Media release – Thursday 23 April 2020

Wood Encouragement Policies must be implemented by the Green Triangle’s respective state governments in a further measure to support jobs in the region’s forest and wood sectors.

The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub (GTFIH) has echoed calls of its federal counterparts, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), who yesterday urged government to implement a building stimulus recovery package to counter the massive reduction forecast for new house starts as a result of COVID-19.

The peak body predicts a 50 per cent reduction in sawn timber demand across Australian sawmills in the next six months as demand for forward orders declines.

Meanwhile Green Triangle export markets have softened, significantly affecting the hardwood sector, which will be further impacted by the return of New Zealand timber once the country emerges from its strict shutdown over the coming weeks.

AFPA has urged government leaders to develop an immediate building recovery package, such as new home owner grants, fast tracking of government construction projects, and tax and land support to stimulate new investment nationwide.

Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said the introduction of Wood Encouragement Policies and further cutting of “red tape” would complement and strengthen such stimulus incentives.

With both states facing “double digit unemployment rates” and further declines in migration and difficulties obtaining credit set to impact construction investment, the proposed policies would provide confidence for the full breadth of the supply chain, she said.

“The introduction of a Wood Encouragement Policy by both Victoria and South Australia would act as a further lever at a state level to support and protect timber and forestry jobs in both states,” Ms McKinnon said.

“Both the West Australian and Tasmanian Governments, in addition to 17 councils nationwide, including local municipalities of Grant, Wattle Range and Glenelg, have implemented a ‘wood first’ policy in an effort to stimulate local investment and promote the sector.

“Adoption of similar policies is steadily growing globally because of timbers green credentials, with countries such as Canada, Japan, France, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and UK all encouraging timber-based products in construction, recognising its sustainable qualities.

“Our state government’s should be following this global lead, making a stand for the Green Triangle’s 7000-strong forestry workforce and associated 150 businesses who want a strong commitment from government to support their livelihoods through these tough times, which have all occurred on the back of a devastating bushfire season.”

Ms McKinnon said timber was the only construction material that played a role in tackling climate change and could further support state-based initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.

“Timber is the ultimate renewable, storing carbon for life, unlike more carbon-intensive building materials such as concrete and steel,” she said.

“Recent research has shown that integrated timber operations are carbon negative, capturing and storing more carbon than emitted, further illustrating the carbon storing capacity of the region’s plantation estate.

“Timber is clean and green and can continue to play a valuable role in not only supporting the Green Triangle economy through this pandemic, but the entire nation.”

Pic: Green Triangle grown and processed timber can play a valuable role in rebuilding Australia’s’ economy as the community emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.