Radiata pine wood was originally regarded as suitable only for fruit boxes and boxing for concrete, but soon came into use as house-framing timber. This was made possible by timber grading, drying and preservation technologies.
Its knottiness was in contrast to the clear wood of native softwoods, so it was not at first thought fit for furniture, panelling, fittings, flooring, and house cladding. Now it is used for all those purposes.
Wood from radiata pine is susceptible to decay-causing fungi and insect borers. For permanent uses it must be kept dry and protected by drying, chemical preservatives, or a combination of the two.
Before the early 1940s pine wood was treated with creosote. That was replaced by tanalising – a system of pressure treatment with water-borne copper, chrome and arsenic. This extended the life of the timber for decades, even when in contact with soil.
New Zealanders are among the highest per capita users of wood and wood products in the world. Treated wood is widely used for posts and poles in the agriculture and horticulture industries, and for building housing, outdoor furniture, decks and rails.
The New Zealand pulp and paper industry began in the 1950s at Kinleith and Kawerau in the central North Island. Mills produced newsprint, industrial paper, tissue and pulp.
Other wood-processing industries followed, producing:
- fibreboard (hardboard and softboard)
- medium-density fibreboard
- heavy-duty engineering timber
- timber for furniture, house sidings and mouldings
- laminated veneer lumber.
These products are sold locally and exported.
Hardwood from softwood
Radiata pine is a softwood and, although it produces a versatile timber, there is always demand for denser, harder woods. Robert Franich at the New Zealand Forest Research Institute developed a hardwood product by injecting the cells of pine timber with a cellulose solution. The resulting product, marketed as Greenseal or NuWood, is used for flooring.
Exporting logs is important, as the local market is too small to absorb the ever-increasing annual harvest. Logs are sold mainly to Korea, Japan, China and India, and the timber used in construction work (concrete boxing), packaging, pallets, car cases, and cable drums. In China, it is also used to make furniture or furniture components for export. New Zealand also exports logs and chips for wood pulp.