The Government's refresh of its trade policy will include an increased focus on resolving non-tariff barriers (NTBs), Trade Minister and Rotorua MP Todd McClay told international and local experts at the DANA NZ Forest-Wood Products conference in Rotorua on Monday.

"The government is well aware of the concerns from industry and is committed to addressing NTBs," he said in his keynote speech (see accompanying story).

DANA director and conference convenor Dennis Neilson said the gathering of high-profile Russian, Chinese, American and NZ speakers and delegates was unprecedented and included government officials, forest investors and executives from global competitors and markets for New Zealand wood products.

"We are delighted to have been able to attract so many senior and respected speakers to this year's meeting," he said.


This year's conference included an intensive field trip to leading regional forest products companies.

Kicking off the conference, Rotorua Lakes Council Mayor Steve Chadwick spoke on the encouragement being given in the region to wood products, and in particular of the opportunities for engineered wood products. That was also the focus of a two-hour presentation by Canadian expert Art Schmon, a partner in Forest Economic Partners, on a review of global, regional trends and opportunities for engineered wood panels.

Ms Chadwick highlighted entrenched opinions, lack of understanding, and low levels of relevant experience and knowledge, as key issues hampering a wider uptake of engineered wood.

"We aim to do something about that and are working very closely with central government through the Regional Growth Programmes to address those challenges," she said.

"Engineered timber needs to be an integral part of the architecture and engineering curriculums. ... And engineered wood needs to be included in the building standards."

With support from government, industry needed to be unified in its approach, said Ms Chadwick.

"It's got to be a team collaborative effort," she added, noting that this approach was the catalyst to the successful update of engineered wood in Australia, Canada and the UK.

Other speakers included Rotorua's Te Taru White, a director of Toitu Te Waonui (TTW), who reprised a presentation made earlier this year to timberlands investors in New York on TTW's Maori commercial forestry model.

The conference heard that NZ forest companies' combined earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) and asset value change has increased from about 5.5 per cent in 2005-09 to about 10 per cent in 2010-15.