by | Jul 14, 2022

3.2 million seeds to revive NSW bushfire zone

Image source: Forestry NSW

The Forestry Corporation of New South Wales has begun its record 2022 replanting program, with 3.2 million seedlings set to be replanted into 2,950 hectares of Bombala pine plantations, previously harvested or affected by bushfires on the far south coast.

Forestry Corporation’s Silviculture and Fire Coordinator, Tim Gillespie-Jones said this winter’s planting program is a vital part of the organisation’s operations.

“The forestry cycle means that for every tree we harvest to supply renewable timber we need to plant another to take its place. The planting program work engages several businesses and some sixty contracted planting staff, so the program is also an important step in supporting regional employment and economies,” Mr Tim Gillespie-Jones said.

“Each seedling is planted by hand and an experienced planter can plant around 2,000 seedlings a day. Through their efforts we are regrowing plantations previously harvested for timber or affected by fires including Bondi, Nalbaugh and Coolangubra State Forests.”

Mr Gillespie-Jones also said in a recent ABC report that it was both exciting and rewarding to be part of growing tomorrow’s homes.

“After the Black Summer fires we lost about a third of the plantation here, and the business set a target of re-establishing the forest within eight years,” Mr Gillespie-Jones said in the report.

However, Australia’s severe timber shortage is expected to remain for some time despite the abundance of seeds being planted with Mr Gillespie-Jones saying he expects the shortfall in supply to be resolved in “about 10 years’ time”.

“[A new plantation] probably grows between 15 and 18 years before it gets its first thinning harvest but it grows to about 32 years before we reach clear full age,” he said in the report. 

Mr Gillespie-Jones also pointed out that once those carrying out planting mastered the correct technique they could plant up to “a couple of thousand trees a day”.

This year’s seedling crop was predominantly grown in Forestry Corporation’s Tumut production nursery following upgrades after the black summer bushfires.

Forestry Corporation has around 230,000 hectares of pine plantations in New South Wales and in normal years produces enough timber to construct a quarter of the homes built in Australia each year.

NSW invests $28 million to ease timber pain

The New South Wales Government recently unveiled a record $28 million Farm Forestry package as part of the 2022/23 State Budget to bolster on-the-ground support for producers, drive innovation and promote best practice in sustainable farm forestry businesses.

The funding boost follows the introduction of new Farm Forestry Codes of Practice earlier this year, and provides increased support to farmers through enhanced education and training Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales Paul Toole said.

“This investment will fund a suite of programs and partnerships to facilitate and expand the development of the state’s sustainable Farm Forestry industry. This is the largest investment in Farm Forestry in more than a decade, and it reflects the increasingly important role it will play in supporting our sustainable timber industry,” Mr Toole said.

The investment would provide farmers with practical advice and support services to ensure forestry becomes a part of future farm planning, Agriculture Minister, Dugald Saunders also said.

“Our Australian-grown timber products are something we should all be very proud of, however access to timber in our state forests has been constrained over the last few years due to fires and floods,” Mr Saunders said.

“This investment will put New South Wales farmers in the box seat to produce timber to be sold domestically, which will not only directly address timber shortages, but also increases and diversifies income streams for farmers after a tough few years,” he said.

This announcement follows the New South Wales Government’s recent introduction of new Farm Forestry Codes of Practice (formerly Private Native Forestry) that will ensure long-term sustainability for the industry and provide robust environmental protections across the New South Wales private forestry estate.

New changes for landowners under the codes include:

  • New harvest and operating standards that provide greater clarity and are easier for landholders to apply – now including pest, weed and fire management;
  • Updated planning and reporting with a clear role for Local Land Services to engage with farmers, and options for small scale harvesting; and
  • Environmental protections that are clearer for landholders while ensuring long-term environmental sustainability in farm forests.

This investment will also fund a pilot certification scheme to support landholders seeking certification for their timber products under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification standards. This will increase market access, improve social licence and incentivise the production of sustainable timber in Australia.

Building industry suffers as Russian timber crisis continues

A leading building industry expert recently warned Australians that the fallout from the Russian crisis, combined with ongoing economic challenges within the local building and construction industry will create tensions within the industry that are expected to be the new normal.

In a recent interview with The Fifth Estate, Intrapac Property Chief and National President of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, Max Shifman said laminated veneered lumber (LVL), structural timber, and soft timber supplies were “definitely a concern” for the development and construction industries that are already struggling to keep up with demand due to supply constraints. 

According to the report, Russia and Belarus imports account for up to 50 per cent of Australia’s supply of LVL and engineered wood products (EWPs), including formwork LV, which is essential for all concrete constructions for multi-residential, high-rise, commercial buildings, as well as i-joist beams and timber flooring systems.

Importers are now planning to hold crisis talks to discuss the supply issues with the Federal Government next week, according to the report.

“It is not only timber. There are issues with everything from concrete pipes to plasterboard to steel in some areas. It is really very concerning and has been for some time. And it does not appear as though there is going to be any short-term fix for it. We have recently seen the price of raw aluminium go up in the order of 40 per cent due to the lack of supplies. That filters through into all sorts of things that you would need for building materials, including aluminium windows for example.”

“In a construction program, if you are missing something along the way, the rest of the program gets blown out. And so you might have seen reports of house building times, pushing out dramatically and that is going to continue,” Mr Shifman said in the report.

Delays caused by skills and supply shortages mean the amount of building works being completed on a monthly basis is consistently dropping.

“You cannot get those efficient construction programs to line up anymore because, at any given point, you are either missing a piece of material or you are missing the labour to install it, and it is dragging everything out. And that is going to be a dynamic that continues for the foreseeable future.”

“There has to be a conversation around working with builders and clients to see if there is a middle ground that can be struck. Builders are stretched to the point where they just walk away from their businesses, but also that clients appreciate that we have just gone through an unprecedented and unexpected period,” Mr Shifman said in the report.

While Mr Shifman says it is easy to look back and say the Morrison Government’s housing-focused stimulus packages exacerbated the issue – no one could have predicted the challenges that lay ahead within the building industry.

“But what we did not anticipate was the level of supply chain crunch that would arise subsequently, because other parts of the world had similar ideas. We just saw this incredible boom in housing starts globally,” he said in the report.

All of these factors, combined with surging inflation and interest rates, will mean that the pipeline for new project starts will slow dramatically, with a spill over impact on house prices. The higher risk and less certainty will prevent the industry from locking in prices, Mr Shifman said.

“A return to normal migration rates, which we need to have because we are all struggling with a lack of labour across so many industries, is likely to push up house prices. At the same time, a lot of projects won’t be viable because of the higher costs. That is going to be the new normal for a while,” he said in the report.