New Zealand Logger - - Contents -

Some of the heavy-hit­ters of the forestry in­dus­try came to­gether in Taupo for the 2018 DANA con­fer­ence to back­ground the progress made by their com­pa­nies and com­ment on re­cent trends.

THAT SO-CALLED WALL OF WOOD COULD pass much quicker than orig­i­nally fore­cast as a re­sult of the re­cent prac­tice of har­vest­ing younger trees.

Ac­cord­ing to forestry con­sul­tant, Jeff Tomble­son, ‘peak wood’ could ac­tu­ally oc­cur as soon as next year – that’s right, 2019.

He told the 2018 DANA Forestry Con­fer­ence in Taupo last month that of­fi­cial MPI statis­tics that show the Wall of Wood start­ing around now and con­tin­u­ing for much of the next decade, with a peak around 2024, is prob­a­bly wrong.

That’s partly due to in­ac­cu­ra­cies in the fig­ures, and partly be­cause trees are be­ing har­vested at a much ear­lier age.

Mr Tomble­son was pre­sent­ing an up­date on his re­search about the up­com­ing short­age of clear wood in the cen­tral North Is­land, as a re­sult of many for­est own­ers go­ing away from prun­ing.

When he sur­veyed for­est own­ers in the cen­tral North Is­land re­cently he also dis­cov­ered that the av­er­age age for har­vest­ing has been around 25 years, which equates with the peak of plant­ing back in the 1990s.

“Many com­men­ta­tors are say­ing that the Wall of Wood from the 1990s plant­ing boom is a lit­tle way out, it’s not – peak wood is 2019, as far as the cen­tral North Is­land is con­cerned, and I’m see­ing this from har­vest­ing con­trac­tors I talk to al­ready,” he says.

“I be­lieve that we are on the top of the curve cur­rently and then it’s all down­hill from there and it will im­pact on har­vest­ing con­trac­tors, log trans­porters and every­one else, not just the mills.”

The peak will dif­fer from re­gion-tore­gion, Mr Tomble­son con­cedes, but there is ev­i­dence of trees be­ing har­vested at younger ages in other ar­eas and when the forestry re­sources of New Zealand are taken as a whole, he be­lieves the over­all pic­ture is one of an ear­lier peak than has been fore­cast.

Mean­while, the news is even more grim for saw mills and wood pro­ces­sors who re­quire pruned logs to con­tinue do­ing busi­ness in the cen­tral North Is­land – a to­tal of 12 mills.

His up­dated peak wood fore­cast means the sup­ply of pruned logs for do­mes­tic use will re­duce much quicker than orig­i­nally en­vis­aged.

Mr Tomble­son says the cen­tral North Is­land mills will now face a cut of 50% in pruned log sup­ply by 2020 as key forests like Tau­mata (Kin­leith) run out and other fac­tors come into play.

In par­tic­u­lar, he says pre­vi­ous as­sump­tions that some of the up­com­ing short­fall could be made up by di­vert­ing the 40% of pruned logs that are thought to be cur­rently ex­ported back to lo­cal mills are wrong.

“We don’t ex­port 40% of our pruned wood,” he says. “My fol­low-up re­search shows that just 10% of the pruned har­vest is ex­ported, so there is lit­tle or no op­por­tu­nity to pick up the slack in terms of di­min­ish­ing wood sup­ply.”

That means we’ll see a drop from the cur­rent vol­ume of 1.2 mil­lion tonnes of pruned logs sup­plied from cen­tral North Is­land forests in 2017, tum­bling to just 600,000 tonnes – much faster than ear­lier thought. And by 2037 just 15% of the cur­rent pruned log to­tal will be avail­able to the mills.

“This will com­mer­cially com­pro­mise the mills that rely on clear wood and many will be forced to close if they can­not find al­ter­na­tives,” adds Mr Tomble­son.

On a brighter note, Mr Tomble­son says that if the gov­ern­ment’s One Bil­lion Trees pro­gramme suc­ceeds, it will pro­duce a mega wood mar­ket for in­dus­trial grade logs, lead­ing to the re­quire­ment for an­other Red Stag-size su­per saw mill.


Har­vest­ing trees at a younger age has helped to bring for­ward the Wall of Wood.

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