Australia’s timber shortage is not just hurting builders but is having a “big domino effect” on trades dependent on the construction industry, an emergency summit at South Australian Parliament has been told.
- Building and housing industry representatives have gathered to discuss the nation’s timber shortage
- One project manager told the summit that there was a “handbrake” on major projects
- An independent MP says a “valley of death” is not inconceivable
The summit — organised by SA Best and attended by key players from the construction and building industries — has been warned about business closures and job losses if solutions are not found.
Attendees included industry associations, such as the Master Builders Association of SA and the Housing Industry Association, along with leading timber producers and suppliers, and some of the state’s largest home builders.
GCJ Constructions project manager Nathan Shanks said some of his projects were experiencing “massive handbrakes” due to the timber shortage.
“We have a $5 million project going in the Barossa which has had a handbrake on it for the past four months minimum — and with that problem comes a lot of cost that we end up bleeding,” he said.
He said the timber shortage was also impacting other tradespeople — including electricians, bricklayers and plumbers — who were waiting to do their work once frames were built.
“They can’t do their first fixes,” he said.
“It is a big domino effect — timber is definitely one of the main components that we are lacking in the industry.
“What the future holds if this keeps happening — bottom line — businesses are going to go out of business.”
Labor’s Clare Scriven said Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers had enough timber to build 10,000 homes that it was looking to offload.
“There’s up to 5,000 jobs at risk and more than 100 small businesses potentially at risk because despite the success of HomeBuilder with bringing lots of building work on, the builders simply cannot get the timber that they need.”
She said the feedback she had received from industry in the south-east was that a lot of the timber on Kangaroo Island was suitable for the existing demand in South Australia.
The state government said it had already written to its federal counterparts in the hope to access a freight subsidy scheme to assist with getting timber off Kangaroo Island.
Primary Industries Minister David Basham said he was travelling to Canberra on Thursday to meet with federal Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam.
“We’ll continue to have discussions to see what we can do to resolve the KI timber issues,” Mr Basham said.
Timber ‘valley of death’
Prominent local home builder Scott Salisbury said that, despite huge demand for housing, skyrocketing house prices were also reflective of the increase in demand for raw materials.
He said builders were losing out as a result of rising costs.
“What’s really driving it is, apart from the HomeBuilder grant, everyone is staying at home and spending their money here and investing,” he said.
“We signed a contract up in September last year and I started the build today and I’ll buy the timber in a month’s time.
Mr Salisbury said that job losses were inevitable if supply of materials were interrupted.
“Timber holds me up on one job, steel holds me up on another job,” he said.
“If the steel supply stops, everything stops. Nobody’s got a job. If the timber supply stops the same thing is going to happen.”
SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said he had organised the summit because his office had been contacted by builders and tradies who were concerned about how the shortage would impact on the industry long term.
“Unless both state and federal governments address the issue and ensure that there’s an adequate supply of saw log … that work will dry up,” Mr Pangallo said.
“Coupled with the overwhelming success of the HomeBuilder program, along with impending price rises, this is probably going to have unintended consequences … things could be grinding to a halt or drying up for those who can’t get adequate supply.
“We need to ensure that the state government in conjunction with the federal government acts on this pretty quickly so we’re looking at saying to the state government, ‘You really need to get your skates on here before we hit a valley of death’.”