Chinese visionary puts wood to work

No one could accuse the Chinese billionaire behind plans to develop a sugar industry in WA's far north of not being able to see the wood for the trees.

Shanghai Zhongfu Group president Pui Ngai Wu is having mature mahogany trees covering 170ha on the Ord River irrigation scheme cut down. They will be shipped to China from Wyndam as part of his passion for forestry and woodwork.

Mr Wu, who made his fortune as a property developer, employs scores of craftsmen to make furniture and other wood products as a sideline to a construction empire which has 1700 workers.

The mahogany trees were planted as hosts for parasitic Indian sandalwood but proved far too dominant. The trees were unwanted until Mr Wu purchased the land through his Australian operating arm Kimberley Agricultural Investments.

The first harvest will involve about 80ha and the trees will play a key role as KAI's first major exports from the port of Wyndam.

KAI general manager Jim Engelke said getting the timber to China would give a valuable insight into freight, handling, storage and shipping capabilities.

Engineers employed by KAI cast an eye over the port facilities from the earliest stages of Mr Wu's investment in the Ord as part of a planned upgrade.

Mr Wu's desire not to see wood wasted has extended to native trees cleared as KAI develops farm land under a lease agreement with the State Government.

KAI also toyed with the idea of exporting timber from unwanted blue gums plantations near Esperance. The blue gums, planted as part of managed investment schemes, are being bulldozed as the land is returned to farming.

The West Australian

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