Friday Offcuts 16 August 2019
The same issues or perceptions being grappled with by New Zealand at the moment (a lack of knowledge on forestry options by more traditional farmers, overseas investment rules that favour forestry, the view that forestry in some way is going to constrain future agricultural development, rural depopulation, loss of employment…) are being raised some 19,000km away. They recognise though that the rate of new plantings is going to depend not only on the incentives being offered to land owners. To get them on board, factors like “awareness levels, promotion activities and technical support systems” also need to be put in place. They talk about forestry promotions, knowledge transfer groups to work alongside landowners and partnerships to effect attitudinal change towards forestry. Lessons or suggestions here maybe for the Government from half way around the world?
Towards the end of last year we covered an article about a Seattle Start-up company, DroneSeed that was automating tree planting and spraying operations using drones. Their custom UAV platforms are equipped with multispectral cameras, high-end lidar, tanks for herbicides and proprietary seed dispersal mechanisms. At the time they’d been taken on by several major forest management companies in North America, with government entities eyeing up the service as well. An array of new technologies have been developed for forestry operations, typically using drone swarms (a number of operational drones in the air working in unison, at one time). A video clip has been added to the story this week. The US company has also been added to the ForestTECH 2019 programme running in November so local forestry companies can hear first-hand about the technology developments – and opportunities for the industry in this part of the world.
Out in the forest this week, a pilot health programme for NZ forestry workers run by the Forest Industry Safety Council and Rayonier Matariki has now been extended. It involves a mobile phone app, created by Dr Tom Mulholland - a medical doctor and former NZ Forest Service worker - that allows workers to store health information on their mobile phones. From the app, high risk forestry workers are able to be identified and help can be provided with a plan to improve their health and lower their risks. And in Australia, a revised draft of the Forestry Log Haulage Code has just been redrafted and feedback is now being sought from industry by the Australian Forest Contractors Association before 6 September. Details on the draft and supporting documentation can be found below. That’s it for this week.
This week we have for you:
Billion Trees backlashNew Zealand Forestry Minister Shane Jones has defended the Government’s One Billion Trees policy in the face of mounting criticism from the rural sector, saying the rise of forestry shows that land use in New Zealand is “in transition”.
Increased tree planting has drawn flak in parts of the country, with pastoral land going into forestry, aided by what some see as overseas investment rules that favour forestry, making properties easier to sell to foreign interests while the rules around pastoral land remain tight.
Real Estate Institute of NZ rural spokesman Brian Peacocke in June said that overseas investment rules and other factors such as tighter credit conditions were making their presence felt in the rural sector.
“On the rural front, discontent smoulders strongly in a number of regions, fanned particularly by the ongoing emergence of evidence of sales of good pastoral land to forestry interests, this activity being aided and abetted by the Overseas Investment Office providing an environment conducive to investment from offshore interests,” he said.
This factor, coupled with compliance issues and an evident hardening of lending criteria from within the banking sector, was adding to a mood of widespread concern and caution within the rural sector.
Mr Jones told The NZ Herald that the Government was looking at investment patterns in forestry. “We are monitoring the transactions that are going through the Overseas Investment Office because an allegation was made that we had incentivised investment in forestry, which would lead to whole farm conversions,” he said.
“What we are seeing, predominantly, is forestry interests trading with each other,” he said. “It’s an area from the Wairarapa to Wairoa — certainly an area that we are watching carefully — but we have not seen anything profligate in terms of mountains of foreign capital pouring into that area.”
On other fronts, forestry is facing opposition from the farmer-funded Beef and Lamb New Zealand, which says large scale conversion of sheep and beef farms to forestry will have a significant negative impact on rural New Zealand. A Beef and Lamb NZ-commissioned study of Wairoa showed forestry provided fewer jobs than sheep and beef farms.
In Wairoa, 8486 hectares of sheep and beef farmland had been, or was in the process of being, converted to forestry, Beef and Lamb said. Beef and Lamb asked consultancy BakerAg to compare the economic and employment effects of the conversion of sheep and beef farms into forestry.
Its report said that if all the sheep and beef farms in Wairoa were converted to forestry, then Wairoa would see a net loss of nearly 700 local jobs and net NZ$23.5 million less spent in the local economy when compared to blanket forestry — excluding harvest year.
Drone swarms for tree planting and spraying operationsSince 2016, a Seattle Startup company, DroneSeed has been working for three of the five largest timber companies in the US. They’ve also recently signed a contract with The Nature Conservancy for rangeland restoration.
Technologies the company has introduced include;
- Software to manage a swarm and boost seed survival. They have built the software to manage drone swarms and mission planning in the field ( Video). They’ve also built it to utilize LiDAR and Multi-spectral imagery to build a 3D terrain map and identify micro-sites and terrain features to deliver their seed vessels to targeted areas where they can connect with soil.
- Hardware to manage economics. A single drone is the world's most expensive backpack sprayer. A group of drones can carry payloads competitive with small helicopters, each carrying 26kg of payload. They’ve also built the charging trucks and hardware to allow teams to operate like NASCAR pit crews and keep drones in the air more of the day boosting unit economics.
- Seed vessels to boost seed survival. The company has worked with nursery supply chain leaders to develop several tools that fit each species or biome. This means they have four seed vessels including: pelleting, capsules, or more advanced fibre-based micro-site enhancing projectiles. They have avoided a 1-size fits all and match the difficulty of edaphic conditions with considerations of seed biology to optimize survival rate per acre.
They’re also the first and only company FAA approved to use heavy lift swarms of up to 5 aircraft, each carrying 26kgs.
Details on the technology they’ve developed and opportunities for using it in Australia and New Zealand forestry operations will be outlined for the first time to ForestTECH 2019 delegates in November with Matthew Aghai, Director of R&D from the US company DroneSeed presenting as part of this year’s programme.
Programme details can be found on the event website ForestTECH.events.
Gough family sells Caterpillar dealershipThe Gough family has sold Gough Group for NZ$211 million to a Malaysian company after a 90-year history in New Zealand owning the Caterpillar heavy machinery dealership.
The Gough family fortune is collectively valued at nearly NZ$400m but members have been split in recent years and been embroiled in a High Court battle for control over the family trusts that controlled the company.
Family members include property developers and investors Antony and Tracy who are brothers, and their nephew and son respectively, Jamie, who is a Christchurch City councillor.
Gough Group employs about 950 people across its network in more than 50 locations in Australia and New Zealand. Over the past year Gough Group grew its revenue by more than 18 per cent NZ$540m from higher sales sales for its Caterpillar and transport and materials handling businesses.
For further details on the announcement and changes, click here.
Statistical Process Control for softwood industryMills collect millions of pieces of data each day on density, moisture content, defects and grade of their timber, but how do they use it? Seventeen representatives of the Australian softwood timber industry came together in Mount Gambier to hone their skills in Statistical Process Control to tackle that mountain of data to maximize recovery, verify compliance and remain competitive.
Co-Sponsored by The National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life and the Mt. Gambier Timber Research Centre and supported by Forest and Wood Products Australia, the week-long workshop was delivered by Dr. Tim Young from the University of Tennessee, Dr. Geoff Boughton of TimberEd Services, and Jeff Morrell from the Durability Centre.
Students learned how to use the huge amount of data they collect each day to improve processing, optimize recovery and enhance their ability to verify that materials are fit for purpose. This was the first in a series of continuing workshops to help manufacturers better use their data.
Photo: Brett Lawson (AKD) “supervises” Nathan Kitto (Timberlink), Tim Mitchell (Wespine), and Jamie Irving (Timberlink) on an exercise using M&M’s to learn about optimizing processes
Source: National Centre for Timber Durability & Design Life
Improving the health of NZ forestry workersImprove the health and wellbeing of NZ workers and you also improve safety and productivity. That’s the thinking behind the pilot of a health programme for forestry workers being run by FISC and Rayonier Matariki that has now been extended - thanks to funding from the Forest Growers Levy Trust.
The pilot involves the KYND mobile phone app, which enables workers to store their health information on their mobile phones, and could help them improve their wellbeing. The app was created by Dr Tom Mulholland - a medical doctor and former NZ Forest Service worker.
Last year nearly 800 people tried out the app. As a result, 226 workers were alerted that they had high/elevated blood pressure. Another 38 were alerted that they had pre-diabetes/diabetes and 80 people were alerted they were at risk for depression. Follow up emails were sent to 106 high risk forestry workers to help them come up with a plan to improve their health and lower their risks.
The pilot has now been extended until the end of this year, thanks to the Forest Growers Levy Trust grant and ongoing support from Rayonier Matariki. Over the coming months, 11 of Rayonier Matariki’s Bay of Plenty crews, totalling 100 workers, will be further supported to use the app. Then we will test its ‘stickability’ – whether the workers find the app useful and keep using it.
At the same time, the app will also be modified to make it more forestry specific and to make it possible for health professionals to upload a person’s health information. All personal information entered by the health professionals or individuals is securely stored and subject to privacy regulations.
At the end of the year we’ll evaluate the pilot to see if the app could be used more widely to improve the health and wellbeing of forestry workers. Thanks to everyone who has supported, and taken part, in this pilot – particularly Rayonier Matariki, whose support has been critical.
Key health risks in forestry
Last year’s trial of the KYND app highlighted the following key health risks in forestry:
- Waist circumferences that suggest a high risk of injury (e.g. getting out of machinery) and diseases like diabetes
- High blood pressure, suggesting an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke
- Unhealthy cholesterol ratios suggesting an increased risk of cardiovascular disease - Pre-diabetes or diabetes
- Sleep issues
- Risk of moderate to severe depression.
Source: SafeTree, Fiona Ewing, Forest Industry Safety Council
SA forest growers looking to expand in VictoriaSouth Australia's forestry industry says it is struggling to secure enough water licenses to expand, warning that if growers plant forests interstate instead, jobs and investment will follow.
- Forest growers in south east South Australia need water licenses for plantations
- Industry union says plantations are likely to decrease in SA and expand in Victoria unless "something's done"
- Forestry industry will be highlighting water issues in parliamentary inquiry
Water in the lower Limestone Coast, a region home to more than 150,000 hectares of commercial plantations, comes from aquifers and is meted out by the State Government through the 2013 Water Allocation Plan. Forestry was included in the region's plan in 2014, and growers had to buy licenses to offset the impact plantations had on groundwater reserves.
But up to a quarter of forests in the region did not secure licenses, meaning growers are now looking to Victoria to replant once those forests in South Australia are harvested. Across the border in Victoria, the forestry industry does not need to buy water licenses for its plantations.
OneFortyOne, which operates the largest sawmill in the South Australia — is one of the growers calling for changes to the way water is managed. Chief executive Linda Sewell said "there's a lot of money" to be spent on forestry in the Limestone Coast, but the size of the plantation estate could prevent growth. "We need to put more trees in the ground and to put more trees in the ground, we need water," she said.
Source: ABC News
Tasmanian timber in the spotlightTasmanian timber is featuring heavily across national media this week. The national Tasmanian Timber campaign is seeing increased awareness of Tasmanian timber across Australia as the locally produced species are featuring increasingly in high-end design.
On Wednesday, Tasmanian timber, including Tasmanian Oak, Tasmanian Blackwood and Hydrowood, is the centrepiece of a stunning Tasmanian house that featured on Grand Designs Australia. The program streamed on Foxtel at 8.30pm.
The Seed House by Fitzpatrick + Partners, one of Australia’s leading architectural design studios, is also featuring on Better Homes and Gardens on Channel 7 this evening, Friday 16th at 7pm. The Seed House is a monument to Tasmanian Timber – and it’s staggeringly impressive. The Seed House features Tasmanian Blackwood, Celery Top Pine and Huon Pine.
The Tasmanian timber campaign was designed to increase demand for Tasmanian timber by repositioning the locally produced species as high-end. It’s working. Campaign metrics are following a positive trajectory with increasing traffic to the campaign website, increasing engagement through social media, and most importantly increasing enquiries.
It’s rewarding to see Tasmanian timber finally claiming its place at the top-end of Australian design.
Source: Tasmanian Timber, Photo: fitzpatrickpartners
Draft Log Haulage Code open for commentFollowing feedback on the Australian Forestry Log Haulage Registered Code of Practice during December 2018 - March 2019 a revised draft (DRAFT Log Haulage Code August 2019) has been prepared. The revised Draft Log Haulage Code August 2019 has taken into consideration feedback and submissions on the first draft. It has also been re-drafted in consultation with the project working group.
A Cover Note has been prepared which provides context to the re-draft and all stakeholders should read this. It provides information on the re-drafting process, consideration of key issues and supporting information relating to the LHC. A copy of the Cover Note and Draft Log Haulage Code August 2019 are available to view and download here.
Feedback is invited on the draft until Friday 6 September 2019. Feedback can be provided in any form and can be made collectively from a group or individual or a business. Submissions and feedback can be submitted to email@example.com.
All submissions and feedback received by 6 September will be considered and a report will be prepared for the Australian Forest Products Association meeting scheduled for 18 September 2019.
Source: Australian Forest Contractors Association
Gene editing to combat wilding pinesA NZ forest industry leader is calling for serious public debate on the advantages of using gene editing to combat wilding pines and in the broader context of fighting climate change through carbon sequestration. Forest Owners Association President Peter Weir says the Royal Society’s just released report on gene editing should be taken seriously by anyone concerned about the state of the environment.
‘The Royal Society has highlighted the problem of wilding conifers, where, despite the millions of dollars spent on a control programme, these tree weeds continue to spread from old farm shelter belts, old catchment board soil conservation plantings and from old state forests, onto land where they are not wanted, including our native forests.”
“If the fertility was switched off in these trees through a gene edit, then not only would the spread of wildings from new plantations be curtailed, but as the Royal Society quite rightly points out, the tree would divert more energy into growing wood. That adds to the carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere and helps combat climate change,” Peter Weir says.
He says the current regulatory regime around gene editing in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act is one of the most restrictive in the world. “Not only that, the view of the Environmental Protection Authority, which administers the Act, is that there should be a zero-risk oversight, and that is contrary to the expressed view of the High Court in 2011.”
“There is some research already on sterile wildings. But we are caught with an EPA requirement that the experimental trees are destroyed as soon as the cones appear, so we can’t confirm we are producing sterile trees. But without that proof we are not going to be allowed to release them. That is crazy.”
“If the EPA persist in its attitude that the risks of not conducting a particular piece of research and using the result are irrelevant, then the government has an obligation to direct the EPA as an Agent of the Crown to balance risks of gene editing against the risk of not researching that gene editing.”
Tasmanian timber industry recognised with awardsTasmanian timber businesses from across the state were recognised last Friday (9 August) at the annual Timber Awards. The 2019 Tasmanian Timber Awards saw 40 finalists across 13 categories recognised across specialty fields in the forestry, timber and wood processing industry.
Hosted by the Tasmanian Forest and Forest Products Network, the awards saw winners from across the sector recognised for their commitment to excellence, quality and the communities they support and that support them.
Congratulations to all of the 2019 Tasmanian Timber Awards finalists and winners:
Distribution & Logistics Excellence, Neville Smith Forest Products
Environmental Excellence, Forico
Forest Growing & Management Excellence, Forico
Harvesting Excellence, Mechanised Logging
Innovation, Warren French Architect and Valley Workshop
Regional & Community Development, Neville Smith Forest Products
Skill Development & Training Excellence, Mechanised Logging
Timber Processing Excellence, TimberLink
Workplace Health & Safety Excellence, Mechanised Logging
Trainee of the Year, Mechanised Logging
Tree Farmer of the Year, Sue and Owen Smith
Outstanding Contribution to the Timber Industry (female), Penny Wells (Private Forests Tasmania)
Outstanding contribution to the Timber Industry (male), Craig Patmore (Sustainable Timber Tasmania)
Source: The Examiner
Land use must shift from beef to forestryThere is much more money in trees than cows and far less carbon emissions
The recently published annual review from the Climate Change Advisory Council recommended that a reduction of Ireland’s national cow herd would deliver a significant decline in national greenhouse gas emissions and that many aspects of the low-carbon transition objective are contingent on an expanded and sustainable forestry sector.
There is currently a large area of land in cattle production which would earn more money under forestry. Recent farm income data from Teagasc shows there are extremely low or negative profit margins being made from beef farming while the forestry premium for coniferous species now greatly exceeds the average returns in beef farming while it is greater still for broadleaves.
It is important to stress that the replacement of beef farming with forestry is a win-win-win action. It increases farm income, reduces emissions and significantly increases carbon sequestration. And yet in all the recent controversy about low returns from beef farming or the threat posed by the proposed Mercusor deal, these facts never got a mention.
Generally, there has been a marked reluctance on the part of the landowners to heed the financial imperative. Perhaps the reluctance of more farmers to consider forestry is understandable from a behavioural and social perspective as beef farming is a familiar way of life for many landholders who would not be knowledgeable about forestry.
There is also a very prevalent negative attitude to forestry ranging from such perceptions that forestry is inimical to agricultural development to it being responsible for rural depopulation and social isolation and limiting land-use options. In general, it could be said that State policy over the years, with respect to afforestation, has been inconsistent in its budgetary provision and declining in achievement, even as its role in emissions mitigation should have been become more obvious.
The forestry programme for the period 2015-2020 had a planting target of more than 43,000 hectares and it is particularly disturbing that even that low target will not now be achieved.
Source: Irish Times
Germany's forests on the verge of collapseGermany’s parched forests are nearing ecological collapse, foresters and researchers warn. More than 1 million established trees have died since 2018 as a result of drought, winter storms and bark beetle plagues.
Germany's forests are undoubtedly suffering as a result of climate change, with millions of seedlings planted in the hope of diversifying and restoring forests dying, warns Ulrich Dohle, chairman of the 10,000-member Bunds Deutscher Forstleute (BDF) forestry trade union.
"It's a catastrophe. German forests are close to collapsing," Dohle added in an interview with t-online, an online news portal of Germany's Ströer media group. Low rainfall last summer saw Germany's rivers reach extreme lows, with some waterways still struggling and forests prone to fire. "These are no longer single unusual weather events. That is climate change," said Dohle.
Helge Bruelheide, co-director of Germany's Center for Integrative Biodiversity, warned: "if the trend prevails and the annual precipitation sinks below 400 millimeters then there will be areas in Germany that will no longer be forestable." Lüdenscheid, a densely forested area in central Germany, was no exception, Bohle added. Its precipitation had slumped from one-meter (39 inches) in 2017 to only 483 millimeters last year.
Hot, dry summers and a lack of rainfall have placed Germany's forests at high risk of fire. Catchments in central Europe collected only 10% more rainfall in the first half of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018, a trend exacerbated by uneven wet-then-dry months, Germany's Institute of Hydrology (BFG) reported.
What Dohle of the forestry trade union termed "dramatic tree deaths" began with winter snow dumps in early 2018 which broke branches, weakening the trees' natural defenses and letting in fungal infections, "followed by drought and bark beetle infestation" that killed off European spruce trees.
One million older trees have since died — not only heat susceptible spruces, but even Germany's prized European Red Beech which had been widely planted over the past decade in the hope of creating climate stable forests, Dohle added.
Foresters are unable to remember such a dire situation. "We don't know where it will end," Michael Blaschke, spokesman for North Rhine-Westphalia's forestry commission, Wald und Holz NRW, told national public radio Deutschlandfunk.
Anticipating an increased wildfire risk, Germany's BBK Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance Agency announced on Friday that it had begun distributing 300 special fire trucks to Germany's 16 states. Configured for fighting forest fires on rough terrain, each vehicle costs around €223,000 ($251,000).
... and one to end the week on ... watching your F's
A quick quiz to finish the week on. Go on, you have a couple of minutes before you get stuck into work. It's a Friday.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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