Category Archives: New Zealand

New Zealand Historical Pine Log Price Data

In the early 1990s the New Zealand Government made the fateful decision to hand the forest industry over to the private sector.

It was a brave and visionary decision.

Before then the New Zealand forest industry was a Government run community service that included plundering public native forests and running a massive pine plantation employment program.

Public native forestry was shut down and the pine plantation resource was sold to the private sector.

The forest industry was mortified! Apoplectic!

Twenty five (25) years later and NZ has one of the most successful forest industries in the world, based on profitable private tree growers. Can anyone challenge this assessment?

Forestry was third in the list of exports by value in 2016 in New Zealand (after dairy and meat; with no Government subsidies):

What did New Zealand export in 2016

Once the pine plantation resource was privatised then pine log prices became realistic and meaningful and the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries began recording pine log price data.

So here we have twenty five (25) years of export pine log price data.

What an astonishing achievement!

Well done New Zealand!!

I’ve converted the data into a chart and added some second order polynomial trend lines.

Before June 2017 the data is numerical average price. Post June 2017 the prices are weighted average which should mean more realistic and stable data.


The obvious trends are a major spike in 1994 due to the Northern Spotted Owl crisis in North America (1) followed by a gradual price decline until the GFC in 2007/08. Following the Global Financial Crisis export pine log prices have seen a steady 10-year price improvement, to the advantage of NZ pine growers.

The other interesting trend in the chart is the convergence over the last 10 years of the A Grade, K Grade and Pulp log prices. Pruned pine log prices have continued show a significant price differential.

Oh how I wish we had meaningful long term blackwood log price data.

No chance! Not in Tasmania!

Good luck to New Zealand pine growers!!


New Zealand Tree Growers Enjoying Good Times


New Zealand has one of the world’s most successful forest industries.

And right now they are riding the tide of strong demand and high prices.

New Zealand farmers will be raking in the money.

Forest owners are enjoying the most sustained, stable and highest prices for logs ever recorded.

It’s mostly about China and export markets.

Log export markets are absolutely vital to the New Zealand forest industry.


Because the New Zealand forest industry is ALL about profitable private tree growers. Local New Zealand sawmillers have to survive in a very competitive market. This keeps them focused, efficient and hardworking. That’s business!

And for that the forest industry makes a huge contribution to the New Zealand economy.

Why can’t Tasmania have a forest industry like New Zealand?

Two Great Videos from New Zealand

As many people know the New Zealand forest industry is fully commercial and very successful; perhaps the most successful forest industry in the world.

It is a major contributor to the NZ economy both from local processing and log export. The industry is still largely based on Radiata pine, but that is slowly changing.

The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA) helps to ensure that New Zealand farmers have a strong voice in the forest industry.

They also have a strong focus on extension and support to the farming community.

These two videos are great examples of that focus.

The first video focuses on the economics and commercial returns to growers from forestry investment. These are real examples from real farmers making good money growing trees.

Returns from Harvesting

The second video shows examples of farmers who have grown, milled and used their own timber. Towards the end of this video is blackwood grower and miller Paul Millen talking about farm-grown and milled blackwood.

Using Timber from Trees on Farms

Two inspiring videos for existing or prospective farm tree growers.

Other videos that are worth watching can be found here:

It’s a shame we don’t have anything like this from Australia/Tasmania!

Trans-Tasman Blackwood Grower Friendship


I just received this great email from my friend and blackwood grower Gilles which I couldn’t resist turning into a blog.

I like good news stories!

And yes…it’s another story from New Zealand.

Hi Gordon,

I just got back from a 3 weeks trip in New Zealand , originally it was a meant to be just a vacation with some friends but after a week I ended up travelling on my own and i soon found myself on a farm near Kaitaia in the Northland,  guest of Brian and Gaye Simms ( they are friends of a friend of mine who sent me there ).

As I got there we were soon talking blackwoods and Brian ask me if I knew you …

I was so lucky to spend 4 days with them and look very closely at his 40 years work on his farm, planting  natives and of course blackwoods to create windbreaks and stabilise the hills … an impressive result !

What a great example of what needs to be done on most farms to improve the production and create an asset that, in his case, he is able to start harvesting.

Here are some photos I took last week:

I hope Brian posts some stories of his experiences as he begins his first blackwood harvesting.

Here’s a video of Brian talking about his farm and his trees produced by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association:

Keep up the great work Brian.

Thanks to Gilles for the inspiration and photos.

A Harvest Result to Confound the Experts

Here’s another great little story from the latest New Zealand Tree Grower (Vol 38/1 p. 19) journal that will be of interest to farmers.

Harvest result to confound the experts NZTG 38-1

The story follows from my other recent blog:

The story isn’t about blackwood, but it illustrates what commitment, good management and planning can achieve on a farm even with a commodity wood like Radiata pine.

Every year for the past 27 years the Wilson family have planted and managed 1 hectare of pine plantation on their farm near Otorohanga, North Island NZ. The farm is obviously close to markets and on easy ground so harvest and transport costs are minimised.

The recent first harvest of 1 hectare of well managed pine plantation netted the Wilson family $NZ57,700.

All up they now have 27 hectares of well managed pine plantation on their farm, and good annual income in perpetuity (markets permitting). Now if they want they could replant another hectare each year so that in 27 years time they are harvesting 2 hectares per year.

This is an excellent example of how to incorporate wood production into your farming business.

Yes it takes time for trees to grow, but that time will pass regardless of whether the trees are planted or not. And as the Wilsons now discover their commitment and hard work will pay a handsome annual dividend.

Your farm may not allow 1.0 hectare to be planted every year for 30+ years. Or it might have difficult terrain or greater distance to markets.

You could make a planting every 2 years, or every 5 years. Most farms have areas that are not being used as part of the main productive activity, whether its grazing, cropping or dairy, due to size, location, slope or drainage. These areas could be used for growing valuable wood products.

Eventually, as the Wilsons discovered, you end up with a regular handsome dividend from your work and commitment.

Notes on West coast (NZ) blackwoods


New Zealand blackwood grower and co-author of the blackwood growers handbook Ian Brown has posted a useful and detailed update on his view of current blackwood management. It makes for thoughtful reading for current and prospective blackwood growers.

Here’s the handbook: handbook

Here’s the update:

I have two comments on Ian’s notes:

Firstly on the issue of blackwood growth rate and wood quality.

Certainly current research shows that growth rate has little to no impact on blackwood wood quality in terms of heartwood colour and basic density.

But my PhD research showed that blackwood wood quality can vary enormously from tree to tree. This is supported by numerous other studies, and is shown to be mostly genetically based.

So if you want good quality wood from plantation blackwood you need to plant good quality genetic stock.

Unfortunately we don’t yet have a blackwood selection and breeding program.

Fortunately the incidence of poor wood quality genes is relatively low.

Also note that research shows there is no correlation between heartwood colour and wood basic density.

Secondly on the issue of pruning height.

Pruning height will obviously affect the final value of the crop and in a big way since most of the value is in the clear pruned log.

Where the site dictates that you can only prune to 4 metres so be it.

But a fully stocked blackwood plantation of 200 trees with an average tree diameter of 60cm dbh pruned to 6 metres will have approximately 300 cubic metres of clear grade premium blackwood per hectare. Only prune to 4 metres and the volume of clear grade blackwood comes down to 215 cubic metres per hectare a reduction of 28%!!

Whilst you have the trees growing you may as well get the most value out of them that you can.

Thanks to Ian Brown for posting his comments.

Milling blackwood in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The latest edition of New Zealand Tree Grower produced by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, contains a nice article by blackwood grower and sawmiller Paul Millen (NZTG 38(1) p. 7-8).

Paul runs a business called Marlborough Timbers.

Here’s the story in summary:

  • 8 plantation blackwood trees milled
  • Tree age: 30 years
  • Tree dbh: 30 – 60cm
  • Pruned height: 4 – 6m
  • Total log volume: 10 cubic metres
  • Total sawn recovery: 4.0 cubic metres
  • Total sawn recovery: 40%
  • Three to four logs per tree were milled, at lengths between 2.4 metres and 3.6 metres, including unpruned logs from above the pruning lift that were targeted to produce decorative knotty flooring.
  • Knotty boards were rough sawn 157 x 27mm and sold green at $NZ1800 per cubic metre. In future they hope to sell this grade of knotty blackwood for $NZ2,500 green or $NZ3,000 kiln dried.
  • They hope to sell kiln dried clear (select) grade blackwood for $NZ4,000 per cubic metre, which equates with what Malcolm Mackenzie is selling select grade blackwood into the NZ market:

Here’s a link to the article (pdf file):

Milling blackwood in the Marlborough Sounds NZTG 38-1

I got the extra information from Paul to help fill out the story.

Blackwood is a niche timber that I suggest is like the pinot noir variety of New Zealand exotic timbers. The timber has some incredible colour and diversity, and it is a relatively easy hardwood to saw and season. There is a lot of satisfaction in producing a really top notch product. I know there is some excellent mature well-managed farm forestry stands and these growers deserve to receive a high return given the demanding silviculture required to manage these early plantations.

Maybe the New Zealanders should market blackwood as Noirwood!!

As more of the New Zealand farm-grown blackwood resource matures we will be seeing more of these success stories.

Thanks to Paul Millen for the story and further information.