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Radi Centre Officially Launched Among The Trees

News Release
December 5, 2003

Radi Centre Officially Launched Amidst Pomp And Ceremony Among The Trees

The Radi Centre, New Zealand's National Centre of Excellence in Wood Manufacturing, was launched yesterday with an official ceremony at Rotorua's Redwood Forest.

Established last year as a strategic initiative of the Government's Wood Processing Strategy, the center is a three-way partnership between Forest Industries Training (FIT), the Waiariki Institute of Technology and the University of Auckland.

That the center has been accorded top priority by the wood processing industry was evidenced by yesterday's turnout. A large gathering of timber and forestry industry representatives, and tertiary education providers, heard keynote speaker Hon Jim Anderton say the Radi Centre was unique in New Zealand and internationally.

"Its key partners include industry, tertiary education institutions and professional societies, " said Anderton.

"New Zealand is the only developed country with a significant forestry industry - and a desire to move from forestry to wood processing - that has lacked a comprehensive range and capability in higher education, research, technology transfer and industry problem-solving all aimed at the wood processing industry," he said.

"Canada and Chile, two of New Zealand's sharp competitors, rarely if ever export unprocessed wood. Can New Zealand's wood industry transform itself to the same status as in these countries?"

Anderton said with new knowledge and skills, particularly in managers, the wood processing industry could become the raison d'etre for the forest industry.

"A forest industry that uses its abundant resource - radiata pine - to manufacture a range of high value products for export would be a much different industry than today's low margin international commodity industry," he said.

"A transformed industry would be a stronger engine of national and regional economic development, since most of the industry is located outside New Zealand's urban areas.

"The Radi National Centre of Excellence will be a model for Government-industry partnerships that can deliver a needed service, in this case higher education, but also contribute to industry and regional prosperity."

Anderton said ultimately the Radi Centre would bring together professionals from a variety of disciplines into an innovative new "think-tank", DesignWood, that would foster new approaches to design that feature wood, innovative development of new wood products, and construction techniques that return wood to its rightful place as a material of choice.

"DesignWood will not be a stand-alone institution, but rather a collaborative network or professional society with members in academia, professional organisations, and business. It will sponsor projects that promote expanded uses and new applications of wood and seek to educate professionals about the benefits of wood.

"These initial education programmes are just the first steps in a plan for the centre to provide facilities, technology, and technical expertise to offer a range of undergraduate and post-graduate education programmes, industry problem-solving, technology transfer, and ultimately the DesignWood collaborative society."

Radi Centre project director Dr Jeff Weber said as one of the tangible outcomes of Jim Anderton's Wood Processing Task Force, the center aimed to address gaps in higher level wood processing and training.

"The Radi Centre's chief goal is to develop the technical expertise, research capability, and teaching delivery to equip people to transform the wood processing industry from its current commodity orientation to focus on high added-value products for export," said Weber.

"A particular emphasis is being placed on innovation and development of products and processes, along with developing industry leaders that can manage the necessary change and transformation processes. "The centre will provide technology transfer to industry from international practices and New Zealand research. Similarly, it will develop applied problem-solving partnerships between the centre and small-to-medium-sized enterprises in the wood processing industry."

Weber said having just passed its first birthday, the Radi Centre was already notching up some early initial successes.

"The centre's first higher education programmes - a new Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering with an option or a sub-specialisation in Wood and Woodfibre Composites) and a Diploma in Wood Manufacturing - have received all necessary approvals and are due to enroll students in 2004," he said.

"As designed, these programmes are innovative and unique in New Zealand higher education. They fill gaps in higher education that have short-changed the wood processing industry of a workforce - particularly at the senior technical and managerial level - with high quality specialist knowledge and skills."


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