Policy and stimulus go hand in hand to support consumer confidence and industry during pandemic recovery

This is one situation where industry and government can work together to deliver socially positive, climate friendly solutions to drive economic recovery and growth.” – Cameron MacDonald

With COVID-19 impacting consumer confidence, new home sales have reduced dramatically which will see demand for timber framing reduce by up to 50% in the second half of 2020. This is something which could have a huge impact on Australian timber manufacturing and jobs.

In recent weeks, the Australian forest and timber industries have been seeking government support. Firstly, to adopt a housing stimulus package to encourage construction of new homes and therefore maintain demand for timber framing. Secondly, many in the industry have been calling on governments to adopt a Wood Encouragement Policy to support and sustain jobs in the forestry and milling sectors.

In the Green Triangle alone – the area around the South Australian and Victorian border where a significant amount of Australia’s forestry takes place – OneFortyOne employs almost 400 people directly as well as more than 400 people as contractors.

Wood Encouragement Policies have been successfully implemented by State Governments in Tasmania and Western Australia, supported by Planet Ark’s Make It Wood, Do Your World Some Good initiative.

Earlier this week Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone received sixteen recommendations from the Forest Industry Advisory Council of South Australia report. One of these recommendations is that the State of South Australia adopt a Wood Encouragement Policy. It is very pleasing to learn that the Minister has committed to consider these recommendations and deliver outcomes.

A Wood Encouragement Policy has three major benefits. It is environmentally sustainable as it encourages the use of responsibly sourced wood in all new-build and refurbishment projects. It also assists in tackling climate change, as wood is renewable, stores carbon and produces significantly lower carbon emissions than concrete and steel. It is also a terrific money-saver for government as most materials are prefabricated and make construction faster, saving time and money.

Similar policies have already been adopted in countries such as Canada, Japan, France, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Through its membership of the Australian Forest Products Association, OneFortyOne is backing calls for an urgent housing stimulus package. Such a package should include incentives for new housing construction, broad-based tax reform particularly in relation to stamp duty, improving the supply of affordable housing and the renewal of our migration program. On Tuesday, the Federal Minister for Housing and Assistant Treasurer, Michel Sukkar met with industry representatives to discuss the drop in housing construction that is looming. The federal government is considering how it can support residential construction activity as part of its stimulus strategy. The recognition that the housing supply chain is a cornerstone of the economy is very promising. It is widely recognised that the housing construction sector is an engine room for growth and jobs in the Australian economy, with more than one million Australians working across multiple industries.

Some timber processors are already starting to feel the squeeze of the reduced demand in timber framing. We must not let Australia’s forestry and wood sectors become a casualty of COVID-19. We need a Wood Encouragement Policy adopted by all Australian states and we need a housing stimulus package to sustain our construction industry and cushion the impact on jobs in the Green Triangle and across the country.

This is one situation where industry and government can work together to deliver socially positive, climate friendly solutions to drive economic recovery and growth.

Cameron MacDonald – Executive General Manager Australia

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