New wood processor group welcomed

9 Sep 2005

The launch of the Wood Processors Association is seen by forest owners as an important step in the evolution of the forest industry.

“Forestry is the country’s third largest exporter, so it is essential that all its sectors are well represented and can work together for the common good," says NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

“Today’s launch, and the fact that our two associations will be sharing premises, can only be positive for New Zealand and the tens of thousands of New Zealanders whose livelihoods depend on plantation forests and forest products.???

David Anderson, the WPA’s interim chairman, says the association will for the first time give its members a powerful and unified voice in advancing sector issues and supporting future growth. Mr Anderson is managing director of Winstone Pulp International.

“In a changing global business environment, the sector faces new challenges and opportunities. We have all known for a long time that we need to work together more, so the formation of this new body marks a big step forward, and will mean the WPA can bring new benefits to all members regardless of their size,??? he says.

“For example, if you are a smaller processor you have no real say in debate about electricity policies – even though your costs may have doubled. A united industry body can address that sort of issue much more effectively.???

Current key industry concerns were the exchange rate, high energy prices, international competitiveness, investment, impediments to growing New Zealand businesses and developing new markets, he says. 

“We are seeing an enormous amount of commonality among processors on the issues that matter most. While I am the interim chair I intend to take a very pragmatic and inclusive approach to working closely with other timber and forestry organisations to achieve common objectives."

Mr Rhodes says having a strong and fully representative group operating in the interests of the forest product processing sector – from pulp and paper to wood products – is a very good move.

He looks forward to working with the new association on a range of common issues. This will be helped by the fact that some vertically integrated companies will be members of both associations. 

It will also be important for the two organisations to work cooperatively on the development of Woodco – another new forestry organisation.

Mr Rhodes says Woodco, which has been dubbed an ‘association of associations’, will act on issues important to the industry as a whole. This could include, for example, the removal of international trade barriers.

“However, there are times where the growing, processing and exporting sectors have differing drivers and priority issues. These will continue to be dealt with by the different sector groups, which will still be the industry powerhouses."

Forestry accounts for 4% of GDP, and 26,000 jobs. The wood processing sector on its own delivers export earnings of $2.5 billion and accounts for investment in plant of $5 billion.

Tony Johnston, acting CEO for the WPA, said it will be a foundation member of Woodco. Following its formation by an Interim Steering Group in July it has already received confirmation of membership from firms accounting for 75% of the country’s wood processing output. It will elect a permanent board in November, and has begun searching for a permanent CEO.

“The sector is facing unprecedented challenges in government regulation, substitution, standards, international competitiveness, market access and continuity of supply," Mr Johnston says.

Mr Johnston says the WPA will give members access to national decision making, influence over matters that directly impact on their businesses, better levels of information and communications, and assistance in accessing resources. It will also provide support in training, employment, health and safety, environment, research and development and in positively promoting the benefits of New Zealand’s wood, fibre and related processed products both in New Zealand and overseas.

Any firm that processed New Zealand’s log crop for national and international sale is eligible to join the Association. Membership fees have been deliberately set at an affordable level, related to the size of the business, largely based on a firm’s output.

Firms requiring more information should contact either Mr Anderson at WPI or Mr Johnston at his consultancy, Mainsail Services, Tel 09 921 5330 or visit www.wpa.org.nz

Contact: David Anderson, Managing Director, Winstone Pulp International (WPI), Tel 09 302 1187.