QLD timber industry holds up against shortage

by | Jun 1, 2021

Despite a rise in housing construction demand alongside a scarcity of timber, Queensland’s wood industry has held up quite well despite these issues through the implementation of new technologies and expanding businesses services, in an effort to maximise timber volumes, according to a recent Architecture Design report.

Referred to as ‘the perfect storm’, timber shortages have been coupled with a surge in demand due to the Homebuilder program, low interest rates as well as a surge in interstate migration.

The ‘storm’ has created a plethora of issues for various industries, however as Timber Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mick Stephens reports, the sunshine state’s lumber distributors are well prepared.

“Prior to the surge in demand a number of our members were already planning mill upgrades. These projects have been brought forward, at the same time as processing record numbers of logs and implementing equitable volume planning to support their partners,” he said.

“Technology upgrades and mill expansions across the state will assist in boosting local supply. Hyne Timber, for example, is currently removing a production bottleneck at their Tuan mill in Maryborough by installing a new continuous drying kiln which will see a significant lift in output. This increase will also help to lift production at their new Glulam factory in Maryborough,” Mr Stephens said.

Softwood sawmill AKD is also improving product quality control and output while moving to a double shift change at their Caboolture site from July.

“Nationally annual softwood sawn sales hit over 3.1 million cubic metres at the end of February 2021 and was 10 per cent higher than the previous year, in response to heightened demand. This increase in timber production includes Queensland producers who fortunately have not been affected by the impacts of the recent bushfires in New South Wales,” he said.

Despite the Morrison Government’s Homebuilder plan developing some headaches for the market, Mr Stephens said in the report that the scheme is helpful for the building sector.

“In 2020 the timber industry and allied building and construction bodies welcomed the Homebuilder program to keep the economy running and avoid a collapse of the sector. This helped to support many thousands of jobs in construction, including in local timber manufacturing which supports many regional communities. The issue has been the intense uptake of new approvals within such a short period of time,” he said.

In Queensland there was a net inflow of 30,000 residents from interstate in 2020, with housing activity forecast at 25,000 brand-new residences in 2020-21 and renovations at a 10-year high.

Mr Stephens states that despite the shortages, feedback from building contractors and consumers is that they still want to work with timber.

“This unprecedented surge in housing activity has shown how critical and important timber really is for the economy, given the prevalence of timber framed houses, and timber cladding and flooring products in our homes. Timber Queensland and other industry leaders have consistently called on governments to support timber industry supply chains and better incentivise new tree plantations so we can keep up with rising population growth and long-term demand,” he said in the report.

“The building boom is impacting many trades and building materials. A recent survey by Master Builders Queensland found that price increases and delays were affecting literally all categories of building materials and trades from roof installers and plumbers to carpenters and painters,” Mr Stephens said.

Lack of supply has also attributed to the global surge in building and also housing activity in the United States and Europe, with international timber prices rising to unprecedented levels. Federal Government stimulus measures as well as raised interest in home renovations throughout COVID were also major drivers, according to the report.

For more information visit: timberqueensland.com.au