Export log prices may be peaking; China approves Radiata for buildings; Rotorua targeted for NZ’s second CLT plant; Methyl Bromide replacement a step closer; PF Olsen head Peter Clark steps down; overseas forestry investment streamlined; billion tree timetable gives industry confidence; work starts on Wairoa forestry rail link; DIY drug testing not the answer; nominations for Northland Forestry Awards open; Timber Design Awards entries now open; lightening the load with synthetic rope; focus on improving log transport; funding to expand Bay of Plenty tree nursery.
AFTER A RECORD HARVEST IN 2017 THERE ARE A LOT OF CONTENTED smiles around forestry, especially with log prices peaking at the same time. We could be in for a repeat in 2018. Or maybe not. Depends on who you listen to. Logic tells us that our harvest is going to keep on growing over the next decade, because we’ve only just started nibbling at the Wall of Wood. But there are growing pains that could put a cap on how much wood we can recover from our plantation forests. And that’s a worry.
People are already starting to talk about capacity constraints at our major log ports. And we all know that sometimes it’s hard to get trucks into the forest to pick up logs due to driver shortages and other issues. Sub-standard roads in the regions are also hurting the ability of transporters to keep to schedule. Then you’ve got silviculture and logging contractors desperately short of people to plant and cut trees.
Talk about creaking at the seams.
It’s been good to see Shane Jones keep his promise about injecting capital into the regions to help alleviate some of these problems. But the emphasis placed on investing in rail to move more logs ignores the point that trains will only be able to transport a fraction of our harvest, because rail doesn’t reach into many of the outlying areas where much of the Wall of Wood is coming from.
I’ve said it for years, and I’ll keep saying it; we need a national strategy for the forestry industry that incorporates every facet, from finding more land to grow the promised billion trees, to attracting the people who will plant, harvest and transport the logs, to ensuring there is a comprehensive logistics system to expedite those logs to their destinations. There are other important things that should be in the strategy, such as looking to maximise the value of our forestry resource by encouraging processing in New Zealand and finding markets to sell those products. And so on and so forth.
Putting more trees in the ground is a great feel-good activity, but I just hope they are going into the right places, where they can easily be harvested and transported. At the same time, we need to plan ahead to ensure the logistics for transportation are ready when loggers go into those new forests.
The growing pains we are experiencing today are the result of not having a national strategy in place years ago. We just planted and hoped.
We’re now in catch-up mode.
So while I don’t want to rain on Shane Jones’ parade, I think it is vitally important that the Minister and his colleagues sit down urgently with forestry leaders and devise a comprehensive strategy that brings all the elements together.
It could save a lot of heartache 25 years down the road when those billion new trees are part of the next Wall of Wood.