Western Australia’s timber industry is grappling with a shortfall of premium-grade native logs, putting further strain on a supply chain already buckling under the weight of a building boom.

Key points:

  • WA’s native timber industry is said to generate around $1.4 billion in economic activity each year, providing 6,000 jobs
  • Premium-grade, renewable native timbers are used to make floorboards, staircases, and furniture
  • Industry says a shortfall of logs is leading to an inability to service demand, putting jobs at risk

WA’s Forest Industries Federation (FIFWA) issued a plea for support after claiming the government’s Forest Product Commission had stalled on vital harvesting area approvals, predominately in jarrah regrowth forests in the south-west of the state.

FIFWA executive director Melissa Haslam said the approval process had “snowballed over the past 12 months” leaving industry short of suitable logs.

“Contractors have also been impacted, having their machinery sitting idle waiting for harvest areas to be prepared.”

WA’s native timber industry is said to generate around $1.4 billion in economic activity each year, providing 6,000 jobs.

Weekend work on the table

WA Forestry Minister Dave Kelly rebuffed the claims, citing “an incredible spike in demand for timber” and a combination of factors “including the impact of climate change” as having led to the dwindling supply of saw logs which yield preferred timber lengths required by the building industry. 

A harvesting machine carries a timber log

The WA state government will subsidise weekend penatly rates for harvesting contractors to make up for a shortfall of native timbers.(

ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia

)

“The yield of saw logs in a number of areas that have been harvested has been lower than previous years,” Mr Kelly said.

Premium jarrah is in short supply

WA’s Forestry Minister says climate change is resulting in a shortfall of premium-sized jarrah trees and logs.(

ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia

)

Mr Kelly ruled out direct financial assistance to industry, instead offering to fund weekend rates for harvesting contractors and longer terms of credit for impacted businesses. 

While the majority of timber used in the building industry is sourced from pine plantations, jarrah remains popular for features such as floorboards, windows and staircases.

“The demand for timber has been across the board and jarrah is included in that,” Mr Kelly said.

WA’s shadow minister for forestry, Steve Martin, said industry was “nervous about the situation” and backed calls by industry for increased government support.

“Industry has been aware this has been growing for some time and now it’s coming to a head,” Mr Martin said.

“We are in the middle of a skilled worker shortage in Western Australia. If you lose [the workers] they simply won’t come back.”

Government, industry at odds over tight native timber supply during building boom
Source:
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