Friday Offcuts – 2 May 2014

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New investment in forestry and wood products assets is the principal focus of today’s issue. Announcements were made this week on both a billion dollar sale of New Zealand pulp and paper mills to Japanese buyers and an agreement by Australia-based fund manager New Forests to acquire Gunns Tasmanian assets.

Part of the Carter Holt Harvey Empire is planned to be sold (just needing now Overseas Investment Office approval in New Zealand as well as the OK from the Australian regulators) to paper manufacturer Oji Holdings and Japanese Government backed investment fund, Innovation Network Corporation. The $1.037 billion sale, includes the Kinleith pulp and paper mill, Tasman pulp mill, Penrose paper mill, and the CHH Group packaging businesses in Australia and New Zealand. CHH’s building supplies business is still on the market.

Approvals are expected by officials in the next few months. The sale is one of the largest ever for this regions forestry industry. The message out there at the moment is that job losses aren’t expected from the sale with the new buyer already involved in pulp and paper manufacturing in New Zealand with interests in the Pan Pac Forest Products pulp and paper operation near Napier.

In Australia, New Forests has agreed to pick up approximately 100,000 hectares of timber plantations, in addition to two woodchip mills, the Somerset nursery, and a timber fibre technology laboratory at Ridgley from Gunns Ltd. The price hasn't been announced but it's reportedly around AU$330 million. The transaction, as expected, doesn’t include the permits or land associated with the Tamar Valley pulp mill project. Two major announcements that will change significantly the landscape of the Australasian forest products industry.

For technology updates this week we have a story on some recent Canadian research demonstrating that by folding down the stanchions on log trucks that the aerodynamic drag can be reduced by 28%, resulting in fuel savings of 14.6% (note, optimising wood transport efficiencies (scheduling, data exchange, production planning tools, innovations around trailer design, collaboration in regional wood flow operations....will be a key focus for the upcoming Wood Flow Logistics 2014 event running in mid-June in both New Zealand and Australia. Early bird registrations close next Friday)).

Finally, a brand new resource, this region's first combined Australian and New Zealand map detailing all major wood processing and manufacturing operations has also been just released this week. Further details on the content and where to get your own copy is contained in the story below.



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Billion dollar Japanese investment in Carter Holt Harvey

One of the largest single Japanese investments in the New Zealand economy is occurring with the sale of Carter Holt Harvey’s pulp and paper and packaging businesses for NZ$1.037 billion.

Tokyo Stock Exchange-listed packaging giant Oji Holdings Corp will take a 60 percent share of CHH’s PPP assets, comprising some of New Zealand’s largest industrial energy and forest products users, the Tasman and Kinleith pulp and paper mills, and a large Australasian packaging enterprise. Oji already owns the Pan Pac pulp and paper mill, near Napier.

Innovation Network Corp of Japan, a government-backed innovation agency that attracts private sector investment to “promote innovation and enhance the value of businesses in Japan”, makes up the remaining 40 percent joint venture vehicle that will make the investment. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to complete in the second half of this year.

CHH is 100 percent-owned by New Zealand’s only billionaire, Graeme Hart, owner of the world’s largest packaging business, US-based Reynolds Group, which is under pressure to reduce its outstanding US$18 billion issuing’s of junk-rated corporate bonds.

Hart had previously tried to sell the CHH PPP businesses in 2012 and was forced to refinance $1.45 billion in debt when no buyer emerged at the time.

CHH’s building supplies business remains for sale after taking combined charges in 2011 and 2012 of $393.8 million in impairments on its underperforming timber and plywood businesses and falling into negative equity.

The Oji/INCJ purchase will concentrate ownership in the sector because of Oji’s interest in Pan Pac. The only major players left in the sector will be the Scandinavian companies Norske Skog, which makes pulp and paper on the Kawerau site where CHH’s Tasman kraft pulp and paper mill also operates, and SCA, which makes tissue papers, also on the Tasman site. More >>.

More information about Oji can be found at www.ojiholdings.co.jp/english.


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New Forests to purchase Gunns Tasmanian assets

Australia-based fund manager New Forests announced on Tuesday that it has reached agreement to acquire Tasmanian land and forestry assets from Gunns Limited. The transaction will include approximately 100,000 hectares of timber plantations, in addition to two woodchip mills, the Somerset nursery, and a timber fibre technology laboratory at Ridgley. The transaction does not include the permits or land associated with the Tamar Valley pulp mill project.

The transaction is set to complete by 30 June 2014 or shortly thereafter. A new management company will be formed to manage the forestry portfolio and will employ existing Gunns Limited forestry staff. The management company will also take on future rights and obligations under existing contracts.

“We are enthusiastic about expanding our plantation forestry investment base in Tasmania,” said New Forests’ CEO David Brand. “We recognize that the industry has been through a difficult period with the high Australian dollar, failure of the MIS business model, and restructure of the hardwood woodchip markets in Asia. However, we believe that the industry is now recovering and has a bright future”.

“As an investor we want to be a positive force in the community, create an environment of stability where local business can gain confidence, and look to opportunities for innovation and business development. We also want to be part of the consensus around sustainable forestry, and will seek third party certification of all our operations.”

The plantations are spread across Tasmania, with a primary concentration of freehold land and plantations around the northwest of the state. More than 175,000 hectares of freehold land will be acquired, and the plantation base includes mostly Eucalyptus nitens with smaller amounts of Eucalyptus globules and Pinus radiata.

The acquisition will bring New Forests’ forestry estate to more than 500,000 hectares of plantation land and trees in Australia as well as the Timberlink Australia Pty Ltd sawmilling, sales, and distribution business.

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Southern Cross Forest receiver to close sawmill

The receiver for NZ company Southern Cross Forest Products plans to shut one of the failed wood processor’s sawmills and wind up the unprofitable Australian business as it continues to find a buyer for the business. Southern Cross Forest Products had three mills in the South Island and one in Thames, and today’s restructuring will result in 79 jobs being lost.

A fire at the company’s Mosgiel mill cut drying capacity, reducing capacity to process timber, KordaMentha’s Brendon Gibson said in a statement. To stabilise productivity across the group the receiver will close a sawmill at Rosebank, and Gibson said 79 jobs will be lost across South Cross Forest’s South Island sites. Thames, and today’s restructuring will result in 79 jobs being lost.

“It is no secret that the company has long struggled to secure sufficient log supplies to feed its South Island mills,” Gibson said in a statement. “That issue has continued to compromise trading in the receivership, but performance has now been further affected with fire damage at the Mosgiel mill.” Thames, and today’s restructuring will result in 79 jobs being lost.

Gibson said South Cross Forest’s unprofitable Australian business will also be wound down, and he is exploring options to realise the investment in that business. Thames, and today’s restructuring will result in 79 jobs being lost.

“Our focus remains on trying to sell Southern Cross Forest Products as a going concern,” Gibson said. “The restructuring in the South Island does not affect the Thames plants.” More >>.

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New forest products industry map for Australia and NZ



Previous maps detailing wood processing and manufacturing industries provided essential two-yearly updates for Australia and New Zealand. In total, six issues of the New Zealand and five issues of the Australian maps were produced by the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA).

With significant changes that have occurred recently in ownership, mill closures and the production of operations in both countries it was decided to combine the details of forest products companies onto the one 980mm wide x 680mm tall full colour map.

The first edition of the new map for both countries has just been produced. Over 160 wood processing operations including 74 sawmills (with production levels), all fibreboard, particleboard, plywood, pulp & paper, veneer/LVL/CLT, paperboard and chip export operations along with major wood manufacturing operations are detailed.

The new are the most up-to-date industry reference and will provide an essential resource for both the New Zealand and Australian forest products industries. Maps have been supplied to the advertisers for distribution to their own key customers or clients. Additional copies – either as a flat laminated copy for your office wall – or folded are still available from FIEA offices.

If wanting to obtain copies of the new maps, click on the above image for orders.

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Concentrating on log truck fuel consumption

FPInnovations, with funding from Natural Resources Canada, are carrying out research into reducing the aerodynamic drag of tractor-trailer combinations used for log haulage. Several concepts were investigated using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), with the most promising then being tested in the Laval University’s scaled-wind tunnel.

Folding down the stanchions of log trucks showed the most potential to reduce drag and therefore reduce fuel consumption. This was validated during a field test. By folding the stanchions down, aerodynamic drag could be reduced by 28%, which resulted in fuel savings of 14.6%. These savings translate into annual savings per truck of Canadian $ 3,400 and greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 8 tonnes per trailer.

Transportation efficiencies – from trailer design, truck scheduling and roading around larger truck configurations are all part of the upcoming Wood Flow Logistics 2014 event being planned for forestry, harvesting and wood transport companies in mid-June (11-12 June, Rotorua, New Zealand and 17-18 June, Melbourne, Australia). This biennial event is already filling up fast so if looking to register, check out the programme and registration details on w.woodflowlogistics.com.

NOTE. Discounted early-bird registrations CLOSE next Friday.

Source: www.fpinnovations.ca and Logging On

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Doubling forest productivity sustainably

A multi-disciplinary team of scientists at Scion and other research organisations is embarking on a six year research programme aimed at raising the profitability of current and future commercial forestry.

The programme is a joint initiative between Scion, New Zealand’s forest growing industry and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that will combine world leading technology with an in-depth knowledge of plant growth sciences to improve the value of forestry through sustainable intensification. The Ministry has allocated NZ$3.375 million a year funding to the project with a further NZ$1.6 million a year commitment from forest growers.

“This is one of the most significant initiatives undertaken by the sector,” says Russell Dale, recently appointed Research and Development Manager for the New Zealand Forest Owners’ Association. “It is focused on improving the value of existing forests and doubling the productivity of future forests”.

Doubling productivity will require precision forestry, integrating the latest advances in sensor technology, tree physiology, genetics and forest ecology, and vitally, working closely with industry to solve problems. The research programme targets where improvements can be made throughout the forest growing cycle for both current and future forests that will boost productivity under intensified management regimes, while maintaining wood quality and the quality of the environment.

“The forests that will provide timber and wood fibre for the next 15 years are already growing,” says Scion Science Leader Dr Peter Clinton. “We are therefore targeting mid-rotation treatments to increase tree growth and considering options to realise more value from the logs harvested, while learning more about these trees in order to create better forests in the future.”

Source: Scion Connections, www.scionresearch.com/




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New Zealand Log Prices - April 2014

High inventories in China have brought an expectation that prices will correct downwards soon, though the size of the correction will be hard to judge. There has been a build-up of volume to more than 4 million tonnes on ports, thanks to imports in February reaching nearly 900,000m³ more than February last year and a slow return from the Chinese New Year for saw milling. This has been reduced slightly with high consumption levels lately though. Throughout the past year there has been significant pressure on prices as port inventories had been kept very low but with big stocks on hand now the pricing pressure is off.

Changes in foreign exchange rates and shipping prices have lowered average returns at the wharf gate in April. Though there have just been minor changes in price, in-market the combined effects of that change, the foreign exchange and shipping costs have lowered wharf gate prices by NZ$5-$8/t for log exports. The average price for A-grade logs at Tauranga dropped to NZ$118/tonne from NZ$126/t last month. There have also been large drops in pruned log prices at the wharf gate, with Tauranga average prices dropping NZ$10/t to NZ$141/t.

Structural log prices in New Zealand’s domestic market have increased by NZ$5-$6/t for the average this month. Some regions in the North Island have had average increases of up to NZ$9/t. Prices being fixed this quarter had a large increase to catch-up with the market that had become very competitive. Price increases for structural and framing timber have led to very high demand for high quality structural logs. Average prices are now at NZ$116-$119 in the North Island and NZ$112-$115 in the South Island.

This put prices at their highest levels since October 1994. High demand has also resulted in a NZ$2/t increase to pruned log prices in the Central North Island area. Utility grade prices have increased along with the at-wharf-gate prices which has brought them up above record levels too. Some buyers are negotiating monthly prices in order to retain supply as the export market has risen so quickly within the quarter. With wharf-gate returns dropping this month, and further corrections in China’s market likely, there should be easing prices on the horizon for these logs types.

There has been a 2.1 point drop in the Agrifax Log Price Indicator this month, as a higher NZ dollar and increased shipping prices have dropped at-wharf-gate prices for log exports. In-market prices have held steady at near to record prices, but there’s likely to be a downward correction of unknown size soon. High inventories in China have led to a big easing of pressure on prices, and US log prices have already moved down. A price correction of US$10-$15/JAS seems possible, but a correction that size is likely to bring supply down very quickly.

Structural log prices have had a catch-up of $5-$6/t on average for this quarter. There has been very high demand for structural and framing timber as building activity is increasing rapidly in NZ. This has led to record high prices for structural logs which are at up to NZ$119/t in the North Island, which is the highest they have been since October 1994.

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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Chinese demand is transforming Tasmania's blue gum industry

Years of controversy, division and failed managed investment schemes have finally turned to prosperity for the Tasmanian blue gum industry in SA’s Southeast, as export demand for woodchips rises rapidly reports the Advertiser.

Boosted by heavy Chinese buying, the harvesting of blue gums in the Green Triangle region of South Australia and Victoria has increased revenue from AU$75 million in 2012 to about AU$170 million last year, rising to an estimated AU$250 million this year.

The whole community is benefiting as jobs rise rapidly in harvesting and hauling companies, at fuel suppliers, mechanics and tyre suppliers, as they benefit from the rising fortunes of the industry.

Behind the rapid growth is demand from China to make fine writing, copy and tissue paper, to create rayon for nylon shirts and cellophane wrapping paper, and to produce high-quality cardboard for perfume and cigarette boxes.

Green Triangle Regional Plantation Committee chairman Laurie Hein said the Tasmanian blue gum industry has been transformed from doom and gloom to a vibrant forestry sector, creating jobs and a rising sense of optimism.

He said the need for harvest contractors, freight companies and other service providers along the whole supply chain has risen strongly in the past year as the level of harvesting has grown substantially to meet the Chinese demand.

“The resurgence in both the hardwood and softwood sectors has seen a migration of contractors from Tasmania and the mainland to the Green Triangle in the past year, which has been good for the region after a prolonged period of extremely challenging market conditions.”

The biggest bluegum producer and exporter is Australian Bluegum Plantations. Its managing director, Tony Price, said the industry was looking much brighter than before the market turned. “Back in 2011 we had two or three contracting companies working for us and now we have about 13,” he said.

Mr Price said the harvest had risen from an estimated 900,000 tonnes in 2012 to about 2 million tonnes in 2013 and potentially 3 million tonnes this year, as demand from China expanded rapidly.

Source: The Advertiser

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New Zealand productivity still lags

New Zealand's productivity is getting better but it still lags behind other OECD countries. A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says New Zealand still has a large productivity gap (27 per cent) to other OECD countries because of a lack of investment in "knowledge-based capital" and international connections.

It says New Zealand's policy settings should generate gross domestic product per capita 20 per cent above the OECD average, but we are actually more than 20 per cent below average. This affects New Zealanders' income and wellbeing and comes in spite of the economic upswing.

The report, released by the Productivity Commission, said it wasn't easy uncovering the root cause of the country’s productivity gap. Investment in physical assets and years spent in education are roughly the same as other countries covered in the report and having relatively high numbers of unemployed and low-skilled workers employed also didn't explain the country's underperformance.

Instead the OECD work finds the gap reflects weakness in knowledge-based capital which has become increasingly important in driving productivity gains in the digital age. Knowledge-based capital ranges from things like product design, inter-firm networks, research and development, and organisational know-how. While New Zealand ranks well in software investment and trademarks, the amount of R&D undertaken by the private sector is among the lowest in the OECD.

This reduces the capacity for frontier innovation and businesses' ability to absorb new ideas - the technological catch-up. Cross-country surveys also show the quality of management is below average in New Zealand, which lowers productivity gains from new technology.

Options of harnessing new mobile communications technologies is a focus for this year’s MobileTECH 2014 series that is scheduled to run in New Zealand on 12-13 August (as well as Australia for the first time the week before, on 5-6 August). Last year’s inaugural event that ran in Wellington SOLD OUT. This year’s event will be showcasing a wide range of mobile technologies and innovations, including; smartphones, tablets, mobile apps, satellite mapping and communications, robotics, aerial drones, remote sensors, electronic tagging, intelligent data, M2M, real-time analytics and cloud-based platforms.

The focus is on this region’s primary industries – and improving communication from those developing and at the forefront in adopting and using these new technologies. Further information on this new technology series can be found on www.mobiletech2014.com .

Source: Stuff




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Poyry provides alternative view to FIMO 2014 delegates

At FIEA’s thought-provoking Forest Investment & Market Outlook 2014(FIMO) conference series earlier this month, Brian Johnson from Pöyry, Auckland and Dr George Goroyias who leads Pöyry’s Asia Pacific Wood Products business put forward an interesting slant on the opportunities for the NZ wood processing industry.

Johnson says “Pöyry’s view is that the NZ wood processing sector could capture a competitive position in the Asia Pacific region by adopting an alternative operating model. The high expected growth of lumber and panel demand in China in particular, provides a major opportunity for NZ to capture additional value from processing.”

Pöyry’s view on the expected reversal of MDF trade flows (China becoming a net importer within 3-5 years) creates the business environment for NZ to develop the right operating models to capture the lumber and panel opportunity.

Whilst Chinese sawmills currently have the highest wood paying capability globally, it was highlighted that horizontal and vertical integration models can lead to higher returns on investment domestically. Although scale is very important for competitiveness in panels, Pöyry clarified that for sawmilling scale is only part of the answer.

The Oceania wood processing sector is constrained by the size of the local structural lumber markets. Therefore, the traditional operating model is not the answer for expanding the domestic processing of logs. Pöyry believes that what has to be developed is a non-structural based technical concept combined with integrated residue using processes on a common site.

Johnson added, “This could be further enhanced by clustering these operations around geothermal sites as suggested by Scion“.

Pöyry believes that a number of benefits will arise from reducing supply chain costs, capturing economies of scale and additional downstream margins. The integrated model is well proven in Europe with highly integrated mega-sites clustered around furniture and sawmilling. For this model to work, scale must be matched to the concentration of resource within an economic radius as has been done in Latin American, where forest plantations are developed in conjunction with a specific processing cluster.

Because of the New Zealand forest ownership structure, the European model is seen as a starting point for developing a customised NZ industry model. This model would also provide the opportunity to develop high value added technologies (biotechnologies, biochemical) around the traditional processing operations.

Pöyry believes that only through this new approach can New Zealand improve Radiata pines position in the value spectrum and create additional value for all domestic stakeholders.

Source: Pöyry (Poyry Management Consulting (NZ) Ltd

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NZ forestry apprenticeships available again

Competenz is pleased to advise that enrolment into our forestry apprenticeships are now available again following a brief hiatus as we aligned our apprenticeship programmes with the new national apprentice funding rules announced by the government last year.

As part of Government reforms to industry training, the Modern Apprenticeships programme and other apprenticeship-type training programmes were replaced by a single nationwide scheme called New Zealand Apprenticeships. This came into effect on 1 January 2014.

The key change as it applies to forestry apprenticeships is that there are now no age restrictions. i.e a worker can enter an apprenticeship at any age. This means that older people with previous forestry experience can be enrolled as apprentices.

Each Competenz forestry apprenticeship (listed below) can now be undertaken over a normal duration (the average expected duration period for novice apprenticeships is around four years) or under a “fast-tracked” shorter duration timeframe for those workers with previous experience.

Silviculture

The updated New Zealand Apprenticeship rules also specified a higher threshold for achievement to a Level 4 qualification. As a result, Competenz has reluctantly withdrawn its Silviculture apprenticeships as the programme was not able to meet the new criteria. However, Competenz still offers training support for Silviculture via enrolment in the normal National Certificate programs.

Harvesting

Currently there are restrictions that prevent Competenz from signing trainees into more than one National Certificate program at any one time. Our New Zealand apprenticeship programme allows the achievement of level 3 and level 4 qualifications in multiple tasks recognising that many harvesting workers carry out more than one role within a crew.

Competenz is also pleased to confirm that applications are still being accepted for the government’s Apprenticeship “Reboot” subsidy initiative. To lift participation in apprenticeships, new forestry apprentices and employers who are signed up before 30 June 2014 will be able to apply for a $1,000 subsidy each towards the cost of tools and off-job course costs.

To be eligible apprentices must have signed a new industry training agreement commencing between 6 March 2013 and 30 June 2014 and have been actively training for at least 90 days. (NB other eligibility criteria apply).

With the current pricing of a forestry apprenticeship ranging between $1,800 and $2,200 (depending on which apprenticeship programme chosen) we are encouraging our clients and apprentices to take advantage of the scheme while it still exists.

For more information please contact your local Forestry Account Manager or phone 0800 5261800 and select “Forestry”.

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Export log market update

NZ log exports

Export volumes in February were a February record, with 1.4 million m³ exported. Volumes were up on February last year by 16%. Logs exported to China were up by 21% year-on-year for February. Exports to Korea were steady at 150,000m³ and exports to India rose to 133,000m³.

Exports from Canterbury are still increasing, due to the wind throw from last year’s storms being exported. Exports from Lyttleton and Timaru during the past six months are up by 72% on the six months previous. This is an increase of 284,000t compared to the same period the year previous, more than double. There’s been just under 560,000m³, an unknown proportion of which is the wind throw, exported from Canterbury since the storm, and there were estimates of up to 1 million m³ on the ground after the storm, but the real figure could be a lot higher.

Some of this will have been absorbed by the domestic market, but there will still be a lot to be exported in the next six months if it is to reach the market before it is too deteriorated. To put this in perspective to the rest of NZ’s exports though, there were 500,000m³ of logs exported from Tauranga during February alone.

China

The volume of softwood logs imported by China during February, as expected, was the highest ever for the month of February. There was just less than 900,000m³ more imported than in February last year, a 63% increase, which has led to rising inventories. From the Pacific North West, Russia and NZ there was a 50% increase in supply of logs year-on-year, and from elsewhere there was a 218% increase. Lumber volumes imported by China are well down, to the lowest volume imported since February 2010.

China’s newly built house price index dropped to 8.7% year-on-year in February from a record high of 9.9% in December. China’s annual GDP growth has slid back to 7.4% but it is a very controlled move, and it hasn’t affected business confidence, which increased to its highest point since the third quarter of 2011.

Pacific North West

US log exports to China have been steady through the start of the year, but there was a decline in volume exported from Canada. There has also been a decline in Canada’s lumber exports to China, but there has been steady volumes exported to the US. Cold weather and a lack of access to rail has meant that inventories have been growing at Canadian mills. This has meant price decreases in order to shift lumber. Canadian western mills SPF lumber has dropped 10% since February and there has been more volume transported to the US by road, rather than exported as there is less rail capacity to take lumber to the ports.

Source: www.nzxagri.co.nz/agrifax


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Folding paper microscope could reduce deaths from malaria

According to the World Health Organization, there were approximately 207 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2012, 627,000 of which proved fatal. Unfortunately, the disease most often occurs in developing nations, where diagnostic equipment may not be available. This means that doctors can't determine the particular strain of malaria from which a patient is suffering, and thus don't know which medication will work best. Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the Stanford School of Medicine, hopes to change that ... using his disposable folding paper microscope.

Known as the Foldscope, the device can be assembled on site by the user in just a few minutes, from flat-packed components. It's made almost entirely of cardstock paper, with the exception of its poppy seed-sized spherical lens. The lenses are in fact actually a type of abrasive grit, used to round off the rough edges of metal parts.

Materials-wise, each microscope is worth about 50 cents. Using them is fairly simple – as Stanford describes it:

"A sample is mounted on a microscope slide and wedged between the paper layers of the microscope. With a thumb and forefinger grasping each end of the layered paper strip, a user holds the micro-lens close enough to one eye that eyebrows touch the paper. Focusing and locating a target object are achieved by flexing and sliding the paper platform with the thumb and fingers. Because of the unique optical physics of a spherical lens held close to the eye, samples can be magnified up to 2,000 times."

Additionally, stains can be added to samples to detect specific organisms, plus a watch battery-powered LED can be added to project images onto a wall.

Not only is the Foldscope dirt cheap and user-friendly, but it's also very rugged, and can simply be incinerated (along with the biological sample in it) after one use. Along with its use in diagnosing blood-borne diseases such as malaria, Prakash hopes that it could also be utilized in educational programs, to inspire children to become scientists.

The Foldscope can be seen in use in the video below.



Source: Gizmag.com



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NZ building consents at 6-year high

Housing consents in New Zealand hit a six-year high in March, but while construction in Canterbury is steaming away, economists say Auckland is still under-building. Overall residential consents including apartments were up 8.3 per cent on the previous month.

Excluding apartments, dwelling consents were up a more muted 1.3 per cent, although that was still 24 per cent higher than in March last year. Some 1813 houses were given approval, the highest monthly tally since November 2007.

Economists put the rise in consents down to a seasonal lift, helped along by the apartment market which had been a little soft recently. ASB economist Christine Leung said if the volatile apartment market was excluded, dwelling consents had "actually been holding up pretty well".

Source: Fairfax NZ News

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NZ Forest Safety Review needs to find answers

The Combined Trade Unions is to be praised for making health and safety the focus of this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day, say New Zealand forest owners and contractors.

“The loss of forest workers through death and injury is a tragedy for everyone involved, most particularly for the victims, their families, friends and workmates. No job is worth dying for, so it is important that we look for any lessons that can be learned from these tragedies,” says Forest Owners Association president Paul Nicholls.

“This is the role of the Independent Safety Review and the Coroners Court hearings now underway. They need to go beneath the emotion and the loss and take a hard look at the evidence to find out where the industry and individuals are going wrong ... to find out how we can all do things better.”

He says the CTU is strongly advocating solutions to the accident toll, including stricter regulation of work practices. Jacob Kajavala, President of the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA), says “Forest owners and contractors also have views on what is needed but this is not the time for us or the CTU to be arguing our preferred policies in the public domain. That is why we are having a review”.

“Forest owners, contractors and the CTU have all agreed on the terms of reference and membership of the review. It’s now up to all of us to provide the review with solid evidence, so it can make robust recommendations”.

“If the CTU has strong evidence to support the policies they are advocating, we urge them to present it to the review. If there is evidence that accidents are occurring because workers are over-worked, under-paid and exhausted, as the CTU claims, this also belongs with the review.”

Mr Nicholls says that the Forest Owners Association is not sitting on its hands waiting for the review and the Coroners Court to present their findings. Programmes currently being developed or underway include tree-falling and breaking-out certification, safety culture workshops, contractor certification and small business guides.

“ACC and MBIE support is needed to get these off the ground – support which now appears to be forthcoming.”

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The smell of forest pine can limit climate change

The fresh scent of pine trees has a significant impact on climate change. New research suggests a strong link between the powerful smell of pine trees and climate change. Scientists say they've found a mechanism by which these scented vapours turn into aerosols above boreal forests. These particles promote cooling by reflecting sunlight back into space and helping clouds to form.

The research, published in the journal Nature, fills in a major gap in our understanding, researchers say. One of the biggest holes in scientific knowledge about climate change relates to the scale of the impact of atmospheric aerosols on temperatures.

Continue reading the main story.
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Wood quality - is it still relevant?

Forest managers and wood processors want to realise the greatest value from their resource by getting the balance between quality and volume correct. There is an old adage that you can’t manage for both maximum value and maximum volume at the same time. However, current market conditions only allow small premiums for higher quality logs.

Managing for maximum value can be achieved by managing for maximum volume – with implications for wood quality. But will this always be the case and what are the implications of increased productivity on wood quality? Both forest growers and wood processors want to improve both quality and uniformity, but what does this mean and how might we achieve it.

Scion has organised two workshops in New Zealand to give participants a better understanding of how wood properties develop over time, how stands respond to silvicultural treatments, and what quality variation means to wood processors. The workshops run in Christchurch on 7 May and again in Rotorua on 14 May. For more information contact john.moore@scionresearch.com

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Jobs



Buy and Sell



...and one to end the week on...in Arabic

A new fuel tanker arrives on location in Qatar. The newly appointed American manager tells the Qatari supervisor to ensure that the tanker is clearly labelled,

Diesel Fuel in Arabic and No Smoking in Arabic.

This is what he got ...

This apparently is for real !!!! Classic!!!!




And on that note, have a great weekend. For the Kiwis heading out to the opening of duck shooting this weekend, hot barrels and lets be careful out there. 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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