Despite a massive increase in housing construction demand and decreased supplies on the market, Queensland’s timber industry has been able to withstand these issues, through the implementation of new technologies and expanding businesses, in an attempt to maximise timber volumes for the market.

Described as a perfect storm, the supply issues being experienced by builders with many materials and trades is coupled with a surge in demand from the Homebuilder program, low interest rates and a rise in interstate migration. 

The ‘storm’ has created a raft of issues for various industries, but as Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens says, the sunshine state’s timber suppliers are well prepared.

“Prior to the surge in demand a number of our members were already planning mill upgrades. These projects have been brought forward, at the same time as processing record numbers of logs and implementing equitable volume planning to support their partners,” he says.

“Technology upgrades and mill expansions across the state will assist in boosting local supply. Hyne Timber, for example, is currently removing a production bottleneck at their Tuan mill in Maryborough by installing a new continuous drying kiln which will see a significant lift in output. This increase will also help to lift production at their new Glulam factory in Maryborough.

Softwood sawmiller AKD is also investing to improve product quality and output, including moving to a double shift at their Caboolture site from July 2021.

“Nationally annual softwood sawn sales hit over 3.1 million cubic metres at the end of February 2021 and was 10% higher than the previous year, in response to heightened demand. This increase in timber production includes Queensland producers who fortunately have not been affected by the impacts of the recent bushfires in New South Wales.”

Despite the Morrison Government’s Homebuilder scheme creating some headaches for the industry, Stephens says the scheme is beneficial for the building economy.

“In 2020 the timber industry and allied building and construction bodies welcomed the Homebuilder program to keep the economy running and avoid a collapse of the sector. This helped to support many thousands of jobs in construction, including in local timber manufacturing which supports many regional communities. The issue has been the intense uptake of new approvals within such a short period of time.

In Queensland there has been a net inflow of around 30,000 people from interstate in 2020, with housing activity forecast at 25,000 new dwellings in 2020-21 and renovations at a 10-year high. 

Stephens says that despite the shortages, feedback from builders and consumers is that they still want to work with timber.

“This unprecedented surge in housing activity has shown how critical and important timber really is for the economy, given the prevalence of timber framed houses, and timber cladding and flooring products in our homes. Timber Queensland and other industry leaders have consistently called on governments to support timber industry supply chains and better incentivise new tree plantations so we can keep up with rising population growth and long-term demand.”

“The building boom is impacting many trades and building materials. A recent survey by Master Builders Queensland found that price increases and delays were affecting literally all categories of building materials and trades from roof installers and plumbers to carpenters and painters.”

Reasons for a lack of supply can be attributed to the global explosion in building and housing activity in the United States and Europe, with global timber prices rising to unprecedented levels as a result. Government stimulus measures and increased interest in home renovations during COVID were similar major drivers.

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