New Zealand Logger - - Contents - NZL

THE DE­CI­SION BY SEV­ERAL LARGE COR­PO­RATE FOR­EST OWN­ERS to stop prun­ing trees over the last few years may well re­turn to bite us all in the fu­ture. A fu­ture that could come around sooner than we think.

This fact was brought home af­ter lis­ten­ing to a pre­sen­ta­tion made by forestry con­sul­tant, Jeff Tomble­son, to the 2018 DANA Forestry Con­fer­ence in Ro­torua last month (see page 10).

Fig­ures pre­sented by Jeff in­di­cate that we are much closer to the peak of the Wall of Wood than pre­vi­ously thought, es­pe­cially so in the cen­tral North Is­land, where there is con­sid­er­able de­mand for clear wood.

He cal­cu­lates that by the end of 2020, the avail­abil­ity of pruned logs could fall by 50% in that re­gion com­pared to 2017 lev­els. And by 2037, just 15% of the logs har­vested will be pruned.

Those fig­ures are very wor­ry­ing for the 12 mills in the cen­tral North Is­land that rely on pruned logs to make higher value clear wood prod­ucts. They don’t want wood with lots of knots that could com­pro­mise the strength and value of their prod­ucts and their cus­tomers won’t ac­cept fin­ger-jointed tim­ber as a sub­sti­tute (un­less it’s go­ing to be painted).

I can see why the large for­est grow­ers have gone away from prun­ing.

They re­quire a $60-to-70 pre­mium over the best non-pruned logs to con­tinue prun­ing their es­tates and only once in the last 20 years has that been achieved. In other words, it’s cost­ing them money.

So why don’t the mills just cough up the ex­tra? Mill own­ers ar­gue they’re al­ready pay­ing the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket price and the mar­ket ob­vi­ously doesn’t value pruned logs as highly. To pay more than oth­ers would make their prod­ucts un­com­pet­i­tive. It’s Catch 22.

Some prun­ing will con­tinue among smaller for­est own­ers and in plan­ta­tions owned by mills that process clears, but it’s look­ing like un­pruned trees will dom­i­nate in fu­ture.

That’s a great shame, be­cause it re­duces the op­tions to at­tract fur­ther pro­cess­ing of logs that this in­dus­try is so des­per­ate to make hap­pen within New Zealand.

Ef­fec­tively, if we are to see any new mills es­tab­lished in the fu­ture they will ei­ther have to pro­duce in­dus­trial lum­ber or boards.

Fur­ther down the track our sci­en­tists may be able to breed trees that have fewer and smaller branches that don’t need prun­ing, yet still pro­duce clear wood. How­ever, that’s well into the fu­ture and it won’t save most of the 12 sawmills fac­ing short­ages now.

Clearly a case of one part of forestry out of step with the other.

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