by | Dec 16, 2021

12,000t of softwood boosts WA’s building industry

The Western Australian Government has made way for an additional 12,000 tonnes of structural pine to be available for the Western Australian timber manufacturing industry and the state’s building and construction sector over the next three months, Forestry Minister Dave Kelly announced recently. 

According to Minister Kelly, the Government’s Western Australia Recovery Plan has supported an unprecedented boom in Western Australia’s building and construction sector at a time when a global shortage of structural timber has limited the importation of pine.

In the past, the Western Australia softwood processing industry supplied approximately 65 per cent of pine products to the state’s housing and construction market. The remaining demand was met by imported timber from eastern states or overseas. 

The Western Australian Government, through the Forest Products Commission (FPC), has arranged for the supply of an additional 12,000 tonnes of locally grown softwood logs to be brought forward from future supply commitments to help meet the current increase in demand for timber in local construction.

In recent weeks, the FPC began deliveries of additional timber to Wespine Industries, with Wespine commencing distribution to the marketplace after processing.

Building and construction industry body Master Builders Western Australia recently highlighted a shortage of softwood needed to complete current building projects and has worked closely with the McGowan Government and Wespine to increase timber supply.

The FPC will supply the softwood logs from its south-western radiata pine plantations to Wespine over the next three months. To ensure fair distribution, the timber will be used to fulfill backorders for Wespine’s Western Australian customers and made available on their current price list.

The Western Australian Government’s recent announcement of a record $350 million investment in expanding local softwood plantations will provide at least an additional 33,000 hectares of softwood timber plantation and assist in future supply in the coming years.

Forestry Minister Dave Kelly said the West Australian building and construction industry is booming and it is fantastic to support the industry with locally grown pine.

“The global shortage of structural pine reinforces how important it is for Western Australia to have a sustainable, long-term and local supply of this critical resource. The McGowan Government’s record $350 million expansion of local pine plantations will secure long-term supply and ensure we have a sustainable timber industry for the future,” Minister Kelly said.

Logging halt urged in NSW’s fire regions

A recent Natural Resources Commission report not yet released by the New South Wales state government has called for a timber harvesting halt in three ‘extreme risk’ zones, a recent report by The Guardian has revealed.

The document not only calls for a halt to native logging in regions hit hard by the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, but also recommends revising agreements to account for the increasing threat of global heating, according to the report.

A copy of the Natural Resources Commission report on the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) was obtained by Guardian Australia and allegedly calls for the suspension of timber harvesting for a minimum of three years in three zones it deemed to be “extreme risk”, including Narooma and Nowra on the south coast and Taree on the mid-north coast.

These areas present as “a risk of serious and irreversible harm to environmental values from the cumulative impacts of fire and harvesting,” adding that a temporary suspension was needed “in line with the precautionary principle”, according to the report.

Six other zones were also identified that the commission categorised as “high risk” where logging would be restricted in 75 per cent of the area, according to the report with only seven of the 27 native forest regions “low risk”, where harvesting could continue under “standard” rules.

Those risks included threats to vulnerable and critically endangered fauna and flora, including koalas and the long-nosed potoroo, according to the report.

SA timber companies to expand supply

Structural timber supply in South Australia will soon receive a boost as the Marshall Liberal Government invests more than $750,000 in two projects aimed at increasing supply for South Australian home builders.

Local timber firms NewGen Timber and Morgan Sawmill, will soon receive funding from the Additional Construction Timber initiative following a recent Expression of Interest (EOI) process. Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said the Marshall Liberal Government has pledged $3 million to support getting more timber to market.

“The booming local housing industry has been great news for our economy and jobs and a positive sign of confidence in the South Australian economy, but the increased demand for timber has put real pressure on our supply chains,” Minster Basham said.

“These two projects about to get underway will provide a significant boost towards addressing the unprecedented demand for building timbers currently being experienced by South Australian builders. Our forest and wood products industry along with the construction and building sector play an essential role in the success of the state’s economy.”

“However, record home approvals combined with a significant delay in the supply of building materials, including timber, has created a perfect storm for the building industry. Given this situation we felt it was vital to work with the industry to explore all options to alleviate supply pressure and the recent EOI process is just part of this approach,” he said.

The process provides the industry with an opportunity to consider innovative solutions towards supplying additional timber to the market, according to Minister Basham, who said he was delighted that the local forest and wood products industry has provided options to meet this short-term challenge.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is still looking at further options to expand the capability of our timber production and it is likely more companies will benefit from this grant initiative,” he said.

NewGen Timber based in Mount Gambier will receive $480,000 towards a $552,000 project aimed at delivering additional timber over the next 12 months with yard upgrades and running additional shifts.

Morgan Sawmill will receive $283,000 towards Stage One of the Morgan Sawmill Jamestown project.

This will involve the hiring and purchase of required equipment, along with the recruitment and upskilling of staff to enable additional timber to be produced as soon as the equipment is installed.

Timber crisis sees Forestry Hub funding announced

A $900,000 Federal Government investment is set to ensure four more years of funding for the Tasmania Forestry Hub, allowing it to further examine a timber industry still grappling with a nation-wide timber bottleneck.

The funding forms part of a $10.6 million national investment that will help finance eight other existing forestry hubs around Australia, as well as establish two new hubs in Eden in New South Wales and in the Northern Territory, a recent Examiner report explained.

Initially announced in 2019, the hubs have a broad remit to help expand and improve the industry across its plantation, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

The growing need to bolster the forestry sector’s supply and infrastructure has become more evident in recent months, as a protracted timber shortage continues to impact a sweep of associated industries. Tasmania Forestry Hub General Manager Simon Talbot said in the report, that he was eager to put the new funding to good use.

“The hub is about connecting market demand with the raw materials to make a sustainable product that puts more money back into the Tasmanian economy,” he said.

The hub will now use the funding to establish a study to assess the national demand for timber, as well as a prospectus to examine which areas of the industry need investment, such as supply, infrastructure and research.

Mr Talbot said while he did not expect the hub’s work to lessen timber supply issues in the short term, he did point to research at the UTAS centre which could bring new timber options.

“The team has been working with eucalyptus nitens which was originally planted for pulp and paper, to make it suitable for structural timber, as well as for use in floor and panelling – that is the early stages of a product that could really help fill a gap in the market,” he said.