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Fast drying vacuum kiln technology for Hokitika

Media Release

21 December 2006.

Fast drying vacuum kiln technology for Hokitika

The highly prized cherry colours of West Coast red beech will feature in more upmarket homes in the USA and Australia as a result of a new fast timber drying process due to begin in Hokitika next April.

Forever Beech Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of the West Coast Development Trust, has announced the new vacuum kiln drying process will be operational within four months, and lead directly to four new specialist jobs.

General Manager Jon Dronfield said the usual drying time for beech was 7-9 months, but the new process would cut that to just 15 days.

The introduction of this technology was made possible by a $1 million capital injection from the West Coast Development Trust.

“It means we can supply new and niche joinery and flooring orders, as the lustrous colour of the red beech is very much sought after in high end homes in North America and Australia where alternatives to traditional hardwoods are being widely used in the housing market. It will also boost our capability for domestic supplies,” Jon Dronfield said.

“The dramatic reduction in drying time will enable us to at least double our output and increase our profile in the joinery and flooring industries where there is increasing emphasis being given to the use of sustainable hardwood species. Our supply is from 24 properties in the Buller and Murchison areas, and we are seen as leading managers in sustainable indigenous forestry.”

Forever Beech Chairman Peter Coakley said new opportunities would come from fast turn-around specialist orders which previously the company had been unable to meet because of the lengthy time it took to dry the red beech. The company, which currently employs 8 people, will increase its workforce by 50% in the New Year.

The West Coast Development Trust Chairman and Forever Beech director, Frank Dooley said the investment would guarantee downstream supply for other manufacturers, see a lift in local employment, and had the potential to increase both domestic and export sale of a wider variety of red beech joinery and flooring products.

“It’s a long term investment in an area where there can be high risks but the potential for economic benefit and employment are considerable. The introduction of this imported process will make Hokitika the first regional centre in New Zealand to use kiln vacuum drying. Management have been trialling this technology for the best part of a year and are pleased with the results. Coupled with the management of a long term supply of quality red beech this gives us another strong plank in our long term support for this sustainable industry.

We have been pleased with the continuously improving sales trends of Forever Beech products and are confident the new technology will finally enhance product sales and the overall profitability of the business,” said Mr Dooley.


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