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$1.3m grant to turn splinters into structures

Liberal MP Tony Pasin announced the new program for the Green Triangle

A first of its kind Green Triangle wood trial will explore how to use low value fibre in a new structural timber product thanks to a $1.3 million contribution from the Federal Government. Source: Timberbiz

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) in partnership with the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub (GTFIH) have received an Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation (ATMAC) Program grant to explore opportunities to create new wood products utilising softwood and hardwood pulp log.

The grant was announced jointly at the Port of Portland by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and Member for Wannon Dan Tehan and Member for Barker Tony Pasin.

GTFIH executive general manager Liz McKinnon said the Splinters to Structures: Value Adding to Exported Wood Fibre project was derived from an industry-wide wood flow study last year by IndustryEdge, which identified new market opportunities and areas to optimise fibre use across the Green Triangle.

“Recent export log bans to China highlighted the lack of domestic processing opportunities for both softwood pulp log and hardwood chip, whilst at the same time there has been a shortage of structural timber to meet growing housing demand,” Ms McKinnon said.

“This project will determine whether it is feasible to manufacture an engineered wood product for use in building construction using this fibre.

“The focus is on creating new hybrid wood products, combining these two fibres to make stronger timber and in turn meet growing domestic and international demand, which we know is going to quadruple by 2050.

“The Hub has committed to 100% fibre optimisation – essentially we need to do more with less – with this project providing an avenue to further diversify our market base, generating new jobs and sustainability for our sector.”

The whole supply chain has come together to invest in the project with Australia’s major plantation growers offering wood for testing and major manufacturing plants supporting sawmilling trials to understand the fibre potential.

The GTFIH membership has committed $110,000 cash, in addition to extensive in-kind support valued at more than $468,000.

Ms McKinnon said the project would start immediately.

“This project is so important to industry as it will diversify our market base, optimise the use of low-grade timber, creating a new higher value product that will generate new local jobs,” she said.

“We thank the Federal Government for this generous contribution and look forward to continued partnership as we realise these new investment and trade opportunities.”

Mr Pasin said the government contribution would allow the industry to develop the concrete and steel of the next generation, adding value to traditionally low-value fibres.

“From my perspective that means an Aussie log is being converted into a high-value offering via a whole series of Aussie jobs along that value chain,” Mr Pasin said.

“Now if some of those engineered wood products end up in boats leaving this port for destinations international, fantastic.

“But equally these products will service our local market which will increasingly clamour for these hybrid-engineered wood products.”

Australian Forest Products Association CEO Ross Hampton said the grant would be a further driver of innovation and would deliver diversification options for domestic and export use for forest industries.

“This ATMAC grant awarded to FWPA will help processors, particularly of engineered wood products (EWP) to build a manufacturing platform,” he said.

“The demand for EWP is increasing with new technological advancements and the move to a more carbon conscious world. We also need to be smarter in making more products from existing resource to aid supply constraints.”

Mr Hampton said the grant addressed an important piece in the puzzle in managing future demand. There would be a time lag from planting more trees, to having extra wood supply to meet future needs, so doing more with existing resources was a practical part of the solution.

“The project grant will benefit the whole of the forest industries supply chain and ultimately lead to more advanced products being developed, traded and exported,” Mr Hampton said.

“The announcement also builds on the Coalition’s announcement from last week of $112.9 million to accelerate the adoption of new wood processing technologies to ensure Australia can make the most of the timber we already have.

“AFPA will work with FWPA and our broad forest industries to make the most of this ATMAC grant funding, so Australia can work towards securing sovereign capability in timber and manufacturing capability,” Mr Hampton said.

Mr Tehan said the project was a great example of the Government supporting trade diversification.

“This project offers great promise to establish new export markets thanks to the adoption of innovative technology,” Mr Tehan said.

He said the project would provide a significant boost for the timber industry across the Green Triangle and continue to secure jobs in Wannon and benefit the Port of Portland.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the investment was an exciting opportunity for the industry to increase export incomes.

“This is an important value-adding initiative that has the potential to diversify the entire Australian timber industry and the products it manufactures,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The project provides a unique opportunity through innovation to use our resources smarter and bring new life to lower value Australian forestry products such as early age plantation thinnings and lower quality logs unsuitable for the production of structural products.”