Victorian Forest Products Association CEO Deb Kerr believes the current timber shortage faced by the state outlines the short-sightedness of the Victorian Government’s plan to turn its back on native forestry.
In an effort to increase sustainability, the Victorian Government in 2019 announced plans to phase out native forest logging over a 30-year period. The plan is designed to protect Victorian forests, but has ultimately created a shortage in timber for housing frames, at a time when housing construction is at an all time high within the state.
“Since 1999, successive government policies have reduced the native timber harvest area by nearly 55 percent and log take by 62 percent, with the supply gap sourced from both domestically produced softwood plantation and imported timber,” she says.
“With imported timber supplies drastically reduced, and a significant 30-year wait between planting and harvesting plantation trees, the construction sector is looking to Victoria’s native timber to supply this critical shortfall.
“With many trees falling in the recent storms, VicForests is seeking to purchase these trees to help with the supply gap – these trees are of a lower quality ideally suited to house frames as they are unable to be used for floorboards or furniture.”
Upon announcement of the plan, the logging of old-growth forests in Victoria was banned, which now protects 90,000 hectares of native forest. The plan has set aside $120 million to upskill and redeploy 1,000 forest industry workers, while providing mills with new equipment for alternative timber processing.
Kerr says that while the industry has looked for alternatives, the plan to phase out logging by 2030 was short sighted.
“Victoria’s native forest industry uses just six trees in every 10,000 and Victoria’s stringent laws require that every harvest coup is regenerated,” she says.
“Using our Victorian softwood and hardwood timber is also a great environmental story as this locks carbon up in the house frame for the life of the house, and the harvested areas are resown.
“Importantly, the best time to plant trees for today’s houses was 30 years ago – the next best time is now to supply timber for the homeowners of 2050, and that requires a significant effort to expand Victoria’s plantation estate now.”
VicForests will extend existing timber supply agreements until 2024, after which timber supply will be stepped down before ending in 2030. It is expected that the construction industry will deviate completely from the native hardwood timber that has been used amongst Victorian homes since settlement.
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