Victorian timber industry suffers shortage

By Country News

The timber industry has suffered from strained resources following recent bushfires.

Corryong Sawmill managing director Graham Walker said he usually received timber from central and north-east Victoria and said a significant amount of resources had been affected.

“We only had five loads of logs since the fires, where we would normally get eight to 10 loads per day,” Mr Walker said.

“In February, we normally have 2500 cubic metres of logs and we have received about 100 so far.”

Mr Walker said production had slowed since the bushfires began.

“We've still got a few people who are dealing with the trauma and are yet to return to work.

“We had a machine damaged and it's $35 000; we're waiting for confirmation the insurance will cover it, and it takes five weeks for it to arrive.”

Victorian Association of Forest Industries communications and advocacy consultant Justin Law said the industry had stopped logging operations.

“At the moment, 40 per cent of timber was affected by the bushfires,” Mr Law said.

“There’s still a generous supply at the mills but we don’t know how long that will last.

“We’re waiting for the Victorian Government to allow us to salvage timber that wasn’t originally for the timber industry, but is better to use.”

VAFI chief executive officer Tim Johnston said the government needed to provide clarity to the industry, now more than ever.

“Large numbers of trees have been felled along roads and firebreaks to control these fires for access, fuel and safety reasons and it is vital that the government works with industry and local communities in using this timber,” Mr Johnston said.

“There is only a short window for accessing this resource, subject to its burn severity status, and it would be irresponsible not to utilise the timber that is removed while making forests safe."

The timber shortage comes after a new Victorian Government policy to ban timber harvesting in Victorian forests by 2030.

A delegation of forestry contractors from Victoria and NSW was held last Thursday «« February 13 »» in Canberra to urge the federal and state governments to work together to provide immediate assistance for forestry contractors.

Australian Forest Contractors Association general manager Stacey Gardiner said she wanted the Federal Government to ease access to assistance.

“While there is assistance for landowners in the fire-affected areas, it’s not available for our members,” she said.