TIMBER UPDATE March 2024

by | Mar 22, 2024

Australian Forest Product Association announces new Chief Executive Officer

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) recently announced that experienced government relations professional, Diana Hallam, has accepted the Board’s offer to become the Association’s new permanent Chief Executive Officer.

Ms Hallam has had a long and distinguished career working at senior levels of the Australian Public Service. She served as Chief of Staff to a former Deputy Prime Minister and held other senior political advisory and corporate roles with a focus on infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

AFPA Chair Stephen Dadd commended the Board’s recruitment decision, saying, “After a lengthy and thorough recruitment process, we are very pleased to announce that Diana Hallam will become AFPA’s new Chief Executive Officer and take the reins of Australia’s peak national forest products industry body, with the support of the AFPA membership, our Board of Directors and team of expert staff.”

“Diana’s breadth of experience across senior levels of government, politics and the corporate sector will stand her in excellent stead to manage the challenges and opportunities facing our sector. On behalf of the Board, staff and membership, I congratulate Diana and welcome her to the team.”

Ms Hallam left her role as a First Assistant Secretary in the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to commence as AFPA Chief Executive Officer from the 12th of March 2024. Diana served as Chief of Staff to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce Member of Parliament from 2014 to 2017 and before that occupied senior roles at both Toll Group and Singapore Airlines.

Ms Hallam has an impressive list of qualifications to aid her in this new role. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Master of Science and Technology (Aviation) from the University of New South Wales, a Master of International Law from the Australian National University, a Graduate Diploma of Professional Communications from the University of Southern Queensland and is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

“I look forward to meeting AFPA’s membership and working with everyone across the forest products supply chain. The industry is at the forefront of key policy challenges from climate change to economic development and sovereign capability. I look forward to getting out on the ground and talking to stakeholders about the industry’s issues and opportunities,” Ms Hallam said.


AFWI announces newly appointed board

The board for the establishment and management of the $100 million Australian Forest and Wood Innovations (AFWI) research institute has officially been appointed.

 AFWI is a collaboration between the Australian Government and the University of Tasmania, committed to advancing research and innovation to support Australia’s forest and wood product industries.

 The newly appointed board will oversee all AFWI activities and expenditures and will operate as an advisory board as well as endorse the strategic direction and research priorities of AFWI. 

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt, said the appointment of the board is the next step in establishing AFWI.

“The appointment of the Board will allow the strategic direction and research priorities of AFWI to be finalised, which means AFWI-funded research will shortly begin,” he said.

“This research will help to support our Australian forest and wood product industries, as well as our journey to generate greater value from our sustainable forestry industries – forests are fantastic carbon stores, after all,” Minister Watt said.

 “The investment in AFWI will support innovation and research that will change the way we use wood to benefit our community into the future. The establishment of the Board will help turbocharge this innovation.”

The Board will be chaired by Mr Bob Gordon who will be joined by fellow board members:
Ms Diana Gibbs
Ms Christine Briggs
Dr Heidi Dungey
Mr Brian Farmer
Mr Michael O’Connor
Ms Rachael Cavanagh
Mr Andrew Leighton
Dr Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra
Mr Andrew Wilson

The Board will also be supported by a Research Advisory Committee, which is expected to be established shortly.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Richard Hyett, offered his congratulations on the appointments and enthusiasm for the future of the sector. 

“I congratulate Minister Watt on marshalling this excellent Board of forestry sector professionals. We welcome the inclusion of Michael O’Connor with his incredible depth of knowledge and former AFPA Chair and current Director, Diana Gibbs. AFPA played an important role in the genesis of the AFWI, so it is particularly satisfying to witness the progress,” he said.

“AFPA, through our own membership and expertise, will work with the AFWI to ensure well-formed research priorities and projects. Forest products sector innovation will be greatly spurred by the AFWI – the market possibilities it could help drive are truly exciting and it will help Australia’s competitiveness in our sector,” Richard Hyett concluded.

For more information on AFWI, visit the department’s website: www.agriculture.gov.au/agriculture-land/forestry/national/australian-forest-and-wood-innovations


Slowed housing demands sees timber stockpiling nationwide

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) New South Wales Chief Executive James Jooste says there is a steady build-up of timber in timber yards across Australia, due to the lack of progress on making housing targets nationwide. 

Timberbiz reported that the slow release of land, slow approval rates for loans and houses and economic factors, including high-interest rates, have all had a major impact on timber supplies for some months.

“What has emerged is we have got these ambitious targets, that we need housing, yet we have got timber sitting in mills, which is an indicator that things are [not] moving,” Mr Jooste said.

“We need a roadmap and a steady plan for how we are going to get to these housing targets. We need to make sure that we get out of these boom and bust cycles for the industry because we are seeing significant capital investment being made by mills.”

“The timber industries continue to be a strong employer of local workers in our regional areas, in our manufacturing areas, in the downstream employment that created our construction sector, but in order to retain those workers, to enable a steady platform for business investment, and for that capital investment, we need to make sure we have a steady increase in the housing construction market, and not go back to these boom and bust cycles,” he said.

Associated Kiln Driers (AKD) Softwoods Chief Executive Shane Vicary said the company’s Tumut mill was processing 500,000 cubic metres of logs but that had fallen to 250,000 cubic metres.

AKD is the largest sawmill company in the country, producing about a quarter of the nation’s timber consumption, yet even they are seeing less and less activity from buyers.

“This mill is doing half the volume that it used to do, and it will do half for the next 20-plus years, based on the fact that those logs got burnt,” Mr Vicary told The Australian recently.

Despite this dramatic reduction in production, he said timber continued to sit on the shelf without being sold.

“We cannot get enough people to buy the timber. At the moment, most of our employees are earning less because there is less activity – we have got overtime bans, we have got employment freezes,” he said.

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns admitted the state would not meet its target this year in contribution to the Federal Government’s ambitions to build 1.2 million new homes in the next five years.

“These handbrakes that have been put on the economy are nationwide, and those timber mills, across the country will all be seeing a similar picture, as we are in New South Wales.”

“But we need to make sure we continue to keep a focus on fixing – working hand-in-hand between local government and state government around how we are getting the planning process right.”

“And we have to give credit to the state government in New South Wales for doing that and identifying those issues, and then making sure we have a stable business and operating platform for our mills to continue to produce the timber that we rely on,” Mr Jooste said.