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Friday analysis: native hardwood should be a solution not an inconvenience

The new interior of the Sydney Opera House. Picture: Timber Development Association

So, the Victorian Government now “strongly recommends” builders cease using native hardwood varieties in flooring, staircases, beams, doors, windows, architectural features, decking and cladding.

That means the government in Victoria doesn’t just to stop one industry from harvesting native hardwood, it “strongly recommends” that another stop using it as well.

What arrogance.

Try telling that to ARM Architecture, which last week won the overall prize in the Australian Timber Design Awards for its amazing refit of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.

Brushbox – a native hardwood – was used extensively in the original walls and was used again for the refit.

The wall panelling around the stage, stalls and rear walls were reconstructed with new solid carved panelling. All were made in the same Brushbox timber already present in the Hall.

ARM Architecture also collected two national named awards at the recent 2023 Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards ceremony in Canberra for its work on the Opera House project.

Imagine telling other architects and builders – inspired by the Opera House re-fit – that, well, please don’t use native hardwood anymore.

Try telling that to Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in Heyfield in Eastern Victoria, which has been behind so many of the magnificent timber-based building projects across Australia in recent years.

Have a look at the University of Tasmania’s West Park Campus located in Burnie. ASH used native timber – in particular PEFC certified Victorian ash as part of its MASSLAM range of glue-laminated columns, beams, floor and roof systems for mass timber construction.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath said clearly Labor is dictating consumer choice but seeking to hide behind the HIA, labelling the directive “outrageous”.

She described the recommendation as a poor attempt to manipulate product demand to justify the State Government’s appalling decision to close Victoria’s native hardwood timber industry.

Ms Bath says local building companies have said it should be up to the government to explain supply issues of construction products, not make them the bearer of bad news.

She says that the distressing reality is that Victorian hardwood is regularly preferred by builders and consumers for its bushfire resistant properties, compared with overseas alternatives harvested under less stringent environmental standards.

The use of native hardwood should be part of the solution, not an inconvenience for the State Government in Victoria.