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South Waikato potential centre of wood-based bioeconomy

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Oji Fibre Solutions, the Japanese owner of Tokoroa’s Kinleith pulp and paper mill, believes South Waikato has the potential to be the centre of a wood-based bioeconomy for New Zealand.

There is growing demand for sustainable packaging, to use timber as an environmentally friendly structural material for multi-storey buildings, for hi-tech products made of plant cellulose and for biofuels developed from forest products,” says Oji Fibre Solutions Group Manager Environment and External Relations Philip Millichamp. “We believe Kinleith will be at the centre of that.”

Millichamp said South Waikato has the natural resources in terms of land and forestry, the infrastructure in terms of roading and specialised forestry equipment suppliers and a willing and engaged workforce which make it perfectly placed to be a centre for a wood-based bioeconomy.

“We have been really impressed with how our employees have responded to the COVID-19 restrictions. Kinleith is an essential service and has operated all through the lockdown and our people have been incredible in adapting to these conditions.”

Millichamp says the major challenge to development of this wood-based bioeconomy is strong international competition for investment. “Oji takes a long-term view and has a great track record in New Zealand. We want to invest more and to do that we need to work closely with central and local
government.”

Oji is already investing at scale in New Zealand, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability with a $200 million investment to future-proof its waste-water treatment systems at Kinleith Mill. “Project Waikato” will improve efficiency, reduce environmental impact and preserve the integrity of the Waikato River.

Oji Fibre Solutions paper products

“We received great support from Raukawa, local mana whenua, and the community when we sought consents for Project Waikato, which were granted early this year.” Millichamp said the project is driven by Oji’s aspiration to achieve zero environmental burden.

Oji Fibre Solutions is South Waikato’s largest employer with 450 directly employed at Kinleith and 1800 across New Zealand and Australia.   The site is New Zealand’s largest producer of bio-renewable energy, using just under 14 million gigajoules per year of biomass. With gross revenue of $1.2 billion across its New Zealand and Australian operations, the company is also a significant contributor to the local and national economy.

The company uses locally grown pinus radiata to produce over one million tonnes a year of kraft pulp, containerboard and fibre-based packaging products with aligned logistics and recycling services.

The end use of these products includes: cardboard boxes used by fruit and meat exporters; paper bags for milk powder or sugar; cellulose fibre-reinforced cement boards used in buildings; tissues and nappies; and chemicals used in water treatment plants or swimming pools

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