Friday Offcuts – 9 April 2020

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Rather than report on the negative which of course dominates all media at the moment (and there a few of them we’ve included below as well), let’s profile a couple of good news stories appearing this week. One involves the owner of a NZ wood harvesting business. He’s a glass half full sort of guy and is looking right now on the bright side of the imposed shut-down. Having been in the bush for 23 years, waking up at 3am to start his normal working day and then putting in between 70-90 hours a week (explain that to some others out there in the workforce), he’s over the moon to actually wake-up at half past five in the morning with his kids in bed with him. In his words – “you can't beat it”.

Also, as we’ve reported, regional Wood Council’s throughout New Zealand who’ve been preparing for their annual awards evening’s over the last 3-6 months have had to cancel. They’re typically the largest gatherings of forestry and wood products companies in each region. It’s the one time every year when the industry can meet up to celebrate all those who have committed to training and exceeding in their business and operations over the last 12 months. The Southern Wood Council, although cancelling their own awards evening, decided to go ahead and have judged and awarded a young harvesting employee with the 2020 Apprentice of the Year award.

The story outlines the progression of this young worker from school through to a major award winner. It’s a story profiling his commitment to furthering his own training, the investment that’s been made by the owner of the logging crew to help his new employee grow his skill set and shows the true value of the induction and training programmes that have been set up in the region to encourage younger students to get into forestry. This same enthusiasm, attitude and thirst for learning is being displayed by young (and older) contractors and those working in wood processing and transport up and down the country. It also puts the industry into a pretty good position – when we finally come out of the current downturn. If you have similar stories or uplifting case studies in your own patch, please send them through.

And finally, in New Zealand, over 300 technology developers and early adopters of new technology from across the primary sector were meant to have been meeting in Rotorua this week. It was the annual MobileTECH Ag 2020 event. Instead, a series of six one-hour interactive webinars have been set up for registered delegates. They’ll be starting on Wednesday 15 April. Details on the new on-line tech series can be found here

Other industry events, conferences and meetings scheduled to run in the next 3-6 months likewise have been cancelled or postponed. We’ve included a quick update below for local events. We’ve also included an extensive listing of events that have been impacted in North America. For some of the local technology events planned, the very popular Forest Safety & Technology 2020 series scheduled to run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association in New Zealand and Australia in May is being rescheduled. Details will follow shortly. The WoodTECH 2020 – Wood Manufacturing series and HarvestTECH 2020 – Wood Transport series that had been scheduled to run in mid-late 2020 have also been put on hold right now. When and where they will be run will be announced as soon as the current situation becomes clearer.

Remember also if stuck at home and short on reading this week, you can check out the monthly , and All were sent out to subscribers, around 15,000 of you across the region, this week. And on that note, enjoy this week’s read – and your Easter break.

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KIPT recovery is under way

Twelve weeks since the devastating bushfires, Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers has made substantial progress on its Business Recovery and last week the company reached a milestone when it lifted the voluntary suspension on trading of its shares.

“We have made it clear to investors and the Kangaroo Island community that we remain committed to building the Kangaroo Island Seaport and forestry operations on Kangaroo Island. Our plan is to bring the land back into full production as soon as possible. In order to do that, we must harvest and move the trees and the safest and most efficient best way to do that is to export via the proposed KI Seaport.

KIPT Managing Director Keith Lamb said the company had strong support from its partners as it worked through its Recovery Plan – particularly Commonwealth Bank and Mitsui Bussan Woodchip Oceania. KIPT also had good insurance, which had so far resulted in a AU$10 million initial payment on the tree crop (full insurance is AU$60m+) and a AU$4.2 million payment for housing that was destroyed (sheds yet to be negotiated).

“Our insurance will allow us to pay off our debt to Commonwealth Bank, re-fence our properties, get our harvest work under way and contribute to building the seaport, which will be a key piece of economic infrastructure for Kangaroo Island for many decades.”

Mr Lamb said many people had asked questions about the survival of the timber and what it could be used for now that it is damaged. “Fire-affected pine will die but will have recoverable value. It can be stored under water or under sprinklers. Some fire-affected bluegums may survive but future growth is likely to be uneconomic. The trees will be monitored, and some could be felled and stockpiled as logs, to facilitate early re-planting, or left on the stump until harvest.

“The vast majority of it can still be used for logs, woodchips or pellets but recognising that the fire-damaged timber is no longer the premium product that it was. It is a complex issue that we are working through. We’ve had great support all the way through this from our marketing partner Mitsui Bussan Woodchip Oceania, which is finding markets for Kangaroo Island timber and conducting valuable research on the types of products we can produce,” Mr Lamb said.

Source: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers
Image: KPIT Update
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NZ forest industry preparing for back to work

NZ forest industry organisations are planning how to get back to work when restrictions on non-essential work are lifted for the industry. Organisations, representing forest growers, transport, processing and contractors have set up a working group to develop risk assessment protocols in readiness for start-up of the industry sector.

The National Safety Director of the Forest Industry Safety Council, Fiona Ewing says the aim is to assure government that the sector will be able to comply with the epidemic management conditions of COVID-19. “The priority and starting point is health and wellbeing.

“There is the complex technical side of start-ups that will be a ‘whole of industry’ scan of the value chain. That starts in the forest and moves through transport, processing and export through to the work at the ports. The group will be working with our stakeholders to get the start-up protocol proposal right.”

Fiona Ewing says the forest industry had accepted the government decision two weeks ago that forestry was a non-essential service provider. “However, we now have clear guidelines on MPI approved safe practices from other parts of the primary sector that we are working to adapt.”

These protocols will provide the guidelines and will still require companies and individuals to adopt safe practices specific to their sector groups says Fiona Ewing. “Our intention is to take the start-up protocol proposal directly to decision makers in MPI and Forestry Minister Shane Jones, so that the government is fully aware of the industry led recovery plan to re-activate the industry.”

Already there is also a fast-growing call from New Zealand’s international customers to provide wood-based products that are deemed essential in their own countries. “We need to act on this now. Even though the industry shut down in two days when lock down was announced, it will take much longer to get the forestry supply chain organised and moving again and advance planning will ensure a safe and successful restart.”

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An industry update on upcoming events

We’ve started to compile a list of the ever mounting cancelled and rescheduled forestry events due to COVID-19 of relevance to the local industry. Please let us know if we are missing your event or if you have rescheduled it. We’ll add it.

• AUSTimber 2020 AU – April – postponed until 4-7 November
• MobileTECH ag 2020 NZ – April – being run as a Webinar series
• COFI 2020 Conference Canada – April – cancelled
• Timber Insight Seminar Series: Achieving Energy Efficiency in Timber-framed Housing Venue AU – April - cancelled
• School of Forestry 50th Anniversary Celebration NZ – April - postponed
• NZ Farm Forestry Association Conference NZ – April – postponed
• Timber Insight: 4th Built Evolution Conference – Advanced Construction Systems for Multi-storey Residential and Commercial Buildings AU – May - cancelled
• Women in Forestry conference NZ– April – postponed
• BC saw-filers AGM & Tradeshow Canada – May – cancelled
• Southern Wood Council 2020 Forestry awards NZ – May – cancelled
• Lower North Island Wood Council Awards NZ – May – cancelled
• Forest Safety & Technology 2020 series AU/NZ – May – postponed
• Timber Offsite Construction Conference (FRAME) AU– June – postponed
• NZ Institute of Forestry Conference NZ- June – cancelled, AGM postponed
• Wood Science Course Gottstein Trust AU– June – postponed
• AFPA 2020 Forest Industry Awards and Gala Dinner AU – June – postponed
• Top of the South Forestry Awards 2020 NZ – June – cancelled
• Doing Timber Business in Queensland AU – July – cancelled
• WoodTECH 2020 – Wood Manufacturing AU/NZ – August - postponed
• HarvestTECH 2020 – Wood Transport AU/NZ – September – postponed
• 2020 Northland Forestry Awards NZ – September - cancelled

A full list of North American events cancelled or postponed can also be seen here.

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Jones looking at restricting wood exports overseas

New Zealand’s Forestry Minister Shane Jones has instructed officials to explore law changes that would ensure wood product is prioritised for New Zealand-based projects after the COVID-19 lockdown, instead of it being shipped overseas. It comes as the union representing construction and infrastructure workers, AWUNZ, called for help from Jones to introduce forestry quotas and regulation to prevent "foreign-driven forest obliteration" after the lockdown.

"Shane Jones says he is the regional saviour," Maurice Davis, AWUNZ national secretary, said on Friday. "I fear an avalanche of logs for short-term profit will disappear overseas to the detriment of Kiwi manufacturing and construction jobs." Davis said the priority must be looking after Kiwis' bank balances before foreign forest owners, and warned Jones that Kiwi jobs and regional families will be the people likely voting for him, so "if he does not stop the foreign forest felling the voters will cut him down".

He said Jones needs to inform log exporters that Kiwi processing firms "outrank their overseas appetites" and that the Government needs to look after Kiwi jobs and timber firms "before we fuel the Shanghai Express".

Jones, a New Zealand First MP, told Newshub his officials are working through any potential World Trade Organisation (WTO) implications, to be sure that changing the law to favour the domestic market would not break any pre-existing agreements.

He said it is time for a "new model which places a greater level of control over the export of our raw material", particularly with infrastructure projects being lined up to try and stimulate the economy once the lockdown ends, meaning New Zealand will need plenty of materials.

"I have been asking the forestry industry to look inward for two years - they've been slow to do that - so I'm going to do it for them." Jones said while the forestry sector is closed during the lockdown his officials are exploring what changes need to be made for the next three weeks, because some domestic manufacturers are running out of raw material.

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Harvest contractor making the most of the lockdown

A good news story – and they’re rare as hen’s teeth right now. Whanganui father says he is rapt to be spending so much time at home with his kids, after years of working 80-hour weeks. The lockdown has seen logging company owner Harley Pomeroy trade his 3am wake-up and trudge into the dark forest for a "sleep in" and cuddles with his three young daughters.

"I have been in the bush for 23 years and I work between 70-90 hours a week and to actually wake-up at half past five in the morning and having my kids in bed with me - you can't beat it," he said. "I am not used to waking up in the morning having my kids next to me in bed and giving them breakfast, making them lunch, and seeing what they do day-to-day. I have never seen that side of things because I am never home for it."

Pomeroy said his work commitments in the forestry industry meant he missed a lot of his two teenage sons growing up. He is relishing the opportunity under alert level four to have quality time with his daughters Jasmine, 11, Amber-Rose, 6, and Rhyana, 4.

But he admits, the reality of spending 24/7 with his children can be a "nightmare", albeit a "good nightmare. I am not used to being home and seeing the girls actually physically do what they do during the day. I don't know what they do during the day! Trying to keep them entertained is like a bull at a gate, especially three of them!"

More >>

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Loss of markets starting to loom

New Zealand non-food export manufacturers shut down during the COVID19 Alert level 4 face irreversible market loss if they’re unable to restart production as soon as possible, say manufacturing industry bodies. Metals New Zealand, the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association and Plastics New Zealand, which collectively represent more than 700 non-food manufacturing firms, are calling on government to provide a level playing field with their food manufacturing counterparts.

“The Government is doing an extraordinary job to support New Zealand food manufacturers to continue production during Alert level 4 to support domestic needs and continue export to service essential global markets,” says Jon Tanner, CEO of the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association. “We need to see the same support for non-food export manufacturers, who also have essential overseas supply chains.

“Rather than blanket closure, we want government to give these businesses the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to manage infection risk. These are well-managed, significant exporting manufacturers, accustomed to managing health and safety risk.

“The viability of these exporters is rapidly diminishing with every day, every hour that their operations are shut down and they can’t deliver to essential supply chains. Their customers will very soon be forced to find alternative suppliers with major implications for their operations and ultimately New Zealand’s economic recovery.”

Tony Clifford, Managing Director of Pan Pac Forest Products, one of New Zealand’s largest integrated wood processing and export manufacturing businesses, employing 420 people, says market loss is the critical issue. “Pan Pac fully supports the lockdown; it was the right thing to do. And we are very pleased with the government’s support initiatives. But as each day passes the risk to health goes down and risk to business and the economy goes up.

“Let’s do a risk assessment of the ability of manufacturers to manage the infection risk versus the risk to their business of not being able to service their essential supply chains. Businesses like ours are always managing occupational health and safety risk at a high level. Managing the risk of infectious disease is just a new dimension of that work.”

Pan Pac exports lumber to 17 countries, including the United States, Australia and Europe and exports 100% of its mechanical pulp to China and India. “Even with the world under duress there’s demand for raw materials where processing is up and running and in countries where construction is deemed essential such as US.

“We need to be looking at a progressive restart as soon as possible based on demonstrated risk management. The longer we remain closed the more and more difficult it will be to get the economy up and running.”

Source: WPMA

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Preference of domestic timber supplies can’t work

New Zealand foresters are saying that log supply to domestic and export markets is inextricably linked and can’t be separated, as Forests Minister Shane Jones now seems to be advocating. Forest Owners Association President Phil Taylor says a harvest of just about any forest will produce higher grade logs for domestic construction, some logs for export and some lower value wood which is only suitable for domestic chipping.

“We just can’t go in and cut down some parts of a tree to cater to one market without harvesting the whole tree for other markets too. That was clearly shown up when forest companies were unable to export earlier in the year and how difficult it physically was to keep our local mills supplied,” Phil Taylor says.

“It’s not true either that we send all our logs overseas. In most years, the majority of the export value of our forest products comes from added value categories, such as sawn timber and pulp and paper. About 15 million tonnes of logs a year are consumed by our domestic processors and this represents just under half of the total annual harvest from New Zealand’s forests. That has been remarkably consistent and a welcome market for us over the past twenty years.”

“Of course, at the moment most of the industry is closed down in support of the government aim of ending the COVID-19 infection crisis. We have supported this measure,” Phil Taylor says “But the shut-down has meant we are getting increasing reports of tens of thousands of tonnes of logs left deteriorating on harvest sites and in yards around the country, which urgently need to be exported or processed before they are worth nothing.”

“When we do get back to business, we’d welcome new infrastructure projects the government says it intends to generate to get the economy going. It would be tremendous if wood construction was a major part of that,” Phil Taylor says. “It would also be great if some of these wood dependent projects could be in the regions. That would help those communities which grow, supply and process these logs. The forests are often in regions where other employment opportunities are generally scarce”.

“We are concerned for the forestry workforce in our rural communities. They have felt the market effects of Covid-19 right back to the beginning of this year, well before the shutdown began. Any restriction on exports has the potential to severely impact their well-being and that of their families.”

“Shane Jones is talking about creating new jobs. We’d love to see those, but not if we fail to protect current ones. We need a sustainable domestic market for our logs in New Zealand, just as we need a healthy export market.”

The Chief Executive of the Forest Industry Contractors Association Prue Younger says contractors as an industry sector will want to get back to work as quickly as possible, whether it be export logs or domestic processing. “Both offer opportunity to return our contractors to financial viability.”

“Ultimate stability with the right product balance needs to be the medium-term vision where retention of a skilled workforce is seen pivotal in the supply chain. Otherwise once again they hold the greatest risk as has become apparent through recent episodes of low log prices and the COVID19 crisis,” Prue Younger says.

Phil Taylor says if the export market was restricted it would most likely mean that less timber would be available locally. The Farm Forestry Association shares Phil Taylor’s concerns. President, Hamish Levack says he doesn’t know what Shane Jones is actually proposing.

“If the government introduced compulsory acquisition at low prices for instance, then I suspect most farm foresters, because they are not going to harvest at a loss, would shut up their woodlots and wait for a change of government. Our sector represents 40 percent of the currently harvestable trees.”

Phil Taylor says he doesn’t think some iwi would be very pleased either. “That is something of course that they might wish to speak for themselves about. Land owned by iwi which is growing commercial forests on it represents another 40 percent of the New Zealand forest estate, and Māori outside of the iwi estates own forests in their own right too.”

Phil Taylor says the industry has also been pushing for the Labour led government to fulfil its election promise of a wood preference policy in construction. “Ever since the government was elected, we have been trying to get Labour to prioritise New Zealand wood use over high carbon emission materials, such as mostly imported from overseas steel and concrete. It hasn’t happened unfortunately.”

“We would hardly be pushing for this policy if we wanted to keep logs for export. If the policy had come in during 2017, when it should have, we’d be well on the way of using a New Zealand grown resource being available for New Zealand workers to construct with when the COVID-19 lockdown ends,” Phil Taylor says.

‘As it is, it’ll will take years to grow New Zealand timber processing, while our immediate need will be many jobs to be available when the lockdown ends. Right now, we cannot afford to take an everyone for themselves approach. It is even more important than ever for all parts of our supply chain work together which can deliver solutions that are the best for all.”

Source: Forest Owners Association

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Southern Apprentice of the Year awarded

Wood Council’s across New Zealand this year have had to cancel their annual awards programmes. Measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus and the enforced lockdown of forestry and wood products operations has meant that unfortunately, annual regional celebrations to recognise business and training success have had to be put forward to 2021. It’s been a huge disappointment to all, particularly for those that have stood out over this last year and have put the time and effort into pulling together nominations for the myriad of major annual awards on offer.

The Southern Wood Council (SWC) was one of many that cancelled their planned 8 May annual Awards Evening in Dunedin. However, it was decided by the local industry that one major award, the 2020 Apprentice of the Year award for the lower South Island be independently judged, and the award and associated prizes awarded to this year’s winner and runners-up.

Apprentices, having completed an apprenticeship programme in the training year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 have but one opportunity to be eligible for this particular award. It was felt that it was only fitting that the industry was able to fully recognise the real commitment that these young people had made to further their training. Five outstanding nominations were received this year from young contractors, all working in harvesting crews, from western Southland through to South Canterbury.

The overall winner for 2020 was Jordan Muru (Jordy) who is working for MJ Logging, a four-man mechanised ground-based crew, based in the Geraldine area in South Canterbury. The progression of Jordy from school through to a major award winner is testament to Jordy’s commitment to training, the investment that has been made by Matt Jordan, owner of MJ Logging into helping Jordy grow his skill set and the induction and training programmes that had already been set up in the region.

Jordy originally was involved in the Primary Industry Academy Programme that was run at Geraldine High School. As part of that course he went out (along with the other students) to visit Port Blakely’s Geraldine forestry operations. He liked what he saw during the visit, and thought that a career in forestry would be to his liking. Through the programme he started work experience visits, one day a week, with various Port Blakely harvesting crews.

After a few months of these work experience visits, Jordy got offered a full-time job with MJ Logging. Once started, it was felt that the best way to accelerate his learning, was to enrol him in the Apprenticeship programme administered by the industry training organisation, Competenz. In addition, he was also enrolled in the five-week block courses that were being offered to young apprentices at Mike Hurring’s training facility at Balclutha.

“Jordy’s main role in the crew is managing the skid site, including fleeting, sorting, stacking and loading trucks. This can be a high-pressure situation at times but Jordy is good at his job, he’s able to work calmly and doesn’t lose his cool under pressure” says Barry Wells, Operations Manager – Harvesting with Port Blakely. “Jordy has a number of attributes and characteristics that help him within the crew, and life in general. He has a good work ethic he’s cautious and he’s safe. He asks questions, follows instructions, and picks up new tasks quickly. He also fits in with the crew really well, which is important”.

Barry went on to say that “we wish we had more young people coming into the industry with Jordy’s enthusiasm, attitude and thirst for learning”. Philip Taylor, Manging Director, Port Blakely also commented that “without doubt, Jordan must be one of the most passionate and committed young apprentices working in the Southland and Otago region today”.

The Southern Wood Council and Port Blakely congratulate Jordy on winning the 2020 Apprentice of the Year award and his commitment to furthering his own training and education. As the award winner this year, Jordy picks up a major trophy, a framed certificate, a $500 cheque, $750 of Stihl Vouchers sponsored by the Stihl Shop Milton and a $500 Protos Integral Forestry Helmet sponsored by CRS Communications.

In a closely contested award this year, the two runners up for the award, also both outstanding young apprentices, are Jackson Hopkins of Mike Hurring Logging and Jackson McCallum of McCallum Harvesting. Congratulations go to the 2020 winner, the nominees, their employers and their families. With the calibre of young apprentices coming through, the industry is really well placed to thrive and the Southern Wood Council, the award sponsors and supporters, all look forward to a full awards programme being run again in May 2021.

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Surveying seedlings for precision forestry

In the last few decades, the forestry sector has embraced a range of new precision management tools and techniques to manage forests on a new scale. Precision management is based on the concept that big productivity gains can come from smaller-scale, tailored management techniques. To continue this evolution, the forestry sector will require new technologies for data capture, giving rise to a suite of new, nuanced management methods.

Deep learning has the potential to play a large role in this transformation. As presented to New Zealand and Australian inventory foresters at ForestTECH 2019, Scion is pioneering a new deep learning-based system that uses low-cost visual (RGB) imagery collected by UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) mounted cameras that can identify and map radiata pine seedlings. The algorithm that has been created could soon replace manual surveys, which are laborious, expensive, sometimes dangerous and only suited to small areas.

Scion’s initial deep learning models detected seedlings with extremely high accuracy. Between 94-98 per cent of seedlings in a range of test sites and landscapes were identified. This year, the team has taken that technology one step further, and we can now detect and pinpoint the location of each seedling.

How did they do it?

The process begins by gathering high-resolution imagery from a UAV, stitching it together, scaling and geographically aligning it – creating an orthomosaic. This provides an accurate way to connect objects in the imagery with precise physical locations that can be utilised by the algorithm. A key development of this work was to prepare this imagery using a ‘tile and buffer’ approach. This ensures small objects like seedlings are not lost when these large orthomosaics are fed into deep learning models designed for use on images from a smartphone.

Scion scientists Drs Alan Tan and Grant Pearse worked with Dr Matthias Franz from Hochschule Konstanz University in Germany to test their approach at Rangipo in the central North Island. The site was pastureland that has converted to an experimental forest establishment trial as part of Scion’s Growing Confidence in Forestry’s Future programme.

The model was given part of the dataset (imagery and field measurements with spatial data) that had many seedlings pre-identified to teach it how to recognise them. As there were so many seedlings the model could only be given a point to represent the seedling’s location. This is unusual for deep learning, which usually requires a ‘bounding’ box carefully drawn around the objects.

What were the results?

The model achieved a very high detection rate of 99.5 per cent and only missed 16 of the 3014 seedlings in the dataset. The false negatives occurred where seedlings were undetected due to dense weed cover. There were also a few false positives caused by tall weeds being identified as seedlings.

The model’s performance was impressive. It only needed point locations for training which dramatically reduced the time and cost that would have been needed for traditional methods. The field measurements also played a big role in revealing seedlings hidden by weeds that would have been missed otherwise. Overall, the error rate remained very low and many seedlings hidden in weedy areas were still correctly detected.

More >>.

Source: Scion Research

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Tumut begins export program for fire-affected timber

Salvage operations in softwood plantations impacted by this season’s fires are well underway, with local crews working at a significantly higher rate of production than normal, planting programs ramping up to restock plantations and preparations underway for some export operations.

Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Regional Manager Dean Anderson said Forestry Corporation is placing all the burnt wood it possibly can with local customers to allow as much as possible of the unburnt plantation to continue to grow to be there for the future.

“Unfortunately burnt wood does not last forever and some of the trees burnt are either too small or too young for the local sawmills. Some of these logs exceed what Visy can take, so they will be exported so we can clean the sites up ready for replanting as soon as possible,” Mr Anderson said.

“While timber from older trees is suitable to be processed into house frames, furniture and other essential renewable wood products, trees between 12-24 years old are generally not large enough for sawlog processing. “Our local industry cannot process this timber, but there is an opportunity to export it to offset some of the cost of the operations required to remove trees from fire-affected sites and prepare them for replanting”.

“Everything that can be processed locally will go to our local industry, and the surplus that is not suitable for domestic markets will be transported by truck to the Port of Melbourne for export. There is a significant task ahead of us, we will be looking to harvest about twice what we would normally harvest in a year from the full region just from the Green Hills area in less than 12 months”.

“With all this extra activity concentrated around Green Hills between Wondalga and Tumbarumba, we are asking the community to keep an eye out for trucks and please be patient, as there will be new drivers in the area taking our hills very carefully.”

Source: Forestry Corporation of NSW

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Helicopter drone for fighting forest fires

One of the good things about drones is the fact that they can safely be flown in conditions that would prove hazardous for crewed aircraft. That's where the JC260 unmanned helicopter comes in, as it's designed to fight forest fires.

Created by Chinese manufacturer QilingUAV, the JC260 can be equipped with two of the company's retardant-filled "fire extinguishing bombs." Dropped separately or in unison, each of the bombs the company claims can cover a flaming forest area of 50 cubic metres.

Lift is provided by two sets of counter-rotating rotor blades, measuring 3.6 m in diameter. These are powered by two 34-hp water-cooled gasoline engines, taking the aircraft to a claimed cruising speed of 100 km/h. One tank of gas should be good for a flight time of three to four hours.

A ground-based operator remotely pilots the drone in real time, based on output from its onboard cameras. A simple one-click system on the remote is used to drop the bombs. The copter measures 2.8 m in length, and tips the scales at 260 kg – bombs included.

Source: QilingUAV

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China Forestry Update

- Overall, China’s wood industry production appears back to fairly normal levels. The World Bank has noted that there are signs of improvement.

- Due to supply restrictions, North American soft wood prices are increasing. The price is reported as being volatile and is changing every few days.

- China is seeking product from the US south east, and Chile is moving in with P. radiata products. There are also reports China is a substituting NZ fibre for Australian fibre as it is a reliable supply. The NZ Forestry Sector is concerned this is a high risk to NZ’s market share due to not being able to supply product.

- A report from China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration is warning of possible financial instability within China’s wood processors and urges government support mechanisms to target small and medium sized businesses, as well as broader industry support in the context of low external demand.

Source: Te Uru Rākau

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New Department of Regional NSW welcomed

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has commended the NSW Government for creating a new Department of Regional NSW. In announcing the new department Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it will be a voice for regional people who are were already trying to recover from drought and bushfires, but now have the added burden of the CoVid-19 crisis.

The CEO of AFPA Mr Ross Hampton said, “CoVid-19 is an issue we’re all dealing with, but I think many in our cities forget that as well, regional Australia is still dealing with a long running drought and recovering from the ‘black summer’ bushfires.”

“This decision by NSW to bring together a number of state government agencies under one roof to grapple with regional issues is to be commended, as is the appointment of Gary Barnes as Secretary, someone who understands regional NSW and has done a great job representing it in his current role as Coordinator General for regional NSW in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. But we do urge the new department to set bushfire recovery as a major priority.”

“The forest product industries are dealing with CoVid-19, and will continue to do their part to support federal and state government efforts to bring it under control. But its major priority is bushfire recovery, something it was dealing with before the virus and is still doing now. Both the sustainably harvested and then regenerated native timber forests in NSW, and the softwood timber plantation areas were badly affected by the fires. Urgent recovery harvesting and replanting needs to go ahead quickly.”

“Forest industries underpin the economic prosperity of many regional NSW communities and in many places are the main source of employment. After the devastating impacts of CoVid-19 on the tourism and services sectors it is vital that these blue-collar jobs are supported to continue providing a baseline for the broader regional economic rebuilding which must eventually follow when the virus is brought under control.”

Source: AFPA

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A new beaver task force initiative

A special announcement from Ducks Unlimited Canada on 1 April.

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... and one to end the week on you think you're bored

So, you have a lot of time on your hands? With a lot of major sports events postponed because of the coronavirus, sports journalists have been left with a lot of spare time on their hands. Andrew Cotter, who works for BBC Sport covering major events, took his boredom and created his own video at home starring Olive and Mabel.

And this will appeal to all those now at home charged with the responsibility of a bit of home schooling until this COVID-19 issue dies down. My homeschooling schedule consists of;

9am. Home Economics. Learn how to make me a decent coffee.

10am. Engineering. How to operate the vacuum cleaner and washing machine.

11am. PE. Carrying rubbish/recycling out to bins.

1pm. Chemistry. How to bleach and disinfect the bathroom.

2pm. Geography. Lesson in where the items you have strewn across the floor ACTUALLY live.

3pm. Orienteering. How to find wash basket.

3.30pm. Horticulture. Chopping veges.

4.30pm. Science. Learn how hot water and detergent removes grease from fry pans.

5pm. After School Club. Go to the room with your i-pad and be quiet.

And on that note, enjoy your long Easter weekend - at home! Cheers.

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

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