A Mount Gambier-based forestry researcher has welcomed a $2 million funding commitment from the South Australian government for work to make the timber industry safer and more efficient.

Key points:

  • The SA Government has committed $2 million to forestry research in Mount Gambier
  • The research will focus on worker safety, carbon emission targets, forest management, fire detection and water use
  • Lead scientist Dr Jim O’Hehir has welcomed the ongoing research opportunity

Lead scientist at the Mount Gambier centre for the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation Jim O’Hehir said it was a boost for research into the industry, which directly and indirectly employed thousands of people in the region.

“It’s great for that kind of support,” he said.

“It brings the local industry in contact with a range of researchers.

Primary Industries Minister David Basham, who announced the funding, said it was “exciting”.

Young pine trees with white bags covering pollinated flowers in the foreground, with Mount Gambier in the background.

Minister Basham says research is key for ensuring the sustainability of the timber industry.(

ABC Rural: Bridget Herrmann

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He said there are many research areas that the money will go towards.

“It certainly looks at worker safety, carbon emission targets, forestry management,” Minister Basham said.

“Forest water use… as we look into getting more forests growing in the area, we need to actually understand its water use.

“[The research will also take in] Biosecurity risk, fire detection and the genetics of the forest themselves.”

A bald man wearing a suit jacket and a pink shirt

Minister David Basham says the funding allows partnerships between the industry and local universities to continue. (

ABC News: Michael Clements

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Minister Basham said the $2 million will allow the partnership between the forestry industry and South Australian universities to continue.

“[The institute is] very supportive of the work that’s been done over the last few years and very much wanting the ongoing support.”

Forestry sustainability

Minister Basham said the “immediate challenge” fuelling the research was Australia’s timber shortage

timber made in Australia

Timber is in high demand, but it is a “slow return” crop.(

Supplied: Australian Forest Products Association

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“So we need to understand how we can maximise the outputs from timber being grown to make sure that we get the benefits.

“Timber is a relatively slow return, from planting to harvest, and so we need to make sure we get all we can out of it, and that’s why we need to put this research in place so that we can continue to invest into the future.”

For Dr O’Hehir, it was pleasing that the institute could keep working and researching.

“Its primary focus is on aspects that are important to the regional industry, and that involves growers and processes, contractors, and any anybody involved in the forest industry,” he said.

Stand of plantation pine trees

Dr O’Hehir says the pace of change is increasing as new technology becomes available.(

ABC South East: Tash Impey

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Dr O’Hehir said there were many options for research areas, including ongoing work on automated forest fire detection and suppression.

“So there’s a lot of satellite data, for example, that can be quite useful that’s freely available.

“And then you’ve got tools like drones that, you know, 20 years ago, were probably defence-type technology, but now they’re available to a whole range of people at a reasonably low cost.”

Growing Green Triangle timber industry with $2m research boost
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