A visiting overseas forestry expert says wood pellets could provide New Zealand with a whole new export business.
United States forestry consultant Don Peterson is one of the keynote speakers at a two-day conference called "Residues to Revenues" which started on Wednesday in Rotorua.
Mr Peterson has been instrumental in helping forestry businesses in the US shift into production of the pellets for central heating in homes, schools and industrial plants.
The pellets are created by compressing wood waste such as sawdust and shavings and more recently by using the large amount of material cut off during timber harvesting and normally left to rot on the forest floor.
Mr Peterson says the industry is growing very quickly across the world and it is time New Zealand became more involved.
He says it costs about $12 million to establish a 100,000-tonne wood pellet factory, so it requires a significant initial investment.
Mr Peterson says the plants have to be built near the regional wood source and would be a significant income stream in areas hit hard by the recession.