Welcome back - 2020

24 Jan 2020
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Welcome back - 2020

Dear WPMA members,

I hope that you had a restful break over the holiday period and are raring to go in 2020.  Some updates on very recent WPMA activities and outcomes:

Log Market Distortion - Industry Transformation Plan.

WPMA kept up the momentum over the past weeks created by the meeting between the WPMA Board and Ministers Parker, Jones and Twyford.  At this meeting it was agreed that the government’s investigation into the domestic log market showed serious distortion.  This has been adversely affecting NZ’s wood processors and manufacturers over the last decade.  Sadly, this artificially stacked market showed its effect again early in 2020 contributing to the demise of more NZ processing plants.
With evidence of strong market bias Ministers were keen to move to remedies.  On the day of the meeting, they asked the Board for any initial ideas.  Over the holiday we wrote to Ministers confirming what we said.  The WPMA Board asked that the government:

  • Introduce accelerated depreciation on fixed assets;
  • Legislate for overseas investment in forestry to support local wood manufacturing;
  • Reform the NZ standard-setting system;
  • Use part of the Harvested Wood Products’ Fund to finance industry-good activities, and
  • Enforce carbon-neutral construction rules in government procurement. 

Note that these ideas were provided by the Board as a “starter-for-10” in response to ministers asking for ideas.  The WPMA Board feels that the degree of injury that the wood processing sector has been experiencing over the years is likely to require a much broader policy response from government.  Acknowledging this, Ministers directed that this wider work front be tackled under an Industry Transformation Plan (ITP).  I’ll be able to report more on this to you as soon as government outlines its plans for the ITP process.
A follow-up meeting with the CEO of MPI and the new Secretary of Treasury was also used by WPMA to reinforce the findings of the government’s log market investigation and to press home the need for urgent policy action from these agencies to provide relief to the domestic industry.

WPMA in China


WPMA Chair, Brian Stanley, and WPMA Director, Doug Ducker, travelled to China in December as part of an official delegation led by the Ministry for Primary Industries.  The NZ delegation met with counterpart ministries and industry bodies.  The main objective and outcomes of the trip were to determine how we can convince China to import higher volumes of sawn lumber from New Zealand rather than continue high volume raw log imports.
Industry presentations to the Chinese included a strong push to have the primary processing of logs done in New Zealand and the secondary processing of the sawn lumber done in China.  This strategy would provide a win for both parties in that China would receive high quality dried lumber free of sap stain that would have a much wider usage capability, China would eliminate its highly inefficient primary processing plants and save on energy that could be used more efficiently in secondary processing, whilst New Zealand sawmillers would get the confidence to expand into low cost scale primary processing.

Discussions in China highlighted the lack of knowledge in China for the potential uses of high quality engineered lumber from Radiata.  Due to sap stained Radiata logs being processed in China causing extremely poor gluing qualities, the Chinese believe Radiata is a low quality timber product suitable only for packaging and concrete form work.  Doing the primary processing in New Zealand and sending high quality dried Radiata lumber up to China for secondary processing would eliminate this belief.
There is significant potential for higher volumes of sawn lumber exports to China but it will require a lot of work both from a technical education perspective and a more intensive marketing programme such as those that have already been established by Finland and Canada with strong support from those governments.

NZ Wood Timber Design Awards - 2020


WPMA has been pressing on with the behind-the-scenes work managing the 2020 NZ Wood Timber Design Awards.  Stage two judging of entries was completed in December.  The difficult task of selecting winners from the 48 finalists challenged our judges this year due to the high standard of designs.  Winners will be announced at the Timber Design Awards function on 26 March at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland.  Information about the Gala Dinner will be released soon.
This year’s crop of entries has shown more prefabricated and panelised designs, both in mass timber and cassette form, as well as some post and beam formats with strong consideration of design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) processes. New wood products have been developed and commercialised, along with the uptake of environmentally friendly, exterior-use products.
The judges for this year’s programme include New Zealand Institute of Architects’ President Tim Melville, New Zealand Timber Design Society President David Carradine, Scion’s Sustainability Architect, Andrea Stocchero, and WPMA Wood Design Guides’ Project Manager, Andy van Houtte. 


Standards happenings

NZS AS 1720.1:2020 Timber structures Part 1: Design methods has just closed the final Committee Ballot, so, unless somebody has put in good technical arguments against it, the next stage will be publication of the Standard. This process has been underway since 2014, but was interrupted by the remodelling of the Standards body from the Standards Association to Standards NZ as a part of MBIE.
NZS 3602 Timber and Wood-based products for use in Building has also just closed its final ballot, as per the above Standard the next stage should be publication. Underway since 2016.
NZS 3640 Preservation of timber and wood-based products has reached the stage where final ballot papers are due imminently; again it appears that we are close to finalisation. Underway since 2016.
In late 2019 a Scoping Group was formed by Standards NZ to prepare a revision of NZS 3604 Light Timber Framing Code. A meeting was held in November and a second is scheduled for February. Preliminary stages.
AS/NZS 1604 Specification of timber treatment initially underwent a minor revision 2014-2015, and since then has been undergoing a major revision. We understand that this is to be released for a second public comment period. WPMA will call a WPMA Preservation Technical Committee meeting to discuss the latest draft and make submissions if required.
AS/NZS 1328 Glue Laminated Timber revision has been referred back to the Working Group as the Committee was unable to reach consensus on several technical points.
AS/NZS 8008 Finger-jointed Structural Timber has been debated at considerable length in the Working Group. An effort to resolve the impasse here will be made in March 2020, which will be a combined meeting of the Working Group and Committee.
All in all, finally progress has been made on the NZ Standards revisions, but the AS/NZS Standards revisions progress is generally not clear.


Health and Safety

WPMA has been proactive in working on several Health and Safety issues. These have involved

1.   Preservative treatment plant regulations

WPMA was alerted by its members that WorkSafe regulations for Hazardous Substances involving both LOSP and CCA were not able to be complied with by existing plants. A suitable group of members worked with the executive and a consultant to propose a Safe Work Instrument which would enable plants to demonstrate safe systems which would meet the spirit of the regulations. WorkSafe was not in favour of this initiative, but in looking at the regulations they have come up with several amendments which will make compliance of CCA plants more achievable.
Unfortunately LOSP regulations have not changed, but we are starting to see some sensible decision making by WorkSafe Compliance Certifiers which are allowing plants to achieve Certification without incurring absolutely stupid expenses. However more work needs to be done here to help our members.

2.    Exposure limits for wood dust

WorkSafe proposed a unilateral reduction of the Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) for softwood dust from 2.0 mg/m3 to 0.5 mg/m3 for an 8 hour shift. The WES had only been reduced from 5.0 to 2.0 in 2013. Our members and industrial machinery representatives felt that 0.5 was unreachable and could lead to legal problems with WorkSafe.
WPMA made a reply to the WorkSafe submission and subsequently wrote 2 letters to the Minister. In November we received word that the proposed reduction for softwood dust had been deferred for 3 years, and that WorkSafe had agreed to consult with interested parties beforehand.
While this deferment gives us some breathing space (pun), we must continue to build an argument that while all parties wish to provide safe workplaces, excessive regulations, which offer negligible improvement in workplace health and are often based on erroneous arguments and incomplete data, must be pushed back.


If you have any questions on the above, then please contact
me directly on 021 02831098.
Jon Tanner
January 2020


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