Plantation growth needed for processor expansion in South Australia

Timberlink’s intention to build a new CLT and GLT manufacturing facility in either SA or Victoria is positive news, but processor expansion in the region must be underpinned by a growing plantation estate to be sustainable in the long-term.

Unfortunately, Australia’s plantation estate has been declining amid record global and domestic demand for timber and wood products, including in SA. This downward trend is particularly worrying given the devastation caused by recent bushfires.

Federal Government’s acknowledgement of the problem in 2018 by setting the goal of planting a billion new plantation trees nationally by 2030 was a step in the right direction, but without a coordinated state and federal commitment to address the factors that hold South Australian forestry back, the state could miss out on its fair share of trees.

One of the major factors is the state’s current Lower Limestone Coast water allocation policy which is causing a further decrease in its plantation estate. Others are a lack of bushfire policy harmonisation between SA and Victoria and governmental fire resourcing issues in SA.

SA is home to around 14% of Australia’s timber industry, theoretically entitling the state to 140m new plantation trees which would underpin its timber processing industries for decades to come.

Despite our declining plantation estate, Timberlink’s investment shows our forest industries are prepared to make long-term commitments to the region and its people, which should have a positive flow-on effect throughout the forest industries value chain.

It will be Timberlink’s second recent large scale investment in local production, after it announced the expansion of its Tarpeena processing site in August last year.

The Timberlink announcement is one of a number of recent major forest industries investment announcements in the region, including the completion of OneFortyOne’s Jubilee Sawmill upgrade in 2019 and Borg Manufacturing’s 2020 announcement of upgrading its particleboard facility in Mount Gambier.

In addition Yahl based Roundwood Solutions is in the process of rolling out a new timber treatment facility near Tantanoola.

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