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Programme description

By Science leaders, March 2018.

Download SWP-T043 (pdf)

Executive summary

The Specialty Wood Products Research Partnership (SWP) is a partnership between Government and industry which aims to develop a high-value specialty wood products industry based on alternatives to radiata pine, namely Douglas-fir, eucalypts and cypresses. The NZ Farm Forestry Association, as a partner, are a significant contributor to the specialty wood products industry.

Forestry is New Zealand’s third largest primary export earner, but it relies heavily on a single species, radiata pine. This leaves the industry vulnerable to fluctuations in demand, unable to capitalise on some market opportunities, and, with such large areas of a single species, at risk from a potentially devastating pest or disease outbreak. Limited areas of alternative or ‘specialty’ species have been planted over the years to diversify the forest resource; processing challenges, lack of scale and infrastructure, and geographically dispersed resources have restricted market development and the areas planted to date.

By generating a broader range of higher-value, better-performing timber products matched to specialty markets, the SWP will increase the competitiveness of the existing forest industry. Key global market trends identified include demand for high-stiffness timbers, naturally durable timbers, dark and rich-coloured timbers, and a strong sustainability brand. Specialty species have the potential to supply these markets, and also have the potential to complement the mainstream radiata pine industry through improving the performance of engineered wood products.

The SWP is also concerned with regional development. A sustainable harvest of sufficient volume from existing specialty species forests, or new forests of high-performing genotypes, planted within economic range of processing plants and export ports, is necessary to ensure the viability of this new industry. Advances in processing and market development will lead to new value chains being established in conjunction with our key investors; investors who operate in the regions and have existing routes to market through their international parent companies.


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