KAWERAU business Sequal Lumber is planning to expand its Manukorihi Drive sawmill and to triple the value of sawn lumber produced at the site. Sequal executive director David Turner said it was hoped the expansion would be under way in a year.
A key part of the expansion plan was the installation of a lumber-drying kiln powered by geothermal steam provided by Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal Assets.
Mr Turner said Sequal would employ a further 15-to-20 people on top of the 50 it already employed, but the expansion’s biggest benefits would be indirect with spin-offs for trucking companies, loggers such as Kajavala Forestry, and other downstream operators. Sequal works closely with Kajavala Forestry, which manages Sequal’s log needs.
Sequal is a member of Kawerau’s Industrial Symbiosis project, which has been working towards Kawerau’s industrial development by making better use of resources through collaboration. The project considers Kawerau ideally located next to a railway line linked to the largest forestry resource in New Zealand, and to New Zealand’s biggest export port. Other assets promoted by the project include locally generated electricity, a plentiful supply of geothermal steam, substantial resources of wood residues, and a large area of industrial land on which to expand. Mr Turner said Kawerau’s resources told “a compelling story”. “We think Kawerau is the best place in the world to establish a wood-based processing business. “The group is passionate about growing Kawerau. Our relationships are based on reciprocal benefits.” Mr Turner said geothermal steam was critical to wood processing and Kawerau was very fortunate to have a progressive iwi group (Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal Assets) with the ability to supply it.
The iwi company had the foresight to set aside steam for wood processing otherwise the “geothermal resource would be tied up for electricity generation”, he said. Referring to the lingering effects of the global financial crisis he said although business conditions were difficult, “the worm is turning”. Industrial Symbiosis members include Kawerau District Council, Kawerau Enterprise Agency, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, Crown forestry research institute Scion, Kajavala Forestry, iwi, and Kawerau’s wood-based forestry industries represented by Norske Skog Tasman. In keeping with the project Sequal works closely with Norske Skog supplying it with wood chips for making newsprint. Mr Turner said without Norske Skog, Sequal might not be so viable as a stand-alone business. He said a goal of the industrial symbiosis group was “to get Kawerau’s unemployment rate below the national average”. Impediments to forestry export industries were New Zealand’s volatile currency and its failure to adapt to other governments’ policies such as the taxes imposed on New Zealand lumber exports, he said.