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No white knight for South Australia just a dark future

A “white knight” solution by the South Australian Primary Industries Minister to address the State’s chronic timber crisis demonstrates his total lack of understanding of the crisis gripping the state $16 billion building and construction industry, according to SA-Best. Source: Timberbiz

Primary Industries Minister David Basham last week claimed a group of mid-north farmers and forest growers could be the “white knight” by supplying extra timber the state’s housing industry has been looking for.

Mr Basham said thousands of building trade jobs could be supported – and an extra 1000 houses built in South Australia – if the Morgan sawmill at Jamestown in SA’s mid north accepted timber sourced from the near-by Bundaleer forest in the state’s mid-north.

But SA-Best MLC Frank Pangallo, who last week hosted an emergency summit with key stakeholders to discuss the issue, said the Minister would have understood his solution was unworkable had he attended the forum, which he was invited to, and which the owners of the Morgan sawmill did.

“The Minister has embarrassed himself by making such a suggestion and demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of the state of the crisis and the forestry industry in SA,” Mr Pangallo said.

“All the Minister needed to do was get on the phone to Ed Morgan, the owner of the sawmill, who would have told him his Bundaleer forest ‘white knights’ idea was totally unsustainable,” he said.

“Had the Minister attended the forum, as he was invited, he would have learned first-hand about the shortage of saw log supply and the massive spike in costs confronting the building and construction industry and recipients of the Homebuilder grant that could lead to a tsunami of job losses and building company collapses.

“As for the Bundaleer forest proposal, Mr Morgan claimed that felling those remaining mature trees without having a backup supply and not planting others would worsen the problem because the plantation would be totally depleted of trees,” Mr Pangallo said.

“Further, Mr Morgan said he would manage the amount of timber he used from Bundaleer because he didn’t want to wipe out what currently exists. It takes up to 25-30 years for a tree to reach maturity for harvest.”

Mr Pangallo said Mr Morgan told the summit the Minister’s proposal wouldn’t work and his business would not survive in the long term if he accepted it.

“Minister Basham needs to get off his backside and urgently secure the $6 million in freight subsidy required to transport timber off Kangaroo Island to the Morgan’s sawmill and others to provide timber for 10,000 homes,” he said.

“Mr Keith Lamb, KIPT Managing Director, also told the summit that if the logs currently in storage could not be moved economically to local sawmills he would be forced to sell the timber to overseas markets,” he said.

“Sadly, the State Government has again been caught asleep at the wheel in failing to manage this emerging crisis.

“SA’s critical building sector is about to enter a Valley of Death situation which will have a catastrophic domino’s effect that is expected to be felt across the entire state.

“If timber can’t be supplied to build houses, carpenters won’t get paid for putting up the frames, bricklayers won’t get paid for laying the bricks, electricians won’t get paid for wiring the house, the businesses that supply those tradies won’t get any orders for materials…and so it continues.”

Already there was a genuine fear many tradies would not have incomes after July and many businesses would be forced to start shedding jobs by September or October.

“Worse still, there are grave concerns significant numbers of jobs will be lost and many small to medium sized businesses will go bust if the issue isn’t addressed as a matter of urgency,” Mr Pangallo said.