to 69b USD. While share prices have been increasing, any increase in construction will likely be muted. It does signal that China still wants to rescue what was once the engine room of its GDP growth. While the China government does not want to return to the speculation driven excessive construction, they do seem to want sustainable construction activity.

New Zealand forest owners and log exporters will need to adjust supply to match this lower demand base. This will be especially important during the New Zealand summer when drier ground conditions facilitate increased harvesting levels.

More >>

Scott Downs, Director Sales & Marketing, PF Olsen Ltd
Source: PF Olsen

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Mining giants collaborate on battery-electric haul truck trials

In a major step to cut emissions, Australia's leading mining giants, BHP and Rio Tinto, are poised to test battery-electric haul trucks in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. This initiative, hailed as a "massive opportunity" by energy analysts, aligns with the companies' ambitious net-zero goals and their commitment to reducing operational emissions.

The trials, conducted in collaboration with Caterpillar and Komatsu, aim to assess the performance and productivity of electric trucks. BHP President for Australia, Geraldine Slattery, emphasises the importance of technological breakthroughs and strategic partnerships in achieving operational decarbonisation. She highlights the need to develop a comprehensive operational ecosystem to replace diesel as a fuel source, encompassing mine planning, haulage network operations, and safety considerations.

BHP has scheduled the trials to commence in the second half of 2024 with two CAT 793 haul trucks and in 2026 with two Komatsu 930 haul trucks, will provide valuable insights into the integration and viability of these new technologies within mining operations.

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Image credit: BHP

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Plans to stabilise China's real estate market

China's housing market has experienced a significant slowdown due to a change in government policy regarding property developers' borrowing. This decline has had a negative impact on related industries such as home furnishings, appliances, and construction.

Historically, real estate has played a crucial role in China's rapid economic growth, but it also carried risks. Before the pandemic, home prices surged relative to household incomes partly because consumers preferred investing their savings in tangible assets. However, this trend has shifted. Potential buyers are holding off on purchases due to falling prices and some developers facing difficulties securing financing to complete projects.

The property downturn has now persisted for three years, leading to a hollowing out of the real estate sector. Housing starts have plummeted by over 60% compared to pre-pandemic levels, and construction timber imports have declined.

In response to this crisis, which has weighed on the property sector and the broader economy, Chinese authorities unveiled significant measures in May. One key initiative is the establishment of a 300 billion yuan (US$41.5 billion) fund to support affordable housing. The aim is to assist local state-owned enterprises in purchasing unsold homes. Estimates suggest that China has nearly four million empty apartments and approximately 10 million homes sold but not ready for occupancy.

Other measures include reducing the deposit requirements for homebuyers and encouraging local authorities to buy unsold properties. However, there are concerns that local governments, already burdened with substantial debt, may not be able to absorb these unsold properties, valued at nearly US$4 trillion.

While the full scope of the Chinese government's initiative to address the real estate crisis remains to be seen, the significant investment being made to boost sales and complete partially built homes is likely to result in increased timber imports.

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Source: ITTO TTM Report: Volume 28 Number 10 16th – 31st May 2024

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Potential to expand eucalypts in NZ

NZ Dryland Forests Innovation has developed a case study on how investment in planting durable eucalypts could contribute to farm and forest diversification, improve wine industry sustainability, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Marlborough region.

The case study and webinars are highly relevant to other northern and eastern regions where durable eucalypts are already proving their potential as a diverse land use. Contributors to the study include the Marlborough Research Centre, University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry and the Bioenergy Association of New Zealand.

Two up-coming webinars, 'A regional development case study on the potential for durable eucalypts in Marlborough' on 12 June 2024 and 'Marlborough’s Future is Durable' on 4 July 2024, will discuss the findings and bring together much of NZDFI's research and vision to date.

Further details can also be found on NZDFI's website.

Source and image credit: of the NZ Dryland Forests Innovation

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Canada's zombie fires

In Canada, a surge in zombie fires during winter has significantly impacted the wildfire season. Researchers and fire-fighters are working tirelessly to develop methods to extinguish these persistent fires.

Despite freezing temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius, smoke continued to billow through the snow. Marty Wells, a wolf trapper, and fire crew leader, witnessed plumes of white smoke while driving north of Fort Nelson, British Columbia. He encountered melt holes resembling hot springs and flames licking at the base of snow-covered trees. The ground burned several feet deep in certain areas.

Wells vividly describes the fire's behaviour: "It infiltrates the muskeg, burns it, and then stealthily spreads underground, only to resurface somewhere else."

When the snow melted in early May, these zombie fires reignited
, feeding on dry trees and brush. The smoke plumes north of Fort Nelson escalated into a massive conflagration spanning 700 square kilometres. The town found itself encircled by fire, with another zombie fire burning an even larger area to the east, caused damage to properties and necessitating the evacuation of residents.

Scientists suggest that human-induced climate warming has contributed to the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, which has led to a rise in the incidence of zombie fires.

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Source: BBC

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Paris Olympics - a modest showcase of wood architecture

Seeking to boost sustainability rather than build grand monuments as host of the 2024 Summer Games, Paris has turned to flexible, reusable timber. 

There’s something highly unusual about the new Olympic Aquatics Center on the outskirts of Paris. It’s not just the building’s striking form, with its massive, Pringle-shaped solar roof. It’s not solely that the 5,000-seat venue, constructed mainly from wood, was pieced together like a Lego set. 

It’s also the fact that the centre, designed by architecture firms Ateliers 2/3/4/ and VenhoevenCS, will be the main architectural icon for a Summer Games that is actively trying not to build them.

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Source: Bloomberg
Image credit: Ateliers 2/3/4

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Eastland Forestry Awards: Celebrates its colleagues

Challenges the East Coast have faced in the past 18 months were reflected on, at an event acknowledging the forestry workforce. 

The Eastland Forestry Awards took place in Gisborne on Friday 24 May 2024, with 500 colleagues coming together. The audience were there to celebrate the nominees and winners put forward by their peers and their companies. Taking out the top gong was Curtis Hawkes, Hawkes Logging. Curtis came to the region from Northland with his family and led his crew on the extreme terrain of the East Coast.

MP Dana Kirkpatrick who presented the top award says: “Curtis is described as having shown nothing but a high level of professionalism and work ethic, in all aspects of the job. He was recognised as a true leader by example, not asking anything of anyone that they themselves will not do.” Curtis took away the Skilled Professional of the Year 2024 trophy and the Harvesting Excellence, Crew of the Year and Outstanding Health & Safety awards.

Total nominations for the Eastland Forestry Awards stood at 66, a record high for this region. In several categories, there were close runners up.

”There was a true sense of camaraderie and compassion amongst those that attended, but also a lot of reflection. It has been a difficult period for the industry, through Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle, so it was nice to come together to acknowledge our colleagues who have worked tirelessly and resiliently throughout this time,” Warren Rance Chair of EWC says.

Those in attendance also reflected on the support given to workers and their communities, voting on the GOOD DEED award on the night. This was eventually awarded to Pourau Incorporation & Kuru Contracting, joint winners. Pourau Incorporation (owned by the Potae family) and Kuru Contracting worked together to meet the needs of the coastal community as well as primary industry by building a bypass road between Hikuwai One and Hikuwai Three Bridge to reconnect the state highway following the loss of Hikuwai One Bridge after Cyclone Gabrielle. 

Tania Gibb, Ra Whakapono Logging took out the top prize for Woman in Forestry. Tania’s passion for ensuring the rights and safety of workers was described as truly inspiring in her nomination, and her significant impact on the local forestry community was acknowledged.

CEO for the Eastland Wood Council (EWC), Philip Hope was acknowledged for his unrelenting advocacy across the region with local and national government during his tenure at the helm. “The Eastland Forestry Awards evening was a true testament to outstanding role models and innovative initiatives and services that have seen the industry continue to operate and survive the last few years.

”We are grateful for our workforce who have continued through significant adversity this past 18 months, and we look forward to our future together as we continue to work hard for our East Coast community,” Rance adds.

Source: Eastland Forestry Awards

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Scientists map biodiversity changes in the world's forests

A comprehensive map of worldwide forest biodiversity has been created by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich. This data, combined with climate projections, can help guide conservation and restoration efforts

Forests cover approximately one-third of the Earth's land surface and provide numerous benefits, including raw materials, carbon sequestration, climate regulation, biodiversity conservation, and human well-being. Despite their importance, around 31% of tree species are threatened with extinction.

To address this, scientists have been working to understand which parts of the world are experiencing the most significant changes, which regions need the most protection, and which tree species are most resilient to local climate change impacts. 

The findings, published in Nature Communications, provide valuable insights for policymakers and planners, helping to shape sustainable forest management practices worldwide.

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Latest research in hardwood cross-laminated timber

The mass timber industry, renowned for its innovative laminated wood products and potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions, is growing in use for larger construction projects. However, its expansion in areas like Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with its abundance in hardwood trees, has been uncertain due to the reliance on softwood lumber for cross-laminated timber (CLT) production.

This could change with ongoing research at Michigan Technological University focused on developing new resins that enable hardwood utilisation in CLT manufacturing.

While the commercial availability of hardwood CLT remains unclear, Mark Rudnicki, director of the Hardwood Mass Timber Institute at Michigan Tech, emphasises that it should not be seen as competition for softwood. Instead, it represents a diversification of wood as a construction material, aiming to maximise the use of bio-based resources to replace carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel.

More >>

Source: Inside Climate News
Image credit: Hardwood Mass Timber Institute

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on… the wrong message

The wrong message

A new business is open and one of the owner’s friends wants to send him flowers for the occasion. They arrive at the business site and the owner reads the card: 'Rest in Peace.'

Understandably, the owner is angry and calls the florist to complain. After he tells the florist the obvious mistake and how angry he is, the florist replies, "Sir, I’m really sorry for the mistake, but rather than getting angry, you should imagine this. Somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a card saying, 'Congratulations on your new location.'"

And one more... the missing glasses

While on a road trip, an elderly couple stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. After finishing their meal, they left the restaurant, and resumed their trip.

When leaving, the woman unknowingly left her glasses on the table, and she didn't miss them until they had been driving for about forty minutes. By then, to add to the aggravation, they had to travel quite a distance before they could find a place to turn their motorhome around, in order to return to the restaurant to retrieve her glasses.

All the way back, the husband became the classic grouchy old man. He fussed and complained, and scolded his wife relentlessly during the entire return drive. The more he chided her, the more agitated he became. He just wouldn't let up for one minute

To her relief, they finally arrived at the restaurant.

As the woman got out of the motorhome, and hurried inside to retrieve her glasses, the man opened his window and yelled to her, "While you're in there, you might as well get my hat and the credit card."

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Ken Wilson
Editor, Friday Offcuts
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