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Friday analysis: Salvaged timber needed for housing is ready, but transport is not

Ed and Luke Morgan, Partners, Morgan Sawmill Jamestown.

A South Australian sawmill’s plight has become the epitome of the turmoil in the industry caused by fires, building supply shortages and the inequity of the Federal Government’s forestry transport assistance scheme.

Morgan Sawmill, which employs 75 people in Jamestown north of Adelaide, the Riverland and Adelaide, needs access to fire-damaged timber salvaged on Kangaroo Island or it faces an uncertain future.

The South Australian building industry needs access to timber, which the Morgan Sawmill could supply.

Master Builders Association of SA has been reported in The Advertiser as saying builders risked losing their businesses without access to the Kangaroo Island timber.

The salvaged timber has been tested and declared suitable for housing and the mill and Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers have even agreed on a price.

But it’s the cost of carting the logs that is preventing builders accessing reportedly enough wood for 10,000 homes.

The logs need to be carted from Parndana on KI to the SeaLink ferry, then from Cape Jervis to Jamestown, more than 400km by road.

In May last year Assistant Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senator Jonathon Duniam announced the Federal Government was supporting the forestry industry with $15 million for salvage log transport that, as he said at the time, was “critical to assisting the sector to get back on its feet following the devastating bushfires”.

One would think that losing close to 90% of its timber to fire would make KIPT eligible for some assistance from that package.

But, for some reason, the package only applied to New South Wales and Victoria.

Maybe those in Canberra who came up with the scheme couldn’t smell the smoke coming from Kangaroo Island.

KIPT says that if the government is unable to extend the assistance program to South Australia, the structural pine earmarked for Jamestown would probably be exported to India.

Senator Duniam says he is aware of the proposal and “looking forward to examining it in detail”.

“As a Government we are committed to supporting the forestry industry, including on Kangaroo Island,” he is reported as saying.

To not give that support is unthinkable. Far too much is at stake.

Meanwhile VicForests ongoing legal tussles with Environment East Gippsland, which last week obtained an interim injunction halting logging in a stand of intact forest where a high density of threatened Greater Gliders had allegedly been found, was back in court yesterday.

The injunction was not extended, with VicForests giving an undertaking to provide EEG seven days’ notice of any intention to resume logging in the coupe in question.

It can hardly be expected that EEG will stop there.