Specialty Wood Products Partnership comes to an end

2 February 2023

The Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership (SWP) was a seven-year research programme that concluded in June 2022.

The aim of SWP was to develop a highvalue specialty wood products industry from alternative species to radiata pine. The research programme focussed on Douglas-fir, eucalyptus and cypresses.

The SWP partnership developed investment cases for specialty forestry species and communicated these to potential forestry and wood  processing investors and Te Uru Rākau. From these investment cases, the potential to increase earnings within a five-year timeframe (from 2027) is at least $80 million per annum.

The main drivers behind this programme were reducing sectoral risk, creating products for new markets and spurring regional development. Forestry relies heavily on radiata pine, which leavesthe industry vulnerable to fluctuations in demand and at risk from a potentially devastating pest or disease outbreak.

The SWP partnership was developed to create a broader range of higher-value, better-performing timber products matched to specialty markets. A further aim was to encourage new forestry resources and processing in regions within economic range of processing plants and export ports.

By accurately matching tree species with growing site, linked to regional processing capacity and infrastructure, this programme has delivered valuable information to increase investor confidence in specialty timber species. Investment cases for specialty species, growing and processing catchments, have been identified in several regions and communicated to key stakeholders (including regional and central government), incentivising increasing planting of specialty tree species.

Screening for wood properties that meet or exceed technical expectations for stiffness, natural durability, stability and colour have led to development of high-value wood products. These products can create opportunities for a diversified wood products supply.

Key processing challenges have been overcome (e.g. segregation of poor-quality logs, growth strain, collapse/internal checking) or options have been identified to improve the economics of processing by at least 20 per cent.

Scion has been a key research provider to the SWP programme for the last seven years in areas including timber durability, engineered wood product performance, tree breeding and pest and disease management. This has been a strong relationship between both FGR and the industry partners.

Marco Lausberg, SWP Programme Manager, Forest Growers Research Ltd

In 2021, a field test was set up at Scion’s Rotorua campus to test flat panel durability of the heartwood of Cupressus lusitanica, C. ovensii and Douglas-fir with and without heat modification (at 230ºC) along with a number of control samples.