Australia's timber harvest tops $2 billion
HQPlantation’s Michael Robinson says it takes 28 years for these hybrid pines to mature. (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)
Increasing demand for timber to build new homes has driven growth in Australia’s forest and wood products sector.
“For the first time in 2014-15 the value of harvested logs increased by more than 10 per cent to above $2 billion,” ABARES economist Kevin Burns said.
Mr Burns is the author of ABARES Australian forest and wood products statistics: September and December quarters 2015 report.
He said housing commencements in Australia were up about 18 per cent over the year to 214,000 units.
“This was another record breaking year, so that led to very strong consumption for softwood, sawn wood and wood based panels in Australia.
“We did have fairly consistent growth in the second half of the year as well, so it remains to be seen how resilient that commencement activity is.”
Australia had about two million hectares of timber plantations, split 50-50 between softwood and hardwood.
The value of Australia’s timber harvest topped $2 billion last year (ABC Rural: Jennifer Nichols)
“There’s been very strong growth in the hardwood plantation harvest,” said Mr Burns.
“That went up by about 21 per cent, many of those were planted 15 years or so ago and are just reaching maturity now so we should see future growth as well.”
The value of the nations’ wood product exports increased by 10 per cent to $2.8 billion in 2014-15, led by a 24 per cent increase in wood chips.
Queensland’s forest and wood product industry generated more than four billion dollars last year, employing more than 12,800 workers.
About 86 per cent of the state’s logs were harvested from softwood plantations and demand increased 22 per cent last year to a record 43,000 new dwellings.
HQPlantations is Queensland’s largest timber plantation company.
Five years ago it entered into a 99-year licence to manage 211,000 hectares of state owned land.
The majority of its plantations are in South East Queensland including Beerburrum and Gympie and in the South Burnett, Gayndah Kingaroy and Wondai with smaller stands in Central Queensland and Ingham and Cardwell in the North.
Standing amongst tall trees in the pine plantation at Toolara, East of Gympie, regional manager Michael Robinson said the company harvested 2.4 million tonnes of timber a year.
“We’re looking at the hybrid pine here, which is a cross between the native slash pine of the Southern United States and the Caribbean pine.
“Normally for this species it takes around 28 years but we will harvest it around about 28-30 years, depending on our demand for logs.
“We’re focused on tree improvement and growing straighter and taller trees so that we can produce more timber per hectare,” Mr Robinson said.
A small amount of HQPlantation’s timber is exported, with most sold to sawmills for Australia’s construction industry.
After a dry start to the year welcome rain is now falling on forests in South-East Queensland.
“We’re still in our planting season, we still have several hundred hectares to plant for this year in the region and so we’re very much looking forward to the rain to complete the planting and complete our reinvestment back in the land.”