The annual get together of the New Zealand Institute of Foresters moved to Nelson this year and saw a number of issues discussed at its conference, along with awards presented to leading lights of the industry and its younger members.
THE NEW OWNER OF NELSON FORESTS broke cover at the NZIF annual conference last month.
It’s been unusual for foreign buyers of local forestry businesses to make public appearances in the past, but Australian-based OneFortyOne Plantations cast that tradition aside to tell its story to members of the Institute when they convened in Nelson…….. especially as formal approval has yet to be given by the Overseas Investment Office for the purchase.
The good news is that the head of OneFortyOne Plantations is a New Zealander and the company has plans to grow the newly acquired Nelson Forest business, not bleed it or break it up.
Auckland University-educated Linda Sewell is a former CHH executive who also worked for HVP Plantations (Hancock) in Australia before being shoulder-tapped five years ago to become CEO of a Forest investment company without any forests.
In a presentation to the NZIF, she says the business has gone from just having one employee (herself) to now employing more than 600, with major forest and mill investments on both sides of the Tasman.
OneFortyOne’s backer, US-owned Campbell Global, was the successful bidder for the Forestry South Australia 100-year harvesting rights over 80,000ha that were sold by the state government in 2012, which led to a huge outcry from both the public and many of those who worked in the Golden Triangle, centred at Mt Gambier.
The outcry died down when the company focused on supplying the domestic market, rather than exports, and won over the locals. This was further cemented when it also ended up purchasing the largest mill in the region from CHH, the Jubilee Mill in Mt Gambier, even though it meant shelving plans to build a particle board mill to use the mounting waste and pulp logs (that’s still an issue to be solved).
Within a year, Nelson Forests was put on the market, which includes the Kaituna sawmill in addition to its 78,000 hectare estate, and OneFortyOne was the successful purchaser again.
“It was an extraordinary year,” says Ms Sewell. “We ended up with a mirror image of what we had in Mt Gambier and becoming one of the largest integrated forestry businesses in Australasia, producing one million tonnes a year.”
While it is still early days, Ms Sewell says the owners of OneFortyOne intend to grow the business, plugging any gaps and integrating the assets to make them work more efficiently. But that’s a story for another day.
Where did the OneFortyOne name come from? It’s the longitude of Mt Gambier.
OneFortyOne CEO, Linda Sewell