Speech to the Timber Design Conference dinner, Christchurch

  • Jo Goodhew
Primary Industries

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

It is a pleasure to speak at the conference dinner this evening.

This is the first time I have had the opportunity to talk with you all as a group since the election and since again taking responsibility for the forestry portfolio.

For almost two and a half years now I have visited our regions and spoken to a wide range of people in the forestry industry to help me gain a better understanding of how the forestry and wood sector works, and where the potential opportunities lie.

I will take the opportunity tonight to outline my vision for forestry and explain the Government’s priorities for the timber sector.


  • The Conference Organising Committee;
  • Daniel Scheibmair, President of the Timber Design Society;
  • The Institute of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) fellows,  Andy Buchanan, and others (tbc);
  • Professor Hans Blass and Richard Hough from Arup;
  • other dinner guest speaker (tbc)

I would like to welcome sponsors Carter Holt Harvey, Nelson Pine, Mitek, TimberConnect and Xlam.

I would also like to welcome representatives from Canterbury and Auckland Universities and Staff from the Ministry for Primary Industries.


Since taking on this portfolio I have realized the need to work with all of you, across the supply chain, if we want to see the New Zealand engineered timber industry grow.

We cannot allow each other to feel siloed.

Greater communication will be one of our key drivers in ensuring the industry can pull together and take advantage of the opportunity for engineered timber and the wider New Zealand economy.

The annual harvest in 2014 was 30 million cubic metres.

Moving into the next decade this is projected to increase by more than 40 per cent.

We can’t keep sending 50% of these logs offshore for processing.

Greater onshore processing has the potential to provide a significant boost to regional economies.

And a strong domestic sector will lead to a valuable export market for our forest resource.

Together, we need to build on the significant industry investment in our domestic processing capabilities.

We need to continue the strong base of research and development by government and industry.

And we need to use these to keep innovating, keep growing and start attracting some of our smartest young New Zealanders into this state-of-the-art sector.

We have a long way to go.

We need to better understand the demand, drivers and trends in overseas markets.

We need to work harder to find the niche areas where New Zealand can compete.

And we need to clearly tell the sustainability and innovation stories of our wood industry.

By doing so we will move wood products out of the commodity basket and up the value chain.

This aspiration is a key driver behind the Wood Council of New Zealand’s target to more than double forest and wood product exports to $12 billion by 2022.

This target clearly aligns with the Government’s Business Growth Agenda goal of increasing exports to 40 percent of GDP by 2025.

Why engineered timber?

Many people ask me why engineered timber is such a key priority for me. The answer is simple.

First, we have a sustainably grown, for all intents, inexhaustible, and increasing supply of quality wood.

It can be re-engineered to make it stronger and combined in large dimensions that allow it to be used in a similar way or in combination with concrete and steel.

Second, we already have the technical information and world leading research on hand.

Canterbury University’s innovation in low-damage design has achieved world-wide recognition.

I would like to acknowledge the work of Andy Buchanan and his team.

Andy is internationally recognised and most recently spoke about tall timber buildings at the 2015 World Wood Conference in Turkey.

I also want to acknowledge Hugh Morris from Auckland University who was instrumental in bringing the World Conference Timber Engineering to NZ in 2012.

There are many other people who have played a part in the success to date and deserve recognition for driving innovation and technological know-how in our industry.

Many local and international buildings now use the Structural Timber Innovation Company (STIC) low-damage construction system which originated in New Zealand.

This was a world-first for multi-story buildings.

STIC is a good example of what can be achieved when industry, sector organisations from both sides of the Tasman, government and researchers work together.

The companies building STIC designed buildings are investigating using prefabricated engineered timber exported from New Zealand, as it is cost competitive.

These are exactly the connections that need to be made.

Wood has taken a further step into the spotlight during the initial phase of the Canterbury rebuild because of its cost effectiveness, strength and performance in highly earthquake prone areas.

The Tait, Merritt and Trimble buildings all make use of wood technologies that are both sustainable and quake-resilient.

These exemplar buildings in the Canterbury rebuild, together with the Knoll Ridge Café on Mt Ruapehu, the Kaikoura District Council building (under  construction) and the Massey University’s Centre of Contemporary Arts demonstrate that there is a real appetite to make best use of engineered timber as an innovative product.

Third, wood efficiently sequesters carbon.

Every tonne of wood material used in construction saves about 5.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Fourth, the ‘WoodScape’ economic tool identified that engineered timber products can provide solid returns on investment above 10 per cent.

This is one of the highest returns for both existing and emerging wood processing technologies.

Engineered wood products will lead to a future where our buildings are earthquake resilient, sustainable, energy efficient, durable, and affordable.  

Unlocking pathways to connect the producers of timber products with the users of the products will be the key to success.

Cultural relationship with wood

New Zealanders have a unique cultural relationship with wood – take our homes and the old government buildings in Wellington.

We like and are used to living and working in buildings constructed from wood.

I have visited the Trimble Building - as you will tomorrow - and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

Feedback from the people who work in them is that they feel better – and that they feel “calmer” and safer.

We have a long track record in effectively “growing our homes”.

The challenge now is to grow our multi-storey residential and commercial buildings and this is where you are the key players, both domestically and in our overseas markets.

Exemplars and leadership are critical ingredients to ensure we continue to “grow our buildings”.

Every step taken and every decision to use engineered timber has a cumulative effect. But more needs to be done.

Addressing barriers

Supply chain blockages, skills shortages and the capacity to manufacture or fabricate engineered timber have been identified as barriers.

Last year the engineered timber stakeholder working group was set up to share information, coordinate activities, and pool resources to make sure your efforts are cumulative.

The working group includes members of the relevant industry associations – Timber Design Society, Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association, NZ Wood, PreFabNZ, and Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia, with the Ministry for Primary Industries acting as the secretariat.

Initially they are concentrating on education to increase the skills and capability of the professionals who use timber in multi-story construction.

We are well aware of skills shortage problems in the primary industries.

In the engineered timber space we need to be attracting and training more designers and engineers to develop new wood products and systems.

The big growth areas will be in technical, design, research, management and professional advisory services, as our primary production and processing becomes more sophisticated.

Part of this will rely on lifting the profile and perceptions of timber, by getting those involved in the design and construction process on board – property developers, quality surveyors, architects, engineers and local authorities.

The organisers of this conference have specifically targeted these groups in the conference programme and I am pleased to see so many of you here.

I will be hosting the Architectural Engineering student prize giving at Parliament on Friday 10 July.

This prize giving celebrates the concept that good design is good engineering, and is another cross-discipline collaboration between architects and engineers.

I am also hopeful that we will see engineered timber projects involved in the Primary Growth Partnership.

The industry can make use of the PGP to secure government matched industry funding to find pathways to markets, and improving the long value chain from forest grower to the finished building solution.

There are a number of other actions underway this year that we need to make the most of. These include:

  • Promoting and profiling the use of engineered timber in high profile buildings through MPI sponsoring the Timber Design Awards
  • Completing a review and update of the timber design standard NZS3603;
  • Building a strategic partnership through the Wood Council to ensure the Government is aware of and able to act on any matters that can limit the uptake of engineered timber


I am heartened by the things that I have seen and heard today and am extremely encouraged by your collaboration to date.

I feel that it is extremely important that there is a united industry voice.

I remain committed to working with industry and the Ministry for Primary Industries, to educate and promote the use of engineered timber, support better and more innovative domestic processing and continue to increase high value exports.

Thank you for your time.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.