Government and industry work together to build high value wood exports

FFR Media Release, 19 May 2015

The new government funding awarded to a Future Forests Research (FFR) led programme is a significant boost to creating a high-value specialty wood products industry from planted forest species other than radiata pine.

Research and Development Manager Russell Dale says this funding partnership between industry and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is great news for New Zealand and backs the forestry and wood processing industry and the Government’s strategy to grow high value export focussed manufacturing industries.

“The benefits to New Zealand from this investment are huge. We can expect export returns of around $350M by 2030, growth in regional employment and opportunities for Māori forestry and wood manufacturing in the regions,” said Russell.

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 cypresses, already exist in New Zealand but the opportunities to turn these resources into high value products sought by global markets have been limited by processing challenges, geographic spread and lack of scale.

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

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

The programme will benefit the country top to bottom, says Russell, 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. 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,” he said.

The 7-year long research programme represents a total $13.8M investment comprising $710,000 pa from MBIE’s Biological Industries Fund, $710,000 pa from the forestry industry, $550,000 pa from Scion Core Funding and support from the School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.

The programme is set to start on 1 July 2015.