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Timber Update August 2021

Timber Update August 2021

Timber price surge cut wood-be homeowners

Global demand for critical building materials could bring Australia’s residential construction industry to its knees, according to recent data compiled by Grafa.

Australian builders have been left without their most critical material as a global construction boom sends timber prices into orbit – up 380 per cent to a record high in May this year.

For households waiting to move into their new home, time and cost blowouts are likely to continue due to the scarce and expensive supply of timber, according to Grafa analyst, ‘Data Dan’ Petrie.

“In uncovering what was behind lagging construction times, the analysis team at Grafa found that record high timber prices had caused a supply shortage that will plague the industry for the foreseeable future. While timber prices have since fallen from a record high, supplies are unlikely to become cheaper any time soon with scarce imported inventories fetching top dollar,” Mr Petrie said.

Construction businesses are now on the receiving end of critical supply shortages and are being forced to wait on $1.6 billion of residential construction activity stimulated by the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder grants.

“This shortage is going to be felt the worst by young people who have received the HomeBuilder grant, and that is going to have a flow-on effect to the economy as more and more projects are put on hold indefinitely,” Mr Petrie said.

Of the 99,000 families who applied for the grant to build their dream home, 9,800 (10 per cent) have been left in limbo, likely forced to resign their lease without knowing when construction will conclude.

The coinciding graph highlights the difference between residential projects commenced and completed quarterly, as well as diminishing capacity of construction businesses during the latest boom.

“Because of affordability constraints and critical value thresholds to remain eligible for the grant, some households have been left with no choice but to put projects on hold indefinitely until the current shortage ends,” Mr Petrie said.

Wait times are likely to continue with construction activity being spurred on by record low interest rates and a raft of federal and state incentives aimed at bolstering the sector over the last 18 months. Grafa is a financial data, news and analysis platform. 

Ash to expand its plants and range 

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH), located in Heyfield Victoria, will soon become the first company nationally to manufacture engineered flooring from plantation timber.

The local manufacturer’s new $3.2 million project to produce engineered flooring from plantation timber has been fast-tracked after receiving a $1.6 million grant from the State Government, with the business’ directors also planning to launch the product to the market in March 2022, according to a recent Gippsland Times report.

ASH is now set to install a new manufacturing line to produce engineered flooring made from plantation shining gum and radiata pine plywood, while also expanding its online and retail outlet.

Three additional grant recipients across Gippsland, Victoria are also attempting to diversify their businesses and avoid closure by experimenting with new products using different timber sources.

Gippsland timber mill, Yarram’s Radial Timber, received $397,000 under the fund to introduce a small log line and experiment with processing plantation timber.

Also in Gippsland, Longwarry Sawmill received $246,000 to use recycled and reclaimed timber to make new timber products, while Brunt’s Harvesting in Orbost received $40,000 that is now set to undertake a feasibility study for transition to plantation harvesting, according to the report.

ASH has recently been changing the way it does business to continue its viability beyond 2030, particularly since the State Government’s announcement that the native timber industry will be phased out.

ASH is also seeking to stay ahead of a drop-off in supply in 2024 by investing in major capital, transforming the business into a manufacturing base with diverse feed stock and planning to establish a line of plantation-based products.

The manufacturer took note of growth in the engineered flooring market after firmly establishing itself as a major player in the staircase tread market, according to the report.

While plantation timber requires more fine tuning than native timber, plantation shining gum proved to be a workable option and was used in the first prototype, according to the report. The new retail outlet will also sell the engineered flooring including some of its existing products, such as staircase and furniture components, while open new markets to ASH as it prepares to transition from native timber joinery to products manufactured from plantation timber.

The manufacturer has also continued to purchase plantation mountain gum from New South Wales, hardwood from HVP Plantations, and logs and sawn timber from Tasmania in order to diversify its feed stock from VicForests-supplied timber, according to the report.

Recently on-site to announce the project was Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas, who said the government supported innovation in the timber industry as it transitioned from native to plantation timber.

“This is a really great project for ASH because it is about creating new employment in the timber industry. We expect 22 new jobs as a consequence of this investment,” she said.

Ms Thomas said in the report that the funding was ensuring mills had future opportunities within the industry, and look to what is increasingly in demand – manufactured timber.

Transport issues hinder Kangaroo Island timber solution 

Although tonnes of structural grade timber is ready to be shipped to sawmills from Kangaroo Island in South Australia, transport issues and high costs continue to hamper efforts, according to a recent report.

Listed company, Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber, reported that it has about 300,000 tonnes of structural logs available to be shipped and the logs would produce about 100,000 tonnes of structural timber, enough to build about 10,000 homes and ease shortages.

Representing close to 10 per cent of the state’s plantations, Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber has about 14,200 hectares of plantations, about 80 per cent hardwood (blue gum) and 20 per cent softwood pine, which is used to produce structural timber, according to the report.

However, around 95 per cent was damaged in the Kangaroo Island fires that began on December 20, 2019 and burnt 210,000ha – almost half of the island – across a 612 kilometres perimeter before being declared contained on January 21, 2020.

While the company received more than $60 million in insurance payout following the fires, it has since been in a race against time to salvage the timber and ship it off the island before it rots, according to the report. In total, KIPT estimated in the report that it has 4.5 million tonnes of bushfire-affected timber that could still be salvaged and sold, according to the report.

It says its window to ship burnt softwood pine trees before they decayed was now a little over a year while the hardwood blue gums could potentially last up to another four years.

KIPT Managing Director Keith Lamb said the 4.5 million tonnes of timber on the island included 1.5 million tonnes of standing pine softwood logs, of which about 20 per cent is considered structural grade.

“That is 300,000 tonnes and this would produce about 100,000 tonnes of structural timber. That is about enough for 10,0000 homes, which represents about one year’s construction in the Adelaide market,” he said in the report.

“Normally there would be a bit more than that but the impact of the fire means we are harvesting different forests at different ages when they are not fully mature. It is a very unique opportunity to plug a gap that has been created by a breakdown in the supply chain due to COVID,” he said.

KIPT’s plans to set up an export hub on the island have been in place since long before the 2019-20 fires, while the company has also revealed plans in 2017 to build a $40 million port at Smith Bay, on the island’s north coast. The proposal has been declared a major project by the State Government but has faced strong opposition from local businesses, including the neighbouring Yumbah Aquaculture abalone farm. The project is yet to be given approval.

In the meantime, KIPT began using SeaLink’s ferry service from Penneshaw to Cape Jervis in February to begin trucking softwood logs to the mainland. The loaded trucks then drive from Cape Jervis to Port Adelaide where KIPT has established a depot to store timber before it can be on sold to local sawmills or shipped overseas.

KIPT is also working on plans to barge logs from Kingscote.

Local entrepreneur David Harris said in the report that he is in talks with the company to use his wharf lease in American River to barge logs to Port Adelaide.

“We will continue to use SeaLink, it is very important for us to maintain that service. But the challenge for us is a passenger service, not an industrial service and we have to meet the ferry schedule, there are limited spots available to us and it is not viable to get all the timber off.”

It is one thing to make the timber available, but the other challenge is the capacity of local sawmills to cut it, according to the report. There are two major sawmills in South Australia that supply structural timber, both in the South East, but both are at capacity. It is for this reason that the State Government recently announced a $2 million fund to increase the supply of structural timber for local South Australian home builders.

Timber Update July 2021

Timber Update July 2021

New sawmill for the Adelaide Hills

A new long-term log supply agreement with ForestrySA will now see a $4.5 million sawmill to be built in the Adelaide Hills which is expected to not only increase timber supply, but also create local jobs, according to a recent Timberbiz report.

Currently operating a small mill at Nuriootpa, KSI Sawmills will build the new mill in a strategic location that offers improved transportation routes central to both local timber plantations and downstream markets.

At a cost of $4.5 million, the new mill will see KSI Sawmills more than double its current production to approximately 60,000m3 annually and create nearly 30 jobs. 

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Baham said the new local log processing program will inject over $12 million in direct value into South Australia’s economy each year.

“I congratulate KSI Sawmills for making this significant investment in South Australia’s timber industry which will increase supply and create local jobs. This investment has been made possible thanks to a new 10-year log supply agreement between ForestrySA and KSI Sawmills,” Mr Baham said.

“KSI will predominantly consume lower grade log from ForestrySA’s plantations in the Adelaide Hills. The majority of timber products will be consumed by the local packaging industry. Some higher-grade products will meet structural grade and be consumed by the local building and construction industry, while residue materials will support Adelaide Hills based agriculture. This will lead to improved product utilisation and better environmental outcomes with less waste and better estate management for ForestrySA,”
he said.

Mr Basham said a recent tender process for log supply from ForestrySA has resulted in new long-term supply agreements, helping to secure the future of the domestic processing industry including KSI Sawmills.

“New arrangements will allow for all logs of sawmill quality to be provided to the processing industry for increased value-adding, predominantly in South Australia. ForestrySA’s direct contribution to the economy in regional South Australia has increased by more than 50 per cent as a result,” he said.

Builders struggle to cater to new housing boom 

The global timber shortage in the building supply chain continues to cause major delays and soaring costs, particularly as more homes are being built than ever before, spurred on by the Morrison Government’s HomeBuilder program, according to a recent ABC News report. 

However, across the country, new home builds and renovations are taking longer due to a scarcity of timber, with record new house starts in Victoria adding to the problem, according to the report.

Experts say there are several reasons behind the shortage, including the implementation of the HomeBuilder program which is proving to be more popular than ever. With so many other countries using construction as stimulus, there is global competition for materials.

While normally one fifth of construction timber is imported, in the US the spot price for timber soared by 400 per cent. As a result, international traders were sending all their material to the United States.

To compound the issue, shipping costs are at a record high and there have also been delays due to the impact and knock-on effects of the Suez Canal blockage.

However, the Master Builders Association of Victoria, Rebecca Casson, said the increased cost of building was being absorbed by builders, sending many of them broke.

Federal Housing Minister Michael Sukkar.

“Master Builders Victoria is concerned about builders who have entered contracts and cannot absorb ever-increasing costs which, by law, cannot be passed onto consumers.”

The MBA said that in the first four months of 2021, there were 145 building and construction insolvencies in Victoria — up 34.3 per cent on the same time last year.

Housing Minister Michael Sukkar said the Federal Government was looking at ways to alleviate the supply squeeze on builders.

“Some other sawmills are almost exhausting their supply of timber and so they have got the capacity to do it. If there are ways in which we can facilitate or help them get that supply, then they will be able to continue feeding into the market,” Housing Minister Michael Sukkar said in the report.

Unions call for more logs and plantations

Unions, representing New South Wales forestry and timber workers, are calling on the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government to take urgent action to alleviate the national timber shortage, according to a recent Mirage News report.

The unions are calling for the establishment of an NSW Forest Industry Advisory Council to ensure better management of the state’s timber resources in the wake of the 2019/20 bushfires and current impacts on global supply chains.

The CFMEU Manufacturing Division and the Australian Workers Union have made a joint submission to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry recommending the new body, which the union wants to focus on reducing the state’s dependence on imported timber, according to the report.

CFMEU Manufacturing National Secretary Michael O’Connor said the current shortage, fuelled by strong domestic and global demand, will become the norm if action is not taken.

The unions presented evidence in their submission from members at AKD Softwoods and Visy Pulp and Paper Mill in Tumut, Notaras & Sons in South Grafton, Hurford Hardwoods in Kempsey, Warnervale Frame and Truss Plant, Sweetmans Timber in the Hunter Valley, Hyne Timber Tumbarumba, Frames and Trusses Albion Park Rail, and Boral Narooma, according to the report.

The submission calls for interim measures to maximise hardwood and softwood production to alleviate the timber shortage, training, and transition assistance for laid off timber workers in addition to a long-term plan to support the industry.

The unions have made 17 recommendations through the Parliamentary Committee and union delegates from the mills around the state will travel to Sydney for the forthcoming public hearings.

Timber shortage sees Alpine truss held back 

A worldwide shortage of timber has now hampered a Wangaratta business’s plans to employ an additional 30 staff, according to a recent Timberbiz report.

Managing Director of Tone Road’s Alpine Truss, George Prothero said the shortage was felt Australia-wide due to damage wrought on plantations by the New South Wales bushfires in February last year, compounded by a lack of imported timber due to a US housing boom. 

“It is restricting our business. The availability of wood has dropped, with our sawmills down by about 30 per cent in production, and what we would usually get from Europe going to the US because they are paying more for it,” Mr Prothero said in the report.

The 20-year-old business had been able to retain existing staff numbers through the shortage but had not been able to employ more people as planned, he said

“We could have put on another 30 or so, and we have also had to turn back customers,” he said.

HomeBuilder grants offered by the Federal Government – which were established last year to stimulate the construction industry in response to COVID and set timelines for building to begin – had created extra work but had not taken into account the dearth of timber available, he said in the report.

“There is that much work because of these government grants, but there is not the raw material available. And it is adding so much extra cost to building a house – probably about a 60 per cent increase on the cost of the raw material, which is going to affect a lot of businesses, and catch builders out because they are on fixed contracts due to these grants,” he said.

“We have been really lucky with our supply of raw material; we are in a good position compared to some of our competitors and are sourcing from Tumut and Mount Gambier – but we have more work than we can handle because the grants have been brought forward. There are also concerns that when the grants finish, a lot of work will be brought to a halt; we could all come to a standstill. Governments could have stretched the grants over a longer period.”

“What has got to happen now for us is the US market has to slow down; it is in a boom time at the moment and they are taking all the timber they can get and paying more than us. We also need our own market to stabilise,” Mr Prothero said.

It seems that prices had also risen substantially, further complicating the issue for those seeking to build under the Federal Government grants, and for builders working within contracts. He said he was in communication with the Frame and Truss Manufacturers Association of Australia, which was advocating for the industry and working to raise the associated issues with governments at all levels.

FTMA Executive Officer Kersten Gentle said in the report that it was pleasing the Federal Government’s announcement in mid-April would extend the construction commencement requirement under the HomeBuilder grant from six months to 18 months.

Ms Gentle said the FTMA had worked with a number of other industry associations to create a lobbying paper which was sent to all Australian political leaders to offer an insight into what could alleviate the situation.

“The other issue is our concern that the increased cost to building may push some homeowners over the $750,000 limit set in the HomeBuilder program, and this is also something we are raising with the (Federal) Housing Minister (Michael Sukkar).”

“Builders are the only ones who can slow things down, but the policies in place must enable them to do that. This is a world shortage, not just Australia; American prices have increased by close to 400 per cent, and this time last year sawmills were closing, thinking we would be going over a cliff with COVID-19, but it was obviously the opposite,” she said.

You can’t have a Cabinet without timber

Australia’s peak forest industries association has urged the Coalition and Labor to elevate the forestry portfolio to Cabinet in recognition of the sector’s significant economic contribution and the essential products and services it provides.

Australia’s $24 billion-a-year forest industries employ more than 80,000 people across the supply chain to produce timber for our building industry and vital everyday items like toilet paper, renewable packaging, and other single-use plastic replacements, according to Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Chief Executive Officer, Ross Hampton.

“Our message is simple: 2020-21 has shown us that you cannot have a Cabinet without timber. Forest industries are the backbone of the construction industry that is currently keeping the Australian economy strong, we make the toilet paper that is flying off the shelves, and we will play a vital role in any national net-zero target,” Mr Hampton said.

“It is time the whole-of-government impact of our industry is recognised with the appointment of a dedicated Forestry Minister to Cabinet. There is no better candidate for the role than our Assistant Minister for Forestry, Senator Jonno Duniam, who has proven he is up to the task. Our sector should also be acknowledged in the Department’s name, which should revert to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,” he said.

Mr Hampton said all Australian governments should work together on a national timber strategy to ensure Australia has the forest resource required to meet future timber needs.

“The current housing timber shortage should be a wake-up call to decision-makers that we cannot rely on imports to meet our timber needs. Housing timber is a sovereign capability issue alongside fuel and food, and at the moment we are failing,” he said.

“Unless we take immediate national action to grow our plantation resource to meet future timber needs and stop the closure of yet more sustainable native forestry operations, we will fail future generations. The Aussie dream of owning a home will be out of reach for our children and our children’s children. The best time to plant more timber trees was 30 years ago. The next best time is today,” Mr Hampton concluded.

What weakened the timber supply?

The Federal Government is being urged to intervene in the national timber industry, as foresty and construction unions forecast the industry will not have the ability to meet demand of the current nationwide building and construction boom, according to a recent ABC report.

The HomeBuilder program is said to be one of the major drivers of building and construction activity currently.

The pandemic has also fuelled an ongoing need for Australians to upgrade their living space, however materials of building products are simply no longer fullfilling this need.

Modelling by the CFMEU recommends the amount of construction across the nation will require 2.1 million cubic metres of timber framing this year, however the existing capability throughout the country’s sawmills is only 1.8 million cubic metres, according to the ABC report.

An international construction boom is also draining supplies while the 2019 bushfires have also hit domestic forestry reserves.

CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor contacted Housing Minister Michael Sukkar, Industry Minister Christian Porter and Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonathon Duniam for an urgent meeting to plan support for the forestry sector.

“Otherwise, what will happen is that not only will we have not addressed the current crisis that we have, this crisis will get a lot worse,”he told the ABC. 

Some sawmills throughout Australia are running all the time, awash with supplies, while others are struggling to access any timber and are fearing closure.

Senator Duniam said in the report that the Federal Government was “doing everything we can together with the industry to meet the growing demand”.

“The government convened a roundtable on June 10 with representatives from the building and forestry sector to discuss possible solutions to issues surrounding timber supply. We will continue to work in in partnership with industry and individual businesses as the economy recovers from the 2019-20 bushfires and impacts of COVID,” he said.

Executive Officer of the Framework and Truss Manufacturers Association of Australia Kersten Gentle stated it was an amazing shift in fortunes for the building sector.

“From what I have been told, Albury (in NSW) normally does 600 homes per years and they have already signed up 2000 homes for the year,” Ms Gentle claimed.

“You have got builders all over the country that would normally do about 70 houses, they have signed up 200 houses; or home builders that would do 2000 houses have signed up 3000 homes. This time last year people were winding down their businesses thinking that the market was going to crash. Nobody in Australia predicted we would have this massive housing boom,” she said.

Ms Gentle said that while timber was a clear worry for the forestry industry, the construction boom was placing significant stress on a large range of building products, including roof covering iron and blocks.

The Federal Government has already tweaked its HomeBuilder plan twice to expand the time for jobs to get underway and remain qualified for grants.

Initially it was three months but this was stretched to six months, prior to being kicked out to 18 months in April this year.

However with enhanced need for products forcing prices up, Ms Gentle said further tinkering could be needed, specifically for new house builds.

Timber Update June 2021

Timber Update June 2021

Forestry support in Federal budget 

The Federal Budget has allocated funds to expand the Regional Forestry Hubs and a feasibility study to create a new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation, according to a recent report. The $10.6 million allocation is set to expand current Regional Forestry Hubs, and includes new funding for hubs in north Northern Territory and south east New South Wales. A further $1.3 million for a feasibility study to create a new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation was also pledged in the Federal Budget, according to the report.

Forestry support in Federal budget.
Regional Forestry Hubs. Timber.

The Budget places forest industries squarely in the frame for the ambitious goal to grow the commodities sector to $100 billion by 2030, while it also powers up the Anti-Dumping Commission, and is vital to ensuring trade exposed manufacturers of fibre products are fighting on a level playing field.

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Chief Executive Officer Ross Hampton said in the report that forest industries have much to thank the Morrison/McCormack Government for.

“Clearly our messages about the potential of our industries to play a big part in a post-COVID economic recovery have been heard. As the world moves to phase out single-use plastics, while expanding wood use, other countries are investing heavily in the development of environmentally friendly fibre-based products,” Mr Hampton said.

“The $1.3 million committed for a feasibility study for the NIFPI is very welcome and something which AFPA has been calling for, building on the successes of the NIFPI pilot schemes in Mount Gambier and Launceston.”

“The $10.6 million committed for new and existing Regional Forestry Hubs will allow our industries to accelerate planning and strategies to accommodate the rollout of the Government’s One Billion Trees program which is vital to produce the timber Australians are crying out for to realise their new home builds and renovations,” he said in the report.

Mr Hampton also congratulated Assistant Minister for Forestry, Senator Jonathon Duniam, for delivering the two Hubs in the Northern Territory and south east New South Wales which means all the major forest industry regions in Australia are now represented.

“The Federal Government is also to be commended for committing additional funding to properly resource the Anti-Dumping Commission, which helps ensure our manufacturing industries that compete in the global marketplace, such as our pulp and paper sector, are not unfairly disadvantaged and have easier access to remedies,” he said.

While the Budget was strong on climate change initiatives it still fell short on forestry measures, despite timber industries being poised to deliver enormous positives to the nation, Mr Hampton said in the report.

“AFPA will continue to argue for equal treatment for production trees with environmental plantings in the Regional Forestry Hubs and fast tracking of policies which will provide carbon credits for carbon storing timber that replaces energy intensive materials. Furthermore, fibre still has not been included as part of the Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy and AFPA will continue to advocate for that outcome.”

“Forthcoming Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) concessional loan funding totalling $37.5 million is also welcomed to progress the Federal Government’s commitment to encourage new plantation developments as well as replant regions damaged during the 2019-20 summer bushfires,” Mr Hampton concluded.

Emergency summit addresses timber shortage

Australia’s timber shortage is having a “big domino effect” on trades dependent on the construction industry, an emergency summit held at South Australian Parliament has been told.

Organised by SA Best and attended by key players from the construction and building industries, the summit has been warned businesses could close and jobs lost if a solution is not found, according to a recent ABC report.

Attendees included industry associations, such as the Master Builders Association of South Australia and the Housing Industry Association, along with leading timber producers and suppliers, and some of the state’s largest home builders, who addressed the shortages as a result of a sharp increase in global demand due to the pandemic.

GCJ Constructions Project Manager, Nathan Shanks said in the report that some of his projects were experiencing “massive handbrakes” due to the timber shortage.

“We have a $5 million project going in the Barossa which has had a handbrake on it for the past four months minimum — and with that problem comes a lot of cost that we end up bleeding.”

“If there is opportunity to source material from somewhere like Kangaroo Island, then I think that is definitely worth looking into, because I think we’re only just going to get more pain as it goes on,” he said.

Other tradespeople were also being impacted by the shortage, according to Mr Shanks, including electricians, bricklayers and plumbers who were waiting to do their work once frames were built.

“It is a big domino effect — timber is definitely one of the main components that we are lacking in the industry. What the future holds if this keeps happening — bottom line — businesses are going to go out of business,” he said.

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers had enough timber to build 10,000 homes that it was looking to offload, Labor’s Clare Scriven said in the ABC report.

“There is up to 5,000 jobs at risk and more than 100 small businesses potentially at risk because despite the success of HomeBuilder with bringing lots of building work on, the builders simply cannot get the timber that they need,” she said.

A lot of the timber on Kangaroo Island was suitable for the existing demand in South Australia, according to feedback in the industry from the south-east.

“We are calling on the government to provide a transport subsidy because there is timber on Kangaroo Island, enough to build 10,000 houses, and that would go a long way in addressing the current crisis that we have,” Ms Scriven said in the report.

The state government reported that it had already written to its federal counterparts in the hope to access a freight subsidy scheme to assist with getting timber off Kangaroo Island.

Victorian hardwood timber industry achieves major Federal Court win

The Federal Court recently delivered a historic win for Australia’s sustainable native forest industries by confirming that forestry operations covered by Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) provide all the environmental protections required by national environmental laws, according to a recent report.

The Court upheld VicForests’ appeal against a single-judge decision, 12 months ago, which created significant legal uncertainty for RFAs and for the tens of thousands of forest industry jobs that the bilateral state-Commonwealth agreements underpin, according to the report.

The heart of the appeal was whether the Commonwealth EPBC Act could apply to forestry operations covered by an RFA, or whether the RFAs provide an equivalent and alternative (as VicForests maintained) regulatory framework with Commonwealth oversight to protect ‘Matters of National Environmental Significance’. The Full bench recently ruled that they do, and consequently the EPBC Act does not also apply, according to the report.

The decision was vindication for Australia’s sustainable forest industries which are regulated to the highest environmental standards in the world, according to Australian Forest Products Association Chief Executive Officer, Ross Hampton.

According to Mr Hampton, the decision has provided stability for Victoria’s native timber industry, as well as forest industry workers around the country who depend on the operational certainty that the robust RFA framework provides.

“It is also further evidence that our sustainable forest industries provide all the necessary environmental protections for threatened species and Matters of National Environmental Significance that the EPBC Act requires,” he said.

“This decision should put an end once and for all to the claim that RFAs somehow ‘exempt’ forestry operations from national environmental laws or oversight, and I commend the Federal Court judges for confirming this beyond doubt,” Mr Hampton said in the report.

Victorian Forest Products Association Chief Executive Officer, Deb Kerr also welcomed the decision, and hoped it will put an end to the law fare that has stalled VicForests’ planned forestry operations in the Central Highlands for three years.

“I call on the activists to respect the full bench of the Federal Court’s decision and stop the litigation so that VicForests can resume timber harvesting operations and provide certainty for the thousands of Victorian hardwood timber industry workers,’ she said.

“This decision has the effect of overturning all of Justice Mortimer’s decision last May, which means those who seized on that decision to wrongly claim that VicForests’ timber was ‘illegal’ should now apologise and correct the record,” Ms Kerr concluded.

Bunnings defiant despite VicForests win

Bunnings has responded to a union plea for the Victorian Government to discuss Bunnings’ ban on stocking local hardwood with the hardware giant. Bunnings maintains that an effective VicForests Court Appeal does not mean the state-owned forestry company is meeting timber sourcing best practice.

In a statement supplied to The Mandarin, Bunnings General Manager of Merchandise, Toby Watson said Bunnings would not reverse its decision to ban the use of trees logged in Victoria currently.

Mr Watson said that Bunnings’ lumber policy required suppliers to source from lawful, responsibly sourced and also well managed forest operations. While the recent Federal Court decision to support VicForests’ appeal meant it had acted according to the law, this did not necessarily indicate the operations fulfilled other requirements under the store’s policy, he claimed.

“We have reviewed the court’s decision in detail to understand the implications in relation to our timber policy. While the court reversed a single finding relating to the EPBC Act, it upheld the trial judge’s 21 other findings regarding the effect of VicForests’ forestry operations on the environment,” Mr Watson said in the report. 

VicForests’ existing practices continued to fall short of the requirements of Bunning’s timber policy, according to Mr Watson, who said the store was open to working with stakeholders to find some future solution. He added that Bunnings remained committed to sourcing the majority of its timber supplies from within Australia and New Zealand.

“We are committed to working closely with industry, government and environmental organisations to continue to improve our timber sourcing and help ensure the long-term sustainability of Australian forestry. This includes continuing to purchase the majority of the timber we sell from sources within Australia and New Zealand that meet our policy requirements for legal, well-managed and responsible forest operations,” Mr Watson said in the report.

More recently The Mandarin reported that the CFMEU was lobbying the Victorian Federal Government to help persuade Bunnings that its ban on Victorian woods was unjustly vindictive. The union’s Michael O’Connor argued that since the logging was done in accordance with the law, “the ban had no real justification”.

Hyne Timber for careers in manufacturing for women 

Increased focus on greater diversity in the workplace coupled with community feedback has spurred Hyne Timber to call for more female students and women to consider careers in manufacturing.

As part of a recent recruitment drive in Maryborough and Hervey Bay shopping centres, Hyne personnel have been left astounded at the number of women who did not consider applying for manufacturing roles, purely based on their gender. 

Hyne Timber Chief Executive Officer, Jon Kleinschmidt said there is no doubt the manufacturing workforce has historically been male dominated but that means half the potential talent pool are not being considered.

“The kind of feedback we have received recently, particularly from women in the community means we really have to work harder. 

Women are eligible for all our operational roles and may be surprised to discover just how fulfilling it is to work in modern manufacturing.” Mr Kleinschmidt said.

To learn more about job vacancies at Hyne Timber visit: and search ‘career’s’. 

Timber Update May 2021

Timber Update May 2021

AFPA welcomes Federal Government extension of HomeBuilder start date

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s extension to the timeframe for construction commencements under its HomeBuilder program, according to AFPA Chief Executive Officer, Ross Hampton.

AFPA welcomes Federal Government extension of HomeBuilder start date. Ross Hampton, AFPA Chief Executive Officer.
Ross Hampton, AFPA Chief Executive Officer.

As the deadline for applications under HomeBuilder approached at the end of March 2021, the AFPA called on the Federal Government to extend the construction timeframe permitted under the program as a means of taking the heat out of the market and allowing the structural timber supply chain to meet demand more easily.

“Australia’s forest industries welcome the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder changes. By making this sensible, practical change the Government has ensured that the HomeBuilder stimulus can continue to contribute to Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic,” Mr Hampton said.

“The domestic industry supplies around 80 per cent of timber used in Australian home construction and ramped up production to keep pace with record demand, spurred in part by HomeBuilder. Extending the timeframe for new builds will take the pressure off and allow more time for stock to be produced and delivered to builders,” he said.

HomeBuilder was a welcome stimulus during uncertain times, particularly as COVID took hold throughout 2020, according to Mr Hampton. The boom is welcomed by forest industries, and also highlights significant supply constraints of Australian timber. 

“We do not have enough trees in the ground right now to meet future demand and the Federal Government urgently needs to do more to incentivise new plantings. That includes removing Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) water rule barriers so forest growers and farmers can access payments under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) in all Regional Forestry Hubs,” Mr Hampton said.

“Aussie timber is the number one choice for builders because it is easy to use, low cost, versatile and environmentally friendly, and this current demand surge should be a wake-up call to the nation that unless we kick-start new tree plantings, these products we take for granted today may not be so accessible in the future,” Mr Hampton concluded.

Daniel Andrews’ plan felled 

The Victorian Labor Government has recently admitted that its promise to transition the state’s native regrowth timber industry to solely plantation-based timber by 2030 is a “sham,” according to a recent report by the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), after The Age Newspaper revealed that Victoria’s Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas conceded that the promised plantations will not be ready by 2030.

According to The Age, “Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the Government had been clear that plantation trees planted now will not be ready by 2030 and that they will not be replacing native forests tree-for-tree.”

The admission comes after 18 months of Premier Daniel Andrews and his Ministers repeatedly promising that there will be minimal job losses when the Government ends native forest harvesting in 2030 because it will transition sawmills to plantation logs.

“Everything the Andrews Government has promised the thousands of regional workers, their families and their communities to this point has today been exposed as a lie,” Australian Forest Products Association Chief Executive Officer Ross Hampton
said recently. 

“Everyone in regional Victoria has known that the plan was a sham from the start and now it has been exposed. Anyone who knows anything about tree growth rates has known from the start that – even if hardwood plantation trees could fill all the timber needs of Victoria – they would take many decades to grow and tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land which the Government has not even purchased yet,” he said.

Mr Hampton commended Federal Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and the CFMEU’s Michael O’Connor for relentlessly pursuing an answer from the Government which drew out this admission.

“It is time the Victorian Labor Government came clean with the workers in the industry and the dozens of regional communities across Victoria that the timber industry underpins and admitted that there will be mass unemployment unless this decision is reversed,” Mr Hampton said.

Aussie timber prices set to soar

With the price of lumber now skyrocketing to US$1,048 per thousand board feet, it seems that timber prices are now out of control in the US, up nearly 400 per cent more than it was a year ago, according to a recent report.

The price hike is not only due to a result of reduced production during COVID’s early months, but also a DIY and housing boom sparked by low interest rates which is now seeing share prices of wood suppliers increase significantly.

With Australia now entering a construction boom of its own, it is expected the same price hikes could occur in Australia, according to the report.

Big River Chief Executive Officer, Jim Bindon recently told Stockhead that while the US situation does not have a direct impact on Australia, wood suppliers and consumers here are grappling with challenges of their own.

“There is an insignificant amount of lumber that comes in from the US to Australia. But there are indirect impacts. European lumber or timber products, some of which are imported into Australia, are being diverted into the US because of the material price increases there,” Mr Bindon said in the report.

“Redirecting some European product away from Australia is also hitting a couple of structural products used in housing, which have led to small price increases,” he said.

Shortages within Australia are a result of several factors including increases in detached housing which is also linked to the Australian HomeBuilder scheme, according to Mr Bindon.

“The major fires in Australia a bit over a year ago took out quite a substantial amount of the pine resource. That has also reduced the Australian manufacturing fraternity’s ability to just ramp up production to meet the uptick in demand,” he said in the report.

There are also the restricted imports that are due in part to escalating US prices, but also mostly because freight and shipping capacity has been severely interrupted by COVID.

“A lot of these products come out of Eastern Europe and some of those countries have still got quite extensive problems with COVID-19. It is a bit of a triple whammy – we have lost Australian resources, we have less imports coming in, and you have a spike in demand,” he said.

“I think it will all smooth itself out certainly by the end of this calendar year. I think it is just a small timing issue around those three factors,” Mr Bindon said in the report.

While Mr Bindon believes Aussie timber futures will not go through the roof anytime soon, it is a good time to invest in an Australian-based, construction-facing business.

“We are moving into a three-to-four-year upswing in the construction cycle. I am sure that is why all the building materials companies are materially higher than their 12-month low. People are seeing the cycle has moved. Those that do not like the cyclicality of building products have stayed out for the last few years, and I think those very same investors are seeing this as an opportune time to jump back in,” Mr Bindon said.

Master Lock Celebrates 100 Years

Master Lock Celebrates 100 Years

Happy birthday Master Lock. Celebrates 100 years.

From the world’s first laminated steel padlock, to a range of innovative, Bluetooth and biometric security solutions, Master Lock has been a leading brand in securing everything worth protecting for the last 100 years. 

Since its launch in 1921, the brand has seen the swearing in of 25 Australian prime ministers, the invention of computers, mobile phones and the television, the moon landing, 31 Olympic Games and was even around before commercially sliced bread.

“It is an honour that people have trusted Master Lock since 1921, to secure what is important, and we commit to helping future generations achieve peace-of-mind and protection with technologies that meet the changing demands of tomorrow,” Master Lock President David Youn said recently.

Master Lock

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“In 2021, we will toast to a legacy born in strength, a future built on innovation and the countless individuals who have contributed to this milestone.”

A chance meeting between Master Lock founder Harry Soref, and Australian hardware supplier founder, Cecil E Mayo, on a train to Chicago led to a handshake agreement that Mayo Hardware would be the Australian distributor for the brand. Ninety-three years later, the Master Lock brand is still represented in Australia by Mayo Hardware, who has expanded its product and service offering. 

What started as Harry Soref’s mission to safeguard military equipment with the world’s first laminated steel padlock has since evolved into Master Lock becoming the leading global manufacturer of padlocks and related security and safety products. 

Since then, Master Lock has developed thousands of hallmark solutions to meet evolving needs worldwide, including the addition of the combination lock to its portfolio in 1935, a model still sold today, and launching Bluetooth-enabled padlocks in 2015, reimagining its mechanical predecessors.

For the next 100 years, Master Lock improved upon tried-and-true products, while also developing new user-led solutions to meet future security challenges. Recent innovation in growing segments, as well as new 2021 product launches, include:

  • Connected Products – Introduced in 2015 with the launch of its award-winning Bluetooth Padlocks, Master Lock’s connected products category leverages the latest technology. The company has since added Bluetooth Lock Boxes and Master Lock Vault Enterprise software for commercial use to its portfolio – and in 2021 – will introduce its most durable Bluetooth Padlock yet, the ProSeries Bluetooth Padlock.
  • Biometric Technology – Master Lock debuted its Biometric Padlock last year, which makes one’s fingerprint the key. The padlock offers ease-of-use, with no keys to lose or combinations to remember.
  • Lock Box Category – The company has made significant enhancements to this category with the recent addition of weather covers, light-up dials and Bluetooth capabilities. The category will upgrade again in 2021 with the introduction of the Key Tether Lock Box, developed in response to users needing to keep the key and lock box together at all times.
  • Laminated Padlocks – Master Lock’s longest-standing product category has been reimagined over the years with security improvements such as a high-security tough cut shackle in its Magnum Laminated Padlocks. In 2019, Master Lock upgraded internal locking components, durable shackle materials and added additional cylinder options to its most popular laminated lock line.

“Master Lock might be turning 100 in 2021, but it is our communities, associates, partners and end users around the world that we want to celebrate. We look forward to making more history, together,” Youn said.


HBT reveals team expansion & conference dates

HBT reveals team expansion and conference dates

AHJ recently caught up with HBT CEO Greg Benstead, who not only revealed the group’s new conference dates for 2021 but detailed the group’s ongoing commitment to expand and evolve the team to deliver a better service to both members and suppliers.

14/05/2021 by Christine Bannister

HBT reveals team expansion and conference dates.
HBT Chief Executive Officer, Greg Benstead.

With HBT’s National Conference initially scheduled for early June this year, Mr Benstead said HBT (Hardware and Building Traders) recently made the call to move the conference to later in the year to prevent any hiccups due to COVID outbreaks.

“The conference will still be held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre but will now be held in November, just to allow more time for the COVID vaccine to be rolled out. Hopefully, this will give us more of a chance of running the much-anticipated event,” Mr. Benstead said.

Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

“After the most recent outbreak, I did say to the team that this virus could come out of the blue at any time and I suggested then that we make the call early and move the conference to the first week in November. When we spoke to most of our members and suppliers, they said they were very keen to have a conference and wanted to make this happen for them. Hopefully, by then the world will be a much better place.”

“We can also conduct the conference in the same capacity as we always have because we have got the larger facilities at the Gold Coast Convention Centre to allow the conference to happen. We will, however, be changing a few things including changing the big auditorium presentations. When we were in Melbourne and there were 800 people in a room listening to the presentations it just did not feel like us,” he said.

HBT’s moved auditorium presentations to a luncheon format alongside store award presentations throughout the final afternoon of the conference, to make way for social activities in the evening, 

“We wanted to try something different after Melbourne’s conference and this year’s conference allowed us to make some changes. We will continue to do the right thing while getting everyone together at the same time,” he said.

Strengthening the team

Significant changes have also been made to HBT’s corporate team recently with former HBT member, Andrew Graham from Traralgon H Hardware now joining the team at a corporate level.

Andrew Graham from Traralgon H Hardware has now joined the HBT team at a corporate level.

“Andrew’s father has now taken over the business while Andrew works on the front line with HBT’s General Manager of Member Services, Mike LoRicco. Andrew will no doubt be an incredible asset to the team,” he said.

“Jason Mc Elligott from Walker Brothers Timber & Building Supplies in Gosford, New South Wales has also come on board. Jason was the manager of the store for the last 21 years but has now joined the HBT team as part of member services. Jason has got some great expertise in the timber segment, and also has some really good marketing ideas as well as strategies on how to get to our members more efficiently,” Mr Benstead said.

The HBT buying team has also experienced some changes after new team member Rita Niforas came on board and will now work alongside Kevin Marshall, Marcella Indries, and Peter Hurley to make up the business manager in the buying team. An additional team member will come on board next financial year, with all five team members to work closely with HBT’s General Manager of Buying, Jody Vella.

“The final structure of the buying team will ensure there are enough buyers to cover all of our suppliers effectively moving forward. Before we brought more members on board there were too many suppliers for each of the buyers to work with to gain the relationships that are critical to HBT. Now with ultimately five in the buying team, it means we can get to everyone efficiently and strategize properly,” he said.

HBT currently has several significant projects on the go including working on several IT projects that are beginning to come to fruition, according to Mr Benstead.

“HBT already has an incredibly efficient IT system for rebates and handling suppliers, as well as promotions and marketing opportunities and we have built up this online space so it is available to our members. I think the opportunity for us now is to continue that journey to ensure that members and supplier reporting are world-class.” 

“We would love to work with other buying groups, to assist in helping independent businesses achieve better deals.  We could assist them via our IT systems. This is a direction we could take into the future.”

“What we need is for real independents to be stronger. We are a bit fractured at the moment and I think there is an opportunity to get us together in this way. It will be implemented in baby steps and there is a lot of hurdles to jump over before we get there, but this is my ultimate plan,” he said.

Online space

While HBT recognizes the importance of integrating an online space throughout the store network, Mr Benstead said he also believes he owes it to members to provide a simple system so members can go online with little effort.

“If a member wishes to be online we simply show them the online platform that we have developed and for a couple of hundred dollars, they can work the platform from their store. This is a similar story through the H Hardware network, where we currently have some fully functional transactional websites,” he said.

“HBT’s ‘pick your own’ catalogue program is very similar to the online program. This allows members to create their catalogue from a template that costs nothing for the member.”

“The catalogue program is growing and we are just in the process of sending out catalogues to every one of our members. This is so they all can see a hard copy of a potential catalogue for their store that has been built online, and they can do it themselves. We thought it would be a great idea to send presentation models to all members, just so they can get it in their hands and they can see how eye-catching it is to their customers,” Mr. Benstead said.

Store numbers

HBT’s store numbers continue to grow steadily, according to Mr Benstead, who said store numbers have grown by about 50 members in the last 12 months.

“HBT’s membership is now sitting at 860 with the growth coming broadly, from everywhere. The recent strengthening of the operations team also means the team can get out and talk to retailers better,” he said.

Moving forward, HBT is working on multiple store planograms to be implemented throughout various store sizes.

“The team is working on multiple store planograms, so if a store wants to get into a category they can choose from three different bay layouts. We are doing a large amount of work on the portal now, and we are changing the way it works in various channels. The portal needs to be about the store owner and what they need to know and want, which is why we are making sure it becomes far more personalized.”

“The portal has become much user-friendly because store owners now only see the suppliers and categories they work with when they log on. By constructing the portal this way it becomes easy for members to access pricing and deals. They can have it open next to their registers at the front of the store to always use. HBT is doing a lot of work in this area so it is easier for members to see the final price they receive as an HBT member,” Mr Benstead said.

Several of the initiatives HBT is currently working on will be officially rolled out at the national conference in November. Mr Benstead said members have plenty to look forward to at the upcoming event, including meeting the new team and, of course, finally interacting on a personal level, once again.

Takasho announces new Account Manager

Takasho announces new Account Manager


Fred De Haan is Takasho Australasia’s newly appointed National Account Manager.

Takasho Australasia recently announced the appointment of Fred De Haan as the company’s newly appointed National Account Manager.

Commencing his new position on July 15, Fred comes to Takasho having held various sales and business management roles within the garden and hardware industry over many years.

Fred is also well known and respected amongst his colleagues and customers, with his most recent role being National Field Sales Manager with Neta (Husqvarna Group). Fred said he was thrilled to be offered the role at Takasho.

“The new range of products that were presented to me that are now arriving into the warehouse are just stunning, and fresh into our market. I am really looking forward to working alongside the close team at Takasho and getting out to see my customers and helping them grow their business with our new and unique products,” Fred said.