Wellington Shire Council in Gippsland has asked its chief executive officer David Morcom to prepare a report into the feasibility of establishing a school of timber and forestry education precinct within the shire. Source: The Gippsland Times and Maffra Spectator
Morcom will investigate if the school is achievable and needed.
He will look at whether there would be industry support, if education providers are available, if the availability of native forest and plantation timbers in Wellington Shire is an advantage for research and development, and if the school would provide added strength to the shire’s existing timber industry.
Cr Malcolm Hole had given notice of his intention to propose the motion at a council meeting, pointing out that in Europe particularly, but elsewhere in the world, the natural components of trees were being tested for better resource use, alongside the current long standing uses of timber.
He pointed to the use of cross laminated panels to build high rise buildings in earthquake areas, informing council that at least two high rise buildings were currently being built in Melbourne made entirely of laminated timber.
Hole also pointed out timber resin was being extracted to make contact lenses and research for medicinal uses was also growing.
He pointed to the use of forest harvesting residues for energy production.
“As timber production is a genuine agricultural primary industry, I believe that we should be exploring all avenues to either create or generate education and jobs in Wellington Shire Council,” he told council.
“It has also been reported that forest industries research is posed to deliver a surge in regional jobs across Australia.”
Hole lamented the decline in forestry and silviculture skills available in regional Australia.
“The unfortunate thing is the Australian National University used to turn out foresters, and is now it turning out environmentalists,” he said.
“Foresters are needed by local government for plantation reports to oversee the work that is happening on public and private land which is leased for the development of trees however, local government now has problems getting those skills from those trained foresters.
“The way is now open for research and development … but for the opportunity from what I am proposing here tonight, for the training of foresters.”
Cr Hole spoke on the need for apprentices in the furniture manufacturing industry and the need to develop a range of skills focused on the use of plantation and native timber.
“The CEO of the Furniture Manufacturing Association approached me in December and said the machinery they have now is old and (too) antiquated for training,” Hole said.
He suggested an all-in-one precinct modelled on the University of New South Wales bringing together all the information technology expertise into the one university that generated value-adding industries, could have potential in Wellington Shire.
“Other councils are chasing the research and development money and in fact the entire east coast will be in Canberra on March 4 when the Prime Minister announces the new timber policy,” he said.
“I will be there representing us as well and the National Timber Councils and we will see who ends up with the product.”
Hole suggested research into innovation in the timber industry had the potential to develop 9000 new jobs in regional Australia.
“This is not the jobs that are currently there now in the mills … this is in top end of the stream,” said Hole.
Morcom was asked to report back to council by April 15.