Australian Forestry Industry Hopes Pulp Log Trial Can Help the Country Overcome Structural Timber Shortage

Forest and Wood Products Australia, in partnership with the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub, which spans parts of western Victoria and the Limestone Coast in South Australia, has received an Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program grant of $1.3 million (A$) to explore opportunities to create new wood products using softwood and hardwood pulp.

According to Liz McKinnon, Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub executive general manager, “This project will determine whether it is feasible to manufacture an engineered wood product for use in building construction using this fiber.”

A report by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) claims demand for new housing will climb from 183,000 new dwellings per year to 259,000 by 2050. This in turn is expected to drive an increase of almost 50 percent in the demand for sawn softwood. In its April 2022 Interim report on future market impacts, FWPA estimates Australia needs an additional 468,000 hectares of softwood plantations before 2050 to cope with demand.

Commenting on the current structural timber shortage, Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union National Secretary Michael O’Connor said action was needed. “Australia is not going to be able to build the new homes that it needs into the future if we don’t take urgent action now to ensure we have the softwood supply the country needs.”

“The timber shortage crisis is a global problem, and Australia can’t look to other markets for solutions. We need our own plan,” O’ Connor added.

Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Ross Hampton hoped the forestry sector’s innovation would help alleviate the domestic timber shortage. “We think this project is going to free up a lot more timber in the future, if it successfully works,” he said. “Ultimately, we hope to deliver more timber to our markets, to our domestic processes; and to those consumers, builders, homeowners and renovators who are so desperately after more timber.”

Hampton added that while the trials would deliver a number of new wood products suitable for construction, he said innovation alone would not solve the supply problem. “Ultimately, of course, we really have to get more trees in the ground.”

Tony Pasin, the MP for the area, said the government contribution would allow the industry to develop the concrete and steel of the next generation, adding value to traditionally low-value fibers.

Mr. Pasin went on to say, “From my perspective, that means an Aussie log is being converted into a high-value offering via a whole series of Aussie jobs along that value chain. Now if some of those engineered wood products end up in boats leaving this port for destinations international, fantastic. But equally these products will service our local market which will increasingly clamor for these hybrid-engineered wood products.”

FEA compiles the Wood Markets News from various 3rd party sources to provide readers with the latest news impacting forest product markets. Opinions or views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of FEA.