Scion Annual Report highlights forestry role in regional growth

For immediate release
14 October 2015

Today, Crown research institute Scion released its annual report, which highlights research that will increase the contribution of planted forests to national and regional economic development.

Chair Tony Nowell says an increased emphasis on integrating forests with other land uses is key to meeting more stringent environmental requirements and will lead to more forest-derived products in supply chains and regional job creation.

“By way of example is the work we have done, with other organisations, to explore the feasibility of a new industry based on Northland’s extensive tōtara resources, which could be a boon to the region’s struggling economy. Preliminary figures show a potential value of over $100 million by 2021.

“Our Packaging Team developed a new moisture barrier coating designed to increase the lifetime of paperboard in humid conditions. With horticultural exports worth some $4.7 billion to New Zealand such innovations are hugely beneficial.

“We have also made strides in evaluating ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water quality improvement, avoided erosion and increased biodiversity. In a recently completed study we showed that converting 320 hectare of dry stock to exotic forestry could provide a net gain of almost $9,000 per hectare per year, and add millions to the ecosystem services value,” said Mr Nowell.

Scion is now in its second year of the 6-year Growing Confidence in Forestry’s Future research programme. Modelling studies and accelerator trials are showing pathways for forest growers to realise productivity gains through faster growing forests with less variability between and within trees. Long-growing trials have been fruitful too. Analysis of data from 30-year long genetic gain trials has provided evidence of a strong relationship between the level of genetic improvement and increased volume grown. At a national level, the increase in present value resulting from genetic improvement of the radiata pine estate in 2014 is estimated to be $3.5 billion.

Scion’s wide research brief takes it well beyond tree growing. Biotransformation is ground breaking work, and Scion scientists teamed up with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to make radiata pine and other softwoods easier to process into valuable feedstock for the pulp, paper and biofuel industries.

Through its international licensees, the Scion-developed Woodforce technology for thermo-plastic wood composites underwent successful industrial-scale commercial testing within the automotive and other sectors.

Chief Executive Warren Parker says Scion’s research and technology successes were achieved alongside a financial performance that was solid in a challenging environment.

“Revenue was $47.3 million, $1.8 million below budget, which reflected changes to public sector funding. Return on equity was 7.3% and above budget of 5.6%.

“The year was challenging as we adapted, changed and upskilled to stay relevant in dynamic industry, business, science and political environments. Yet in a period of substantial change in our science sector, it was humbling to have a unique opportunity for our expert tree breeders to mark history with a meaningful gift to New Zealand from our research nursery,” said Dr Parker.

Scion raised 50 seedlings that are authenticated descendants from the Gallipoli Peninsula’s Lone Pine and donated them to RSAs throughout the country for planting at ANZAC Day centenary commemorations.

Scion’s complete Annual Report can be downloaded from