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Supporting alternatives to radiata pine: a new industry group to strengthen New Zealand’s specialty timbers sector

A new initiative is underway to create an industry entity for people working in New Zealand’s specialty timber industry.

Exotic specialty species, including cypresses, eucalyptus, redwoods, poplar and Tasmanian black wood, are estimated to cover around 67,000 hectares, and are a potentially highly valuable regional resource. These species are generally milled by small-scale saw millers, who form a critical link in the specialty species value chain. Currently these people all work independently but are known to be milling timber worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

A working group has been formed, comprising several saw millers and others working in the specialty timbers sector, supported by SWP and Forest Growers Research. The working group believes an industry entity could provide leadership, strengthen links in the value chain, attract and train new entrants, up-skill existing practitioners, and develop branding and collaborative marketing that will increase the value and sales of specialty timbers.

The working group has produced a discussion document: A proposal to develop New Zealand’s alternative timbers industry.

A survey of the sector has also been launched, targeted primarily at small-scale saw millers. The survey, which runs until mid-August, aims to discover more about the activities of the sector, and gauge the level of likely support for an industry association. If enough positive responses are received, the next step will be to set up a steering group to lead the formation of the new association.