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The NZ Farm Forestry Association has set up a national industry body representing the interests of local specialty timber producers and those with an interest in specialty timbers.

A web resource is the "home" of Farm Forestry Timbers. This web resource includes extensive information about a range of local timber species, a photographic showcase of each timber in use and an online marketplace for products and services around local specialty timbers.

Timber and the building code
As an industry group we recognise that there are a number of areas in need of attention. At the top of the list is regaining some of the ground lost in recent years around timber in construction. The New Zealand building code rules are now set around treatment classes and strength classes for only radiata pine and Douglas fir. This makes it very difficult to use alternative timbers and market share has been lost as a result. We contend that natural durability should be deemed as acceptable, as should structural properties of a range of timber species. By having no historical representation on standards committees our alternative timbers have simply been left out from the rules. Our industry group will be lobbying for inclusion because timber is a traditional building material that has the highest credentials of all regarding safety and sustainability and should not be arbitrarily excluded from use.

The web resource includes extracts from the various New Zealand standards that apply to timber construction with "alternative" timbers. The market needs to be aware of and understand the rules, while industry also needs to know these in order to address the issues. The information is now available in the public arena about where and how we can use alternative timbers.

A separate, but related NZFFA project is in the process of determining the Characteristic Stresses of a range of timber species, including macrocarpa, lusitanica, Lawsons cypress, redwood and eucalypt in order to comply with NZS 3063 Timber Structures standard. These strength properties are required to be tested in accordance with the rules set out in another standard, AS/NZS 4063. The University of Canterbury have been contracted to undertake the testing and reporting of results from this work. This will enable structural engineers to design timber structures "by the rules" with these minor timber species.

Next will come durability and how industry can meet the specific requirements of the building code. We hope to work with Future Forests Research and Scion to provide evidence on durability performance for a range of species in different applications to the Department of Building and Housing.

Producers and quality
Producers of specialty timber have historically been disparate. As a result timber quality has been inconsistent, which along with unreliable availability has inhibited market development for our minor timber species. We know there is demand for specialty timber and we know that addressing quality issues are essential for market development. Farm Forestry Timbers have set up our own grading rules which all members must comply with when supplying timber through our web-marketplace. The grade rules can be viewed on the website, so that buyers can select timber grades to suit their requirements and are assured they will get what they expect.

Quality is controlled by production methods. Producers need to know how they should treat logs and timber to get the best resulting quality. Information resources are available from the site on sawmilling and drying so that producers can get it right. This also gives growers the tools to become producers and choose between selling logs or contracting a sawmiller to cut their timber, which they can dry and market themselves.

The Marketplace
"Addressing the supply chain issues around minor timbers in New Zealand is not going to be easy. Our goal is to provide a consistent supply of locally grown, natural, sustainably grown quality timbers for the local market. As a group we can achieve this, provided the collective approach is supported by the individuals involved. The opportunity is to supply into an existing demand currently being filled mostly with imported timbers. Our market research indicates there is sympathy and interest in our local product; we just need to swing consumer opinion around into tangible demand and collectively promote the message "Buy local and sustainable".

"A centralised marketplace and brand is the platform on which we are collectively launching our regionally based products. The marketplace is the centre of our website, where anybody who has a service or product to offer relating to locally grown specialty timbers can participate by joining the group. The marketplace is available for anybody to browse and link up with suppliers and services they seek. Growers can market trees or logs, sawmillers can seek logs, merchants can buy and sell timber; architects, builders and engineers can offer their services... everybody involved in the value chain can link up or simply offer their product or service to the market."

The future
"I have been hearing rumblings of discontent right around the country from growers who took a punt on specialty timber species and now have mature trees with "no market". Its time to develop that market, but everybody has to play their part. There is a level of risk, a chicken and egg scenario where a gamble first needs to be taken to increase the supply of timber, so that those who want timber will not be disappointed that it is not available. Those who believe in a market for local, quality timber need to step forward and play your part in emerging a diverse added-value forest industry in New Zealand."

Dean Satchell
64 21 2357554

Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided on this site, Farm Forestry Timbers Society do not accept liability for any consequences arising from reliance on the information published. If readers have any doubts about acting on any articles they should seek confirming, professional advice.

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