Forestry Transformation Plan could be ‘game changer’
The Forest Owners Association says the Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan has the potential to drive New Zealand’s biggest step yet to increase domestic value-add to forest products.
The FOA also says the ITP is a vital tool to combat climate change through materials substitution.
The ITP was launched in Christchurch on Friday (today 19 August eds) by the Forestry Minister Stuart Nash.
The plan sets out ambitious targets for exporting more finished wooden products, increased wood construction in New Zealand and a huge transformation from oil and coal fuels, and materials, to instead using wood-based sources.
Forest Owners Association President, Grant Dodson, says that while the ability of plantation forests to sequester carbon from the atmosphere is well known, the role of wooden buildings to continue to store that carbon is less appreciated.
“Once we get into the full scale of modern engineered timber construction the volume of long-term wood use in this country will increase markedly. Laminated Veneer Lumber and Cross Laminated Timber buildings can be made much bigger than wooden buildings previously. You can already see this technology at a number of our airport terminals, such as Nelson and Wellington.”
The ITP envisions an increase of added-value wood product exports to $3.1 billion a year.
International investment agency Gresham House predicts worldwide consumption of timber will rise from 2.2 billion cubic metres per year to 5.8 billion cubic metres year by 2050, driven by the need to decrease concrete and steel construction.
Grant Dodson says there is at least as much potential in wood fibre as an energy source and for use in an emerging global bioeconomy.
“Dairy companies throughout New Zealand are converting their milk powder driers to using wood chips or pellets as fast as they can. There is a risk though at the moment that we won’t be able to supply the wood from forests fast enough.”
“These dairy conversions are driven by overseas market demand. Dairy customers in Europe in particular have made it clear that they will go elsewhere for their supplies if New Zealand continues to use carbon emitting coal in milk powder production.”
Grant Dodson says there is even greater and longer-term potential in using wood fibre as a raw material for producing things currently made from a range of plastics.
“There are two major downsides from plastics. They generally are very slow to breakdown in the environment, and they are also derived from fossil carbon which is best left in the ground. Wood is biodegradable and versatile.”
Grant Dodson says the forest industry is backing the ITP and he is congratulating Stuart Nash for driving this project.
“The challenge now is to implement it. It’s great to have such a positive plan and we look forward to the next steps to attract the investment which is necessary to make the plan an economic and environmental reality.”