Napier Port is preparing for a rapid increase in forestry harvests, dubbed the "Wall of Wood", which is expected to double log volumes.

Napier Port chief executive Garth Cowie said a significant programme of planting was undertaken in the 1990s and those trees were now maturing.

"The resulting harvest will see the volume of logs coming through Napier Port more than double by 2020. It's known in the industry as the 'Wall of Wood', and it's crucial that we're ready for it."

Last year, the port handled 1.1 million tonnes of logs and it expected to be handling 2.5 million tonnes by 2020.


"We're expecting huge growth in the volume of logs coming through Napier port in the next decade."

Mr Cowie said the port operated within a constrained space and it was crucial every inch of the port was used to its maximum capacity.

"With the coming harvest in mind, we have invested $8.2m in sealing our main log yard and purchasing higher bookends that allow us to stack a greater volume of logs."

Moving its empty container storage off-site had given it added space to dedicate to log storage, said Mr Cowie.

It was working with exporters to cut the average turnover of logs down to 14 to 18 days.

"Where previously we loaded logs for export from a single wharf, we are now loading across multiple wharves."

Anticipating the spike in the number of logging trucks coming through the port, it had doubled the number of on-site log gantries, which were used by logging trucks to lift their trailers on to their trucks.

It had expanded its dedicated rail interchange area, allowing it to receive shunts of up to 25 log wagons, up from 12 previously.

"We've introduced a rail service for log exporters from the Whanganui, Palmerston North and Woodville areas, with trains now running every weekday."

The Government this week announced a $25m package of three road access improvements to Napier port.

The availability of Pinus radiata logs in the Hawke's Bay region was expected to be 1.3m cubic metres more in 2025 than in 2008, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' New Zealand Wood Availability Forecasts 2010-2040.

The forecasts said timing of the harvest would depend on market conditions and the decisions of small-scale owners. Availability of logging crews and equipment, availability of roading contractors, engineers and planners, transport capacity and wood-processing capacity would determine how quickly the additional wood availability from small-scale owners' forests could be harvested.

The smaller blocks were geographically dispersed so would be more expensive to log than the existing forests with roading and infrastructure already in place.

Forests on steep terrain, distant from processing plants or ports, small in size or without existing roads might be uneconomic to harvest if logging and transport costs were higher than the market value of the forests' recoverable log volume.