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 timberbiz.com.au 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.

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 www.miragenews.com 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: www.hyne.com.au and search ‘career’s’.