Timber Update November 2023

by | Nov 17, 2023

ABARES reveals continued decline in plantations

Australia’s plantation estate remains on a concerning downward trajectory, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics (ABARES) figures. Australia’s total plantation area contracted to 1.716 million hectares in 2021-22, which is a reduction of more than 28,000 hectares.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Product Association (AFPA), Natasa Sikman said, “This continued decline in Australia’s plantation estate is extremely concerning and is a reminder that collectively, industry, Federal and State Governments and other decision and policymakers need to work together to get more timber trees planted for the future.”

In the same reporting period, there was a small increase in new plantations of 2,300 hectares (hardwood, 1,181 hectares and softwood 1,119 hectares) but these new plantings will not be enough to meet future demand Ms Sikman says.

“Australia’s national plantation estate has fallen by more than 250,000 hectares from 1.973 million hectares in 2014-15 to 1.716 million hectares in 2021-22. Australia is currently importing over $6 billion worth of wood products and we already rely on imports for up to 25 per cent of the timber needed to build Australian houses. As the Government looks to build 1.2 million new houses over the next five years, our reliance on imported timber will dramatically increase,” Ms Sikman said.

“We know that global demand for timber and wood fibre products is forecast to quadruple by 2050 and it is why we see countries such as the United Kingdom including timber-use into their Net-Zero Strategy. The key element of the United Kingdom’s strategy is to increase public demand for sustainably sourced timber through procurement policies and encouraging research into barriers to the uptake of timber. Indeed, recently King Charles visited James Jones and Sons where he discussed the significant benefits of productive forestry a company that partners with Australian-based Hyne Timber and XLam.”

Ms Sikman says AFPA supports the Federal Government’s commitment to plant one billion new production trees and that Australia’s forestry sector recognises the work and investment by the Albanese Government. However, she urges that more is needed to reverse this downward trend in plantation estate while also increasing the use of timber in the construction sector.

“An increased plantation estate alongside a strong native sector will be critical for Australia to meet its own net zero goals while also contributing to the global climate change fight,” she concluded.

AKD offers 29 new apprenticeships nationally

AKD recently offered 29 new apprenticeship positions nationally, covering fitters and turners, fabricators, electricians, saw technicians and wood machinists. The positions are split across their sites, Caboolture (Queensland), Tumut and Oberon (New South Wales) and Yarram, Colac, and Portland (Victoria).

AKD’s apprentice program has continued to grow over the years and this new offering has furthered that growth. The National Apprenticeship Program closed on October 31, welcoming 29 new apprentices.

AKD currently has more than 70 apprentices in training, reflecting approximately one in 15 AKD employees as trade apprentices. This reinforces AKD’s approach to train and develop its people, and to ensure trade-based skills are available for the longer term to support their ongoing sawmilling operations.

“AKD Tumut continues to invest in its cutting-edge equipment and innovative technology,” AKD Tumut site manager Warren “Rabs” Green told Tumut and Adelong Times.

“This creates exciting development and training opportunities, not just for trade-related jobs, but for all employees operating and supporting the business and community.”

AKD Tumut Maintenance Manager David Rosetta said the young local apprentices were all very good at their jobs. “It is awesome that opportunities are still here for the younger people to get apprenticeships within the mill.”

“These opportunities have been going on for many years and it is still going. There is a wide variety of positions going so we would like to see a wide variety of applicants. It is a real credit to the business that they continue to do this because not all businesses are doing this anymore,” he said.

Mr Rosetta believes it shows the commitment of the businesses to stay in the area after the heavy losses suffered by the timber industry in the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.

“We are still employing young apprentices. The business is very committed to the [Tumut] area even with the loss of raw product.”

Mr Green added that AKD Tumut also continues to invest in technology.

“We continue to upskill and improve our apprentices, and make it safer, and the important thing to me is that we are investing in the community. We have a long-term vision to make sure this town is successful,” he concluded.

Australian Timber Design Award winners announced

The annual Australian Timber Design Award winners for 2023 were announced on November 2nd at the Cargo Hall in Melbourne. The purpose of the Australian Timber Design Awards is to highlight, advertise, advocate, and develop a timber design ethos through the encouragement and highlighting of exceptional timber design across various applications. A broad range of entry categories demonstrates the diversity of timber and permits recognition of achievement in a variety of areas.

This year, ARM Architecture received first prize for its outstanding Sydney Opera House Concert Hall Renewal project.

2023 Timber Design Awards

The World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House celebrates its 50th birthday this year. The Concert Hall, which is the largest venue and home to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, has never lived up to the promise of the exterior of the building as it has suffered a poor reputation for acoustics. The challenge to solve this shortcoming involved the innovative use of Brushbox timber panelling and smart interventions into the existing White Birch ceiling.

The wall panelling around the stage, stalls, and rear walls were reconstructed with new solid carved panelling. All panelling was made in the same Brushbox timber that was already present in the hall to integrate seamlessly. The new panels diffuse the acoustic energy, prevent direct reflections, and create a blended sound that amplifies a sense of envelopment in the music. The result is a series of highly tactile and sculptural surfaces that encourage the hand to run along them.

Award Winners

Overall Winner – Sydney Opera House Concert Hall Renewal by ARM Architecture.


  • People’s Choice – Boola Katitjin – Murdoch University by Aurecon, Lyons Architects and Multiplex.
  • Sustainability – ANMF House by BayleyWard Architects.
  • Rising Star – Austin Reed from Brother Nature for Kunama Townhouses.

Excellence in Timber Applications

  • Residential Class 1: New Building – Pocket Passiv by Anderson Architecture.

  • Residential Class 1: Alteration or Addition – Music Room by Alexander Symes Architects.
  • Multi-Residential – Eternity Life Apartments by k20 Architecture.
  • Public Buildings – The Pavilion Performing Arts Centre Sutherland by CHROFI & NBRS.
  • Commercial Buildings – Barker College Maths and Student Hub by Architectus.
  • Interior Fitout: Residential – Elsternwick House by Melanie Beynon Architecture & Design.
  • Interior Fitout: Public or Commercial – Sydney Opera House Concert Hall Renewal by ARM Architecture.
  • Furniture and Joinery – Art Gallery of NSW Library and Members Lounge by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects.

Excellence in Timber Products

  • Australian Certified Timber – Galkangu Bendigo Govhub by Icon Fairbrother Joint Venture and Lyons Architects.
  • Engineered Wood Product – Boola Katitjin, Murdoch University by Aurecon, Lyons Architects and Multiplex.
  • Recycled Timber – Marramarra Shack by Leopold Banchini Architects and Cantilever Consulting Engineers.

Tim Ross, Australian comedian, radio host, writer, and television presenter, announced the winners. More recently, he has been known as the presenter of the ABC shows Streets of Your Town and Designing a Legacy, which reflects his enthusiasm as a self-proclaimed architecture geek.

The Australian timber industry extended its gratitude to the panel of judges, sponsors and those who entered projects. For a complete list of winners, finalists, and the awards magazine ebook, visit www.timberawards.com.au.