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NZ Future Forests will have different trees


Russell Dale of Future Forests Research

A Future Forests Research (FFR) program is creating high value specialty wood products from species other than radiata pine. Source: Timberbiz

The new government funding awarded to the FFR led program is a significant boost and will help to create a high-value specialty wood products industry.

FFR Research and Development Manager Russell Dale said this funding partnership between industry and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is great news for New Zealand.

It backs the forestry and wood processing industry and the Government’s strategy to grow high value export focused manufacturing industries.

The 7-year long research program represents a total $NZ13.8M investment comprising $NZ710,000 pa from MBIE’s Biological Industries Fund, $NZ710,000 per annum from the forestry industry, $NZ550,000 per annum from Scion Core Funding and support from the School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.

The program is set to start on 1 July 2015.

Major industry investors are Southwood Exports, Juken NZ Ltd, Ernslaw One, Forest Growers’ Levy Trust, Blakely Pacific, Timberlands and Proseed. Science partners in the new venture are Scion, University of Canterbury and the New Zealand Dryland Forests Initiative.

Program Steering Group Chair Peter Berg said that this investment in research will deliver future harvests with predictable quality and high-value for domestic and international specialty markets.

“We are looking long-term and predict annual export returns of $3.6B by 2050,” Mr Berg said.

According to Mr Dale the benefits are huge.

“We can expect export returns of around $NZ350M by 2030, growth in regional employment and opportunities for Māori forestry and wood manufacturing in the regions,” he said.

Forestry and wood manufacturing collectively is New Zealand’s third largest export earner and relies largely on radiata pine, which is not well suited to some higher value applications.

Plantations of species such as eucalypts, Douglas-fir and cypress already exist in New Zealand but the opportunities to turn these into high value products sought by global markets have been limited by processing challenges, geographic spread and a lack of scale.

“These species can supply markets that demand chemical free, stiff and attractive timbers from sustainable resources,” said Mr Dale.

The aims of the FFR program are to:

  • transform processing options for eucalypts, Douglas-fir, and cypresses to produce high-value specialty wood products;
  • (develop improved Eucalypt breeding stock that will overcome the current problems of growth strain, checking and collapse; and
  • develop a new, naturally durable eucalypt and cypress resource.

The program will benefit the country top to bottom according to Mr Dale and regional strategies will focus on ensuring the viability of this new industry.

“There must be sustainable harvests of sufficient volume from existing forests, or new forests, planted within economic range of processing plants to support local industry,” he said.

“Our key investors have existing routes to market through their international market connections ensuring the research is well aligned to market needs.

“Scientists, engineers, seedling producers, foresters and wood manufacturers will come together to develop new export-oriented opportunities that will make New Zealand a recognised supplier of superior, high-performance wood products.”