By PAM GRAHAM
Nelson Pine Industries chief Murray Sturgeon has enjoyed his 44 years in the forest industry so much he has no plans to retire.
Sturgeon, who turns 64 in May, has been made an ONZM for services to the forest and export industries and, in accepting the royal honour, has paid tribute to all those with whom he has worked.
That work involved the development of processing facilities for the harvest from forests in the South Island, particularly medium-density fibreboard (MDF) plants.
Sturgeon worked for Fletcher Challenge for 16 years in Christchurch and the West Coast, helping build a plywood factory on the Coast in 1965.
He helped to develop Canterbury Timber Products' plant at Ashley - the first MDF plant in the Southern Hemisphere - and also spent part of his career on secondment to an engineering company in North America which commissioned fibreboard plants.
Canterbury Timber Products later built an MDF plant in Australia.
He moved to Nelson 18 years ago to establish MDF processing facilities for Nelson Pine Industries.
"We built the first line and commissioned in 1986, the second line was commissioned in 1991 and the third line was commissioned in 1997 and that gave the site a world-class rating," he said.
It was the largest MDF producer on a single site at the time. More recently the company has built a laminated veneer plant.
"The wall of wood has happened in Nelson," Sturgeon said.
"The estate, which is 10 per cent of New Zealand's radiata pine resource, is harvesting 2.5 million cu m a year and my company [now owned by Sumitomo Forestry Co] is now processing 40 per cent of that wood in the Nelson region."
Sturgeon said the MDF was mainly exported. It was developed to substitute for tropical rainforest plywood.
Flooring was traditionally made out of 15mm-thick plywood and now it is often 12mm of plywood with 2.7mm of MDF overlaid on the surface. Sturgeon expects that laminated veneer lumber will substitute for hardwood in structural applications.
"We have a philosophy in our company that if the market justifies then we have a willingness to invest the capital, but it must be market-driven," he said.
"We take the view that a tree takes 25 years to grow and that's the window that we should look in."
Sturgeon said he was positive about the future of the forestry industry and would continue to be a part of it because "I understand if you retire you miss out on weekends".
* Full list: New Zealand New Year Honours
By PAM GRAHAM