NZ – New technology investments for export | 03 August 2017

Increasing lumber exports leads to new technology investment – Signs are good right now for the country’s wood processing industry. Shipments from New Zealand into the US market have in fact gone up 37% over just the past four years and during the first five months of 2017.

The US has now overtaken Australia as the number one export destination for pine lumber produced in New Zealand. In terms of value, New Zealand is now the second largest overseas lumber supplier into the US, behind Chile, but still ahead of lumber exporters from Europe.

Even better is news that US market growth is expected to continue. International WOOD MARKETS Group reports that rising consumer confidence; high builder optimism; historically low interest rates and tight inventory levels of both new and existing housing in the US are all strong indicators supporting new housing starts. After a long period of under-building and price recovery, US housing starts are forecasted to grow by seven per cent per year in 2017 and 2018.

The impact of duties on Canadian lumber exports into the US could also be a game-changer for lumber exporters to the US. Any increased duties will see Canadian exports to the US drop by 10 to 15 per cent. With growing demand there and reduced lumber supplies from Canada, US buyers are expected to look for lumber from the Southern Hemisphere and Europe.

For New Zealand sawmills to meet rising log costs, remain internationally competitive and increase exports to the US, many are now investing in new sawmilling technology.

The world’s most advanced sawmill and the first “super-mill” in the Southern Hemisphere, Red Stag Timber in Rotorua was officially opened recently. Having invested over NZ$100 million, general manager Tim Rigter says it has the capacity to now process over one million tonnes of logs per year. In Otago, Japanese-owned Pan Pac Forest Products completed a NZ$24 million redevelopment of it’s Milburn sawmill. Other mills are increasing their production, investing in automation and looking at new equipment.

To assist local mills evaluate the very latest in sawmilling technologies, specialist tech event organisers, the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) is running WoodTECH 2017. It’s a two-yearly programme of tailored presentations from global technology leaders, trade exhibitions and practical workshops which runs in Rotorua on 26-27 September.

“It’s a who’s who of international saws and sawmilling technology who will be travelling into Australasia” says Brent Apthorp, FIEA director. “We already have over 20 of North America’s leading technology providers, a significant number of European sawmilling equipment suppliers together with local innovators involved in the WoodTECH 2017 series”.

“What makes 2017 special is the series of workshops that this time have been set up for local sawmills” says Mr. Apthorp. “For the first time, a series of practical troubleshooting workshops have been designed for a much wider cross section of sawmill production and operational staff. They’ll be providing an insight into how local sawmills can extract the very best performance out of their saws and sawing operations”.

In addition to showcasing new sawmilling technologies at WoodTECH 2017, another one-day conference is being run the day after WoodTECH 2017 on 28 September titled, “Changing Perceptions of Engineered Timber in Construction”. “The week of planned activities will be providing a unique showcase of new production and construction technologies for wood producers, wood suppliers and wood users throughout the country.

Information links: WoodTECH 2017 Conference & Exhibitions – Wood Scanning, Sawing, Optimisation, 26-27 September, Rotorua,

Changing Perceptions Conference – Advantages of Timber in Midrise Construction 28 September, Rotorua

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