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Forest industry transforming itself

The forest and wood processing industries are moving quickly on a strategy to transform the sector. "With the prospect of even greater levels of harvest coming on stream we are determined to collect the best value we can from this resource and reinvigorate our sector," says Wood Council chair Doug Ducker.

WoodCo has just given the go-ahead to a $400,000 research-based initiative which aims to get the highest value out of every cubic metre of timber harvested. Known as Woodscape, it is modelled on a major study carried out for the Canadian forest products industry in 2009.

Meanwhile WoodCo members are already moving on several market development initiatives designed to maximise returns for traditional forest products. These include a campaign to actively promote NZ timber in Australia, the development of a national timber quality assurance scheme and active promotion of timber to Christchurch homeowners as the rebuild material.

"All these initiatives are important, but Woodscape has the potential in the medium -term to transform the sector, so that all players enjoy higher and more consistent returns," says Mr Ducker.

The Canadian 'Bio-Pathways' study concluded that much higher returns will come from integrating new technologies into traditional wood processing, including the conversion of forest biomass into bio-energy, bio-chemicals and other bio-materials. As a result, Canadian sawmills are now expanding into bioenergy and pulp mills are converting into bio-refineries for production of pulp, bio-energy and bio-chemicals.

Because of the many differences between Canada and New Zealand, Mr Ducker cautions that the strategies that emerge from Woodscape won't be a carbon copy of what has been adopted by Canada. But they do have the potential to be equally transformational.

Woodscape is being led by a 12-strong team at Scion Crown Research Institute with technical support from the industry and the universities. The study will draw heavily on the proven Bio-Pathways methodology adapted for differences in the NZ wood supply, industry structure, operating costs and markets.

Funding comes from all major industry players, Scion, NZ Trade & Enterprise, EECA, the Bio-energy Association and the Ministry for Primary Industries .

Promising technologies will be identified, costed, ranked and presented to sector workshops by the end of October. Development scenarios for five regions will be explored and workshopped during December. Final recommendations will be made to the Wood Council board in autumn next year, says Mr Ducker.

For more information, please phone Doug Ducker, Tel 021 474 708.