Timber sales drop

TIMBER SALES: South Australian Forestry Production Association chief executive Nathan Paine says timber should be used for houses. Picture: FILE

Charlotte Varcoe

DOMESTIC timber sales have fallen by more than 500,000 cubic metres from its peak, prompting Member for Barker Tony Pasin to call for Green Triangle Forestry timber to be included in the federal housing policy.

Mr Pasin said data from the Australian Forest Products Association and Master Builders Australia showed the decline in domestic timber sales, with the member stating the industry was “ready and willing” to meet demands for timber required to increase the housing supply.

South Australian Forestry Production Association (SAFPA) chief executive Nathan Paine said it had been well noted there had been a decline in new building approvals after the former government’s Home Builder program, which brought forward “significant demand”, ceased.

Mr Paine said it also resulted in supply constraints particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The great news in South Australia is the state government is responding to this by providing increased stimulus through stamp duty relief for first home buyers purchasing new homes, as well as supercharging a social and affordable housing program,” Mr Paine said.

“These programs will have a positive impact, and while we are pleased that the South Australian Government has implemented a policy to preference South Australian timber manufacturers in government projects, we look forward to implementing mass engineered timber products in multi-level buildings.”

He said he was also hopeful the government’s stamp duty stimulus package announced as part of this week’s state budget would also drive a “new demand” for timber.

In order to further sustain timber sales, Mr Paine said SAFPA was focused on ensuring there were enough trees being planted to meet future fibre requirements.

“We also acknowledge the work of the federal minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry Murray Watt, not just for his financial support to get more trees in the ground but also for the recent removal of the regulatory hurdle known as the Water Rule,” Mr Paine said.

“This rule directly impeded the industry’s ability to get more trees in the ground so the work by Minister Watt with his state counterparts, including Deputy Premier Susan Close and Minister for Forest Industries Clare Scriven, has removed a major barrier to planting more trees.

“As a nation we need to make sure that we are planting enough trees to give us sovereign fibre capacity, and the work of the federal and state governments are directly delivering in this space.”

Mr Paine said he was confident as SAFPA moved towards decarbonising the economy – especially within construction – there would be a greater focus on the use of timber in the built environment.

“While we have no supply problem now, in decades down the track we will if we don’t plant more trees in the short term,” he said.

“SAFPA is currently working with Minister Scriven through the Forest Industries Advisory Council to prepare a State of the Forests Report to understand our future supply of timber products against forecast demand to better assess our ability to grow and process our domestic fibre needs.

“Importantly, we need to recognise our role in not just supplying to the domestic market, but indeed the nation, as our state processes 35 per cent of the nations housing timbers, about a quarter of the nation’s particle board, 48 per cent of the nation’s fibre for packaging and 60 per cent of Australia’s agricultural timbers.”

Mr Paine said South Australian grown and processed timber remained the “backbone” of the state’s new housing construction and with the move into mass engineered cross-laminated timber and glue-laminated timber, the products being used were being done so in new and innovative ways.

“This will incorporate timber into multi-story buildings,” Mr Paine said.

“The simple reality is that timber is the ultimate renewable and the only building product that can achieve a positive carbon outcome, with every cubic meter of finished softwood products sequestering a new 718kg of co2e so by building with timber people are not just getting a more sustainable house but supporting local jobs.”