Chinese investors sought for major NZ sawmill

The New Zealand timber industry is seeking Chinese investors to back a major sawmill project in the central North Island.

Stuff.co.nz reports that the Taupo District Council and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise pushing for the construction of the “mega-mill’.

The aim of such a mill would be to get more value from New Zealand’s growing timber export industry.

China is the largest importer of New Zealand's wood products and comes second behind Australia for imports of sawn timber.

Taupo District Council has sister-city links with the Chinese city of Suzhou. According to Will Samuel, the council's business development manager, the council is only acting as a facilitator on the project and talks are exploratory at this stage.

The central North Island area contains around a third of New Zealand's plantation forests and has extensive infrastructure in place.

According to Glen Mackie, senior policy analyst from the Forest Owners Association, the biggest advantage of the scheme is geothermal power.

"China has started to flag that it's having energy issues and may start to ration energy to certain sectors," he said.

The Otago Daily Times reports that log exports are expected to continue to rise. However, the situation is not as good for those wishing to export sawn timber, woodchips, and panels.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said in an industries outlook, ''In contrast to log exporters, New Zealand wood processors generally continue to experience challenging conditions.''