New Zealand forestry contractors are reporting that they are losing money, work, and jobs due to fluctuations in the timber markets and major delays at the country’s ports.
Driven by extreme demand for logs from China and other international markets, New Zealand timberland owners in the first half of 2021 raced to harvest as many logs as possible to take advantage of record high prices. However, a slowing in the demand for logs from China and the record number of logs that have been harvested has overwhelmed the ports and created infrastructure problems that now must be worked through.
Some of the port delays are also the result of international shipping congestion brought about by COVID-19. However, on the east coast of New Zealand, pandemic has been made worse by inclement weather in Gisborne which has made loading impossible.
Robert Stubbs, who runs Gisborne-based Stubbs Contractors, said, “There’s no room on the port anymore. All the storage facilities are full, so now all of that volume is backing up on the jobs out on the forest.” Stubbs went onto say that as a contractor, delays such as these start to chip away at the finances. “It becomes borderline unmanageable.”
To try and work around the problem in Gisborne, logs are being taken to Napier and Tauranga instead to try and export them as quickly as possible. But Log Transport Safety Council chairman Warwick Wilshier said that takes a lot of time and effort and depends on a depleted workforce. Wilshier noted that “We’re all short of drivers, it is a huge issue in our sector. All our borders are closed, we’re not allowed to bring people in from overseas, we’re training as many as we can but we’re all struggling, which is not helping things, we’ve got trucks parked up.”
As logs are moved to other ports, they are starting to report congestion and infrastructure issues and delays as well.
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