A sawmill in SA’s mid-north has planted the first pine seedlings since bushfires devastated timber stocks in the Wirrabara Forest in 2014.

Key points:

  • SA sawmill plants first pine to secure its long-term future
  • The plantation depends on sourcing burnt timber from Kangaroo Island economically
  • 2014 bushfires burnt the Wirrabara Forest and the mill’s timber supplies

The Morgan Sawmill in Jamestown will plant around 1.5 million seedlings in stages over the next 10 years, which could cost them as much as $3 million.

Sawmill owner Luke Morgan said the pine grew slowly and could take around 20 years to mature for harvesting. 

He said the trees were part of a 50-year cycle to secure the mill’s long-term future.

“I’m the third generation and I won’t see any of these trees in my mill while I’m there.

“It’s for the fourth generation of sawmilling and employment for the regional areas,” he said.

But Mr Morgan said that the success of this plantation was dependent on whether their current supply of burnt timber from Kangaroo Island could be made economically viable.

Two men stand in a cleared field watching another man kneeling to plant a pine seedling

The Morgan Sawmill needs to secure an economically viable way to transport burnt timber from Kangaroo Island to fund the plantation.(

ABC North & West SA: Gillian Aeria

)

“The biggest [cost] is the ferry, that’s very expensive because it’s set up for tourism, so the pricing is very high,” he said.

“We are getting log from there now but it’s at a loss because of the expenses we’re incurring.”

Independent Senator for SA Rex Patrick also attended the replanting and said he was working with Liberal Senator Jonathon Duniam to help transport the Kangaroo Island timber.

Senator Patrick said he wanted to get a program already available in New South Wales and Victoria extended to South Australia. 

A seven-year delay

Mr Morgan said that following the bushfires in 2014, it took his business until 2019 to semi-finalise their purchase of 1,600 hectares of fire-affected forest from the state government.

“So we’ve got a lease at the moment that will be converted to an ownership hopefully. But it took that long, that the native vegetation claimed the land back.”

ForestrySA’s 2013-14 annual report shows it returned $19 million used to fund its fire insurance back to the former SA government because the forest was not worth insuring.

A worker wearing a pink hat and hi-vis workwear and holding a shovel leans over to plant a pine seedling in a cleared field

This is the first planting since the fires devastated the Wirrabara Forest in 2014.(

ABC North & West SA: Gillian Aeria

)

Senator Patrick said this money should have been retained so replanting of the burnt forests could have happened immediately. 

“That couldn’t happen because the money had been taken away by the [former] state government.

Posted , updated 

Seedlings offer new hope for sawmill after 2014 fires destroyed trees
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