Friday Offcuts – 31 August 2018

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We’ve included this week articles drawn from several recent reports. The first, which has gained quite a bit of traction out in the regions, relates to some modelling work undertaken by Scion. They’re projecting what climate change could mean for New Zealand’s plantation forests. The pluses are anticipated productivity gains from the forest estate along with an increased update of carbon dioxide, and the negatives, they’re predicting that the extreme fire risk is likely to double by the end of the century with the average fire season length increasing by about 70 per cent up to 2040, and by about 80 per cent up to 2090.

The health and wellbeing of workers was a key issue addressed at the recent FIEA WoodFlow and Forest Safety series that ran for forestry and wood transport companies over the last few months. It’s also the focus of a recent study using data collected over a 12-year period by Monash University. From it they’ve found that the country’s truck drivers are at a higher risk of illness, psychological stress and other injuries than any other occupation. In fact, research showed that truck driving is one of the unhealthiest and deadliest jobs in the country with a 13 times higher risk of dying at work than other Australians. Details and discussion on the findings are included in the story below. The next steps obviously are to work alongside the industry to develop programmes to improve driver health.

Congratulations this week go out to a group of like-minded individuals who are doing something positive about meeting the skills shortages in their region. The Generation Programme has started as a pilot on the East Coast of New Zealand. It brings together all key stakeholders and will be putting through young trainees on a six-week induction course. It's going to be followed up by a ‘learn while you earn’ work programme planned with local forestry contractors and will be complemented with part time courses. The objective is to produce 12 graduates in the first year, 30 in the second and 60 in the third. Details on this new initiative are outlined below.

The message from building design and construction professionals that gathered in New Zealand this week for the "Changing Perceptions of Engineered Wood for Commercial Construction" was likewise upbeat with local wood producers being the beneficiaries. For the first time in 3 years, the Innovatek event focused on case studies of engineered wood buildings by New Zealanders, for New Zealanders. Australia have led the way in this space but the tide is turning on the other side of the Tasman as well. The use and subsequent demand for use of wood commercial buildings is now clearly on the rise.

Finally, we’ve added a high-tech story with a local twist. Tomorrow in Berlin, LG will be unveiling their "wearable robot" exoskeleton designed to help workers take a load off their feet. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. Think again. Think about manufacturing or where workers are lifting heavy items (like timber). Locally, wood manufacturers are going to get an insight from one of the world leaders in designing and manufacturing these robotic exoskeletons into just where this new technology is heading. He’ll feature in the upcoming WoodTECH 2018 series with the first leg of the series running in Australia in just over a week. Close to 300 have already registered for the series. Late registrations are still being taken. That’s all for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.

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New local training initiative a ‘win-win’ for all

The local forest industry is another step closer to a more sustainable flow of trained workers with the imminent start of the Generation Programme planned for the East Coast of New Zealand.

Siobhain Fyall has just been appointed Programme Manager. The first course is set to start on 15 October, with another following in late April 2019. Participants will spent six weeks at a forestry base camp industry introduction programme followed by ‘learn while you earn’ work out with contractors complemented with part time courses through EIT Tairawhiti, Turanga Ararau and Competenz. All the while students will receive pastoral care from First Choice Employment.

The new programme is set to produce 12 graduates in the first year, 30 in the second and 60 in the third. Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland says the programme is a real collaboration between the region’s key stakeholders that ensures trainees are qualified through a real-world introduction to the different sectors within the industry.

“It’s a multi-stakeholder approach with industry and training providers working together to ensure that the training meets industry’s skills needs,” says Ms Holland. “We all want to make sure the programme succeeds and I believe by doing this it will better prepare the young people and increase the uptake by contractors as they will have more confidence in the abilities of the young people to do the work.”

The programme was launched in April with a NZ$220,000 boost as the first initiative to benefit through the Government’s He Poutama Rangatahi Employment Scheme and the Ministry of Social Development. Base camp trainees will work towards a New Zealand Certificate in Foundation Forestry Skills Level 2, which will then pathway into level 3 qualifications, with on the job training pathways across forestry and harvesting options. Very early on, trainees will get an industry introduction to careers with the ability to talk to people who are working in forestry.

“The base camp will ensure the trainees have the general requirements, including health and safety, site visits, practical skills learning and talking to people in the industry who are keen to share their passion for the work they do.” Ms Holland says it was a new way of preparing the workforce that would ensure they are ready to work from day one.

Once trainees have completed base camp, they head out onto placement with contractors and companies from across the industry, including silviculture, harvesting, operations, transport and logistics. “This is an exciting opportunity to give our young people a clear picture of the range of career and training opportunities across the forestry sector while experiencing it for themselves.”

Contractors Robert Stubbs and Wayne McEwan, Eastland Wood Council members, have both been involved with the establishment of the programme and are looking forward to trainees joining their crews. Mr McEwan, a director of Black Stump Logging, has been in the industry for 24 years. It’s a lifestyle he loves and is keen to encourage other contractors to embrace the programme to bring more on board.

Mr Stubbs is rapt to see the new programme targeting high school leavers and enlightening them to the possibilities a career in forestry can offer. He has been in the industry for 25 years and is the owner of Stubbs Contracting, a company he established 16 years ago.

“We want to ensure people understand the career path that is available, so when they are making those decisions in the last year of school, they can do so with the right information in front of them. So much now is about internal training and education that can be done within the industry as they progress through a working career.” Key for both men is people who want to work, have good attitudes, an openness to learn and are reliable.

First Choice Employment director Tony Murrell says the programme is an example of industry taking ownership of its own potential employee recruitment, training and development needs. “Added to this is the clear messaging of the diversity and longevity of employment on offer, and opportunities for potential participants to gain a better insight into the ‘Big Picture’ and with it, realistic aspirations of the industry,” says Mr Murrell.

EIT are putting considerable effort into ensuring the best possible chance of success for the pilot programme. “We want to make sure that on top of all the other support that is provided, that we have set the students up so they have clear career pathways and that they are confident and knowledgeable about where they want to go in the industry,” says EIT campus director Jan Mogford. EIT are working alongside Competenz to ensure the method around the career pathways is clear and consistent.

“We haven’t seen such a combined effort like this before, that brings all the big players together.” She praised the programme that was not just a collaboration between providers and contractors, but also one that provided a safe and secure environment for young people to participate and learn about forestry. “It is a win-win for the students, community and forestry industry.” The Generation Programme provides a direct pipeline of work ready, skilled and trained people into employment in the forest industry.

Source: Eastland Wood Council

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Opportunities for the AI-controlled exoskeleton

At the IFA in Berlin this week, LG is set to unveil a "wearable robot" exoskeleton designed to help workers take the load off their legs. LG has been pushing the robot angle hard lately. Last year the electronics company released robots to help out at home and in public places like airports, and earlier this year it followed up with the CLOi lineup to serve visitors in hotels and supermarkets.

The new lower-body exoskeleton also bears the CLOi brand. The LG CLOi SuitBot consists of a pair of robotic legs that a user can step into to augment their own, making it easier to stand, walk and work. The aim is to reduce physical strain and risk of injury for people who are on their feet all day at work.

The SuitBot has sandal-style shoes designed to be easy to slide your own feet into, and will automatically adjust to individual users. LG says it's comfortable and has joints that rotate in a natural way. It's also packed with artificial intelligence to let it learn and get better at its job over time, by analyzing data from the user and the environment. Taking that into account, the SuitBot can apparently suggest the best movements and stances.

Of course, it's not the first example of this type of technology we've seen. Honda has been err, treading the exoskeleton path for some years, while California startup suitX has a non-motorized exoskeleton called MAX for industry use, as well as the modular Phoenix designed to restore mobility to people with disability. Companies like Lockheed Martin have also been tinkering with supportive devices for soldiers.

For local wood processors or manufacturers, the good news is you don’t have to be at the Berlin show this week. In just two weeks’ time, local companies who will be attending the upcoming WoodTECH 2018 series, will hear from Dr. Kazerooni, the founder and CEO of US Bionics and SuitX, the California-based robotics company which designs and manufactures medical and industrial exoskeletons.

Dr Kazerooni is also a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley and director of the Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory. In 2005 Dr. Kazerooni also founded Ekso Bionics, which brought to the market his lab’s earlier exoskeleton products.

Dr. Kazerooni has won numerous awards, including Discover Magazine’s Technological Innovation Award and New York Times most innovative technology of the year. He is an internationally recognized authority on robotics and world leader in exoskeletons.

Local wood manufacturers for the first time will get a unique look into the options for harnessing exoskeletons for their workforce. Already close to 300 have registered for the upcoming WoodTECH 2018 series. Late registrations can still be made on the event website,

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Calls Vic timber industry overhaul

Victorian sawmillers are calling for an overhaul of the state's timber industry, removing a reliance on native forests in favour of state-owned plantations. Five companies from the state's east and north east have written an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews, pushing for changes they say are necessary for the AU$7.3 billion industry's future.

These include a transition to plantation-supplied timber by 2040 and the abolition of clear-fell logging of native forests coups larger than 20 hectares. Government investment to make mills more efficient, the legislation of timber supply arrangements, improved standards, assistance for worker re-skilling and relocation, and exit packages for businesses and contractors are also part of the proposal.

"We need surety from the government that funds will be available to the industry so that we can invest in new equipment to accommodate for both native and plantation supplies," a spokesperson for the group said in a statement last week.

The letter from Fenning Timbers, Ryan and McNulty, Dindi Sawmill, A.G. Brown Sawmill and Kelly's Timber Pty Ltd of Wesburn comes after more than 2,000 people signed a petition over concerns of dwindling supplies and insufficient government protection. A government spokesman said they support a strong, viable and sustainable forestry industry and will consider the proposal.


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Swire Shipping pulling out of Tasmania

The operator of southern Tasmania's only direct freight service has announced it is pulling out of the state in two weeks, forcing customers to transport goods to northern ports by road or rail. Singapore-based company Swire Shipping has been operating out of Hobart every nine days since 2015, but are stopping the service due to charter and bunker costs making the service "commercially unviable".

The end of the service is expected to seriously affect the forestry sector, with one industry leader saying "a number of communities would be holding their collective breath knowing this will have a significant impact".

Chief executive of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Michael Bailey said the biggest loser from the move was the southern Tasmanian forest industry, which had been using Swire's service to export to international markets.

"We know that for our Southern forest industries, this is a really important way of getting their residues into a profitable market, so this is a problem," he said. "There's really no other option but for the southern industries to freight their products now north. We know the impact that has on their bottom line, and that's going to be a problem for them."

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Craig Jones said the decision would be "a problem for the Swire's customers who are using that and then also the customers for the wood overseas". Mr Jones said the Tasmanian timber industry was sustainable into the future, but was in need of proper coordination. "It's another illustration of the issue around residues in the southern forestry estate. Unless we find a manageable solution for that, it's always going to be difficult," he said.

A State Government spokesperson said logs could still be exported from Hobart through bulk shipments, and the loss of Swire would only affect containerised shipping. She said the Government would work with Swire customers to discuss the impact and alternative freight solutions and had engaged Evan Rolley to examine all forest residue options as a priority.

But Labor's shadow minister David O'Byrne said forestry companies that relied on the Swire service to ship their product to Melbourne would be significantly affected. "It will mean they have significant extra costs to get their product to the northern ports or they'll need to seek another exporter to move their products," he said.

Source: ABC News

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Extreme fire risk in NZ may double

A warming New Zealand could help its plantation forests grow - but not without extreme fire risk almost doubling by the end of the century. Scion researchers have modelled what climate change will mean for the country's plantation forests, taking into account everything from growth gains to risk from pests, disease and wind.

The modelling suggested changing climatic conditions - notably higher temperatures and changes in rainfall - would bring little gains in productivity for our main commercial forest species, radiata pine.

But when the photosynthetic effects from increasing carbon dioxide were factored in, the researchers estimated productivity gains of around 10 per cent by 2040, and double that by 2090.

The study's lead author, Dr Michael Watt, said there were some other positives that emerged from the projections. More growth would mean greater uptake of CO2 which could further offset New Zealand's carbon emissions.

Further, two key pine needle diseases that were modelled - dothistroma and cyclaneusma - didn't appear to become more damaging under climate change. But Watt said the increased productivity would bring marked increases in wind risk, due to trees becoming taller and more slender.

Further, the average season length with "very high and extreme" climatic fire risk could almost double under climate change by 2090.

Projections of the annual frequency of Very High and Extreme forest fire danger over the fire season months. Source / Scion

Rural fires already wreak enough damage to cost the economy around $67 million each year, although they generally tended to be smaller, and not on the scale of monster blazes seen in dry places like Australia that roll through thousands of hectares of land.

Under projected scenarios, which assumed several degrees of average temperature increase and stronger, more frequent westerly winds, firefighters could face not just more and larger fires, but those with extreme characteristics that can threaten crews.

Scion senior scientist Grant Pearce found that almost all areas of the country would see an increase in fire danger, with the average fire season length increasing by about 70 per cent up to 2040, and by about 80 per cent up to 2090.

Although the most fire prone regions of Gisborne, Marlborough and Canterbury would remain the most at risk, the relative increase in risk was highest in Wellington and coastal Otago, where it could double and triple to 30 days and 20 days per season, respectively.

The new study found a further risk of damage from insects, Watt said. "We don't currently have any damaging insects with New Zealand plantations, but population levels and resulting damage are likely to increase in the future as warmer temperatures accelerate insect development."

Watt expected the new findings would prove helpful to forest managers in planning for the future.


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New partnership tackles timber cladding research

A new pilot program has been launched by Weathertex and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to understand the chemical changes that take place during the production of external timber cladding. A collaboration between industry and academia, the intended outcome of the program is to identify a way of enhancing the commercial value of plant materials through their structure.

Executive Chairman of Weathertex Paul Michael said the company initially became interested in the work of QUT upon discovering an R&D project they were undertaking. This project investigated the utilisation of steam explosion of wood to create pig feed liquor and the resultant waste of biomass fibre.

“Weathertex uses steam explosion of wood to create a biomass fibre, resulting in a by-product of steam liquor that is currently treated as a waste product and thrown away. I contacted Dr Mark Harrison at QUT to talk about this further, as the synergies were obvious and exciting.

“Not only are we investigating commercial uses for the waste liquor created during our process, but also a synthetic substitute for one of the three key (and increasingly difficult to source) ingredients that make up Weathertex products. This is an incredibly valuable and exciting collaboration between industry and academia,” Mr Michael said.

Dr Mark Harrison of QUT is leading the research team’s project that uses thermochemical processes to modify the structure of plant materials and enhance their commercial value.

The team is applying the techniques developed in a current Rural R&D for Profit project to understand the effect of specific timber feedstocks on the quality and physical properties of the timber cladding produced by Weathertex, a member of the FWPA Bioenergy and Biomaterials interest group.

Dr Harrison explained QUT began engaging with Weathertex as a result of a webinar organised for the FWPA Bioenergy and Biomaterials interest group. “We have been in frequent contact with them ever since and, following a site visit earlier this year, we are integrating this pilot study as part of the Rural R&D for Profit project A Profitable Future for Australian Agriculture: Biorefineries for Higher-Value Animal Feeds, Chemicals, and Fuels.

“Both QUT and Weathertex are confident the results obtained from these pilot studies will underpin a longer-term research and development collaboration,” Dr Harrison said.

This pilot project is being supported by Sugar Research Australia. It has been made possible through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program. This project is a collaboration between several R&D Corporations including FWPA.

Source: FWPA R&D Works

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New WoodChat episode launched

Launched this week, the latest episode in the Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) series of WoodChat podcasts explores the new research centre aiming to put Australia at the forefront of global best practice.

In the latest episode, the hosts Sam and Victoria meet with distinguished international academic and leading industry figure, Professor Jeff Morrell of Oregon State University. They discuss, amongst other things, his recent appointment as Director of Australia’s National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life, and what the Centre will achieve for the industry both in Australia and internationally.

Episode 3 of WoodChat comes hot on the heels of topics such as biophilic design and how wood in the workplace can increase worker satisfaction and productivity, and a revolutionary new tool which predicts how climate will impact growing conditions at specific sites around Australia in the future.

And make sure you stay tuned! Future topics will explore modern technologies such as drones in forest management and the environmental benefits of timber as a construction material. The WoodChat series represents FWPA’s commitment to exploring new ways of communicating industry news and innovations. Each episode in the series includes in-depth conversations with experts on recent discoveries and innovations.

You can listen to the first three episodes of WoodChat now on SoundCloud at or through iTunes

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Record maiden flight of solar-powered drone

Last November as part of this region’s ForestTECH series that ran, local forest resource managers heard from Airbus Defence & Space on progress being made on a raft of projects including work on combing drone and satellite technologies and their solar-powered Zephyr, an aerial platform that operates in the space between conventional satellites and manned aircraft.

The company has just announced the smooth landing and world record flight of the first production aircraft of its Zephyr programme, the Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite). The solar-powered drone took off on July 11th in Arizona and landed over 25 days later. Airbus said in a statement that “This maiden flight of the solar-powered Zephyr S proves the system’s capabilities and achieved all the flight’s engineering objectives.”

Airbus’ Zephyr runs exclusively on solar power, high above the weather and can provide “persistent local satellite-like services.” This new record flight was supported by the UK government, reflecting the fact that the UK Ministry of Defence is the first customer in line benefit from what has been described as a “game-changing capability.”

“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr programme, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalized very shortly,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus. “We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia”.

Airbus anticipates that the Zephyr drone will appeal to both commercial and military customers. It could, for example, provide improved disaster management and situational awareness, monitoring the spread of wildfires or oil spills from far above. From a military perspective, the obvious application will be for persistent surveillance. But swapping out payloads could instead allow the Zephyr to be used for providing communications to unconnected parts of the world.


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Truck driving rates as most dangerous job

Truck drivers are in one of the unhealthiest and deadliest jobs in the country with a 13 times higher risk of dying at work than other Australians, a landmark study has found.

The 12-year Monash University study of more than 120,000 insurance claims between 2004-2015 for work-related injury and disease found truck drivers were at higher risk of illness, psychological stress and other injuries. The claims added up to more than 1 million lost weeks of work over the 12-year period.

The research has found that truck drivers made more injury related claims than bus drivers, delivery drivers, automobile drivers, rail drivers and other male dominated occupations.

Musculoskeletal injury was the most common injury, accounting for about 60 per cent of all accepted workers' compensation insurance claims and resulting in about five weeks off work for many.

While more than three quarters of fatalities were due to vehicle crashes, they accounted for less than 17 per cent of the overall burden of injury and disease when measured as weeks lost from work. The remaining 83 per cent was caused by musculoskeletal and psychological stress, falls, slips, trips and other factors.

Study leader Professor Alex Collie, from the Monash School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said truck driving was highly sedentary and had many health risks. “It has long working hours, lots of sitting, poor nutrition, social isolation, shift work, time pressure, low levels of job control, all in addition to the risk of road crashes,” he said.

Professor Collie said truck driving is a growing industry and the most common occupation for Australian males, employing one in every thirty three or about 200,000 drivers either for hire or in private fleets. Demand for on road freight was expected to double from 2010 to 2030. With an ageing workforce, the researchers said the health of truck drivers should be monitored. More >>


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Accord sets path to reforest Hawke’s Bay

The signing of the Kahutia Accord MOU between Ngati Kahungunu Iwi incorporated and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council last Friday aims to plant millions of trees on the 250,000 ha of erosion-prone land across Hawke’s Bay.

The Kahutia Accord is a formal partnership to assist the region to become New Zealand’s first carbon neutral province by 2040, a target highlighted in the Council’s Strategic Plan.

Ngahiwi Tomoana says the programme’s key outcomes are to lift the overall productivity of the region through increasing the productivity of erosion prone land and reinvigorating both its freshwater and coastal marine environments.

“The Kahutia Accord means the real work behind a reforestation programme can start now, to plant more trees to protect erosion prone land and enhance our environment. This will also establish an investment that benefit our ratepayers, the region and Ngati Kahungunu over the long term,” says Rex Graham Chair of the Regional Council.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated has submitted a Provincial Growth Fund application to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment and is awaiting a response. In the meantime, both HBRC and NKII have initiated the necessary due diligence to ensure programme success.

Source: Scoop

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BID Group founder receives B.C. honours

BID Group founder Brian Fehr has been named to the Order of British Columbia. He will be among 14 people who will receive the province's highest honour during a ceremony at Government House in Victoria on Sept. 20.

His biography, as provided by the Honours and Awards Secretariat, tells a story of stunning achievement while also overcoming considerable adversity. It also shows a deep commitment to rural B.C. and an ability to make the most of innovation.

Although having only a Grade 12 education, he has built BID Group into a billion-dollar concern that provides innovative technical systems and construction services for wood products industries in B.C., across Canada and into the United States.

The companies employ 400 people in B.C. and 1,400 more throughout North America. Always with an eye to innovation and through its subsidiary, DelTech, the BID Group has developed biomass energy systems that lower energy costs and greenhouse emissions, using wood waste that was formerly burned by the forest industry.

Following the Babine and Lakeland sawmill explosions, Fehr developed a dust-mitigation system that prevents recurrence of these disasters. BID retrofitted all of the 15 Canfor sawmills with the system.

He foresaw the potential of artificial intelligence and the potential for machinery to make decisions that would improve productivity. His 'profiling' technology allows a log to be processed into lumber with a single pass, cutting labour costs.

Auto grading, which uses computers to optimize the value of each piece of lumber by making decisions at a much higher production rate than manually grading lumber, has revolutionized the industry through minimizing loss in process, improvements in the value of finished products and cost reduction.

"His predictive maintenance processes for sawmills means equipment can be fixed before a breakdown occurs, increasing worker safety and improving efficiency.


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Mercer to acquire Australia-based plantation owner

Canadian forest products company Mercer International Inc. has entered into an agreement to acquire Australia-based plantation owner Santanol Group, the company said. Santanol owns and leases approximately 2,500 hectares of existing Indian sandalwood plantations and a processing and extraction plant in North West Australia. The proposed acquisition will expand the company's operations to include plantation harvesting and the production of solid wood chemical extractives.

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New Assistant Minister responsible for forestry appointed

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed new Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, The Hon Richard Colbeck who assumes Federal Government responsibility for forest industries. Senator Colbeck takes over from The Hon Anne Ruston, who takes up a new role as Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Chief Executive Officer of AFPA, Mr Ross Hampton said.

“This latest ministerial reshuffle means a changing of the guard for Federal Government forestry responsibility, very close to the delivery of the National Forest Industries Plan. I sincerely thank Assistant Minister Ruston for her enthusiasm for our industries demonstrated over the past three years and wish her well in her new role,” Mr Hampton said.

“I welcome back Assistant Minister Colbeck who has previously served as a Parliamentary Secretary and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for forestry and who initiated the development of the Government’s National Plan”.

Source: AFPA

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ...Working for Crackers

Now, this is something you don’t see every day. Sent in by one of our readers in the far North of the North Island, New Zealand. When asked what was the story behind the image the reader responded;

"The bird is a volunteer and does the housekeeping. The photo was taken on a forestry block up near Te Paki in the very far North, near ninety-mile beach. They were ‘farmed’ somewhere nearby and have escaped over time. I’m told there are two of them around the place".

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
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