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Forestry industry going with the flow

Most of Wairarapa’s logs for exports are sent to Wellington’s port, an increasing number through the railway line. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

GIANINA SCHWANECKE talks to the third of three Wairarapa locals who recently completed the Kellogg Rural Leadership programme. This week, Scott Andrew explores woodflows across the eastern southern North Island.

Following the 1990s, and even today, large parts of Wairarapa are now covered in commercial pine forests.

But where do these trees end up, and just how many are out there, are questions JNL resource and risk management supervisor Andrew Scott hopes to answer in his recent research project undertaken as part of Kellogg Rural Leadership programme.

Growing up on the family farm, Langdale Station, near Whareama, Andrew said he had an appreciation for rural life from a young age.

JNL resource and risk management supervisor Scott Andrew. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

He went on to study a Bachelor of Forestry and has now been in the industry for 20 years.

“I’ve always been interested in the agriculture side of primary industries,” he said.

Andrew moved back to the region 10 years ago where he started working for the Greater Wellington Regional Council before shifting to JNL five years ago.

His report, Woodflows of the eastern southern North Island: 2019-2028, draws on previous experience analysing the woodflow supply chains in Tokoroa.

He received funding from JNL as part of his professional development.

Between 1993 and 2003, the region’s plantation forestry more than tripled, rising from 20,500 hectares to 66,500 hectares.

“In the mid-1990s, everyone started planting,” he said, the trees currently being harvested a legacy of that period.

With afforestation once again in the spotlight with the purchasing of farmland by forestry investment interests throughout the region, it’s important to understand how wood flows are changing.

Andrew compiled a survey to obtain the harvesting capacity of the forestry companies within the eastern southern North Island region.

They were asked to provide their current daily harvesting capacity and forecast their harvest volumes over the next 10-year period.

The domestic mills and log cartage companies were also questioned regarding their capacities.

It found that companies harvesting capacity sits at 1.97 million m3 and is forecast to increase to 2.25 million m3 in the next three years.

“I was surprised by the amount of volume that was out there,” Andrew said.

Forestry and wood manufacturing make up a significant part of the Wairarapa economy.

It accounts for 1.7 per cent of Masterton’s GDP, 12.7 per cent in Carterton owing to presence of the two largest sawmills in the region.

Much of this is either processed within the region or exported to Wellington.

With recent rail upgrades he said there would be less trucks on the roads, and more of what was harvested would be sent to the Napier port through the log hub in Dannevirke.

“There’s still a lot of Tararua cuts down here but with the new hub, they might go to Dannevirke.

“The rail hubs will play a large role in transporting the log volume to the ports, but the majority of the volume will still heavily rely on the trucking cartage network”

Log haulage companies have a capacity of approximately 110 trucks a day on the region’s roads, he found.

Each truck will complete two to three loads a day totalling about 270 truck movements.

Using the harvesting volume forecast from the forest companies, the minimum amount of truck movements per day will be approximately 310 to transport the harvested volume in the next two to three years.

If the full volume yield was to be utilised this will require 350 truck movements a day.

This could be problematic due to a shortage of truck drivers, with competition from other industries, Andrew said.

He said one of the biggest issues with wood lows was bottlenecking.

“It’s one thing if the volume is increasing but the capacity of the ports isn’t getting any bigger.

“They’ve been getting record volumes each year and there comes a point where you can’t do anymore.”

The other was finding a profitable market for domestic pulp.

“There are insufficient markets for domestic pulp that give a positive return,” he said.

“It’s like shearing sheep. You don’t get good money for the wool, but you have to do it for the management of the farm.

“The industry has to make the decision whether to remove this pulp from harvesting sites at a cost or find an alternative market for this product.”

He said JNL was fortunate to have a partnership with Renalls who collect the smaller material and chop it up for sawdust, woodchip, raw bark, wood shavings, firewood logs and post peelings.

Similarly, Andrew advocated for harvests to manufacture something rather than sending pure logs.

He recommended that harvesters work to make the forecast a reality for more accurate readings in the future, that the maximum capacity of each port is calculated, and that new technology is used in the National Exotic Forestry Description to improve accuracy.

While recent events like the Australian bush fires and coronavirus, had created the “perfect storm” and shown how vulnerable the forestry industry was to external factors it was still sustainable.

  • The full report can be found online at: ruralleaders.co.nz/woodflows-of-the-eastern-southern-north-island-2019-2028.

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