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    Hardwood shortage worrying for building industry and consumer wallets

    The ABC is reporting that a shortage of Australian hardwoods such as spotted gum, Tasmanian oak and ironbark is on the way and could mean increased prices for consumers.

    The decline comes in line with the nationwide reduction of native forests available for harvest over the past 20 years, which has reportedly dropped from 10 million hectares to 5.5 million. It also comes despite a number of forestry agreements around the country, designed to reduce reliance on state forests and increase investment in sustainable plantations.

    The outlook is particularly dire in Queensland, says Timber Queensland chief executive Mick Stephens, because about 40 per cent of the state’s supply will be untouchable by 2024 under an agreement signed in 1999 to end all state forest logging.

    The agreement came with a huge investment in a hardwood plantation program but Stephens is pessimistic about whether the plantation resource will be productive enough in time to fill the supply void left by state forest closures.

    "The government has been working on a hardwood plantation program. To date the results have been quite mixed," he told the ABC.

    "We're about halfway there in terms of the productivity of plantation resources, and the other issue with it is it takes a long time.

    "We'd need to be planting a lot of those areas now to get that resource by 2024."

    In the state government’s defence, a Department of Agriculture spokesman did say that a 2015 review of the 20,000ha Hardwood Plantation Program determined it would deliver a supplementary resource.

    Bundaberg architect Tomas O'Malley says that his clients are becoming increasingly scrupulous with building product choices and more concerned the provenance of the materials being used for their buildings.

    "There are some clients who need it for particular types of certifications that they're obliged to have … in terms of ensuring timber is sustainably procured," he said.

    "Whether it comes from overseas or locally, it's the same standards that apply.

    "Other people just want to know that they're getting timber from a local supplier … that it's a local product, they're supporting a local industry and local jobs."

    The a paper released in June by the national Forest Industry Advisory Council  gives 19 recommendations to transform the industry including preserving existing productive forest estate, optimising forest management and expanding productive forests in strategic regions. 

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