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SA roadmap for timber industry needs support

A regional timber union boss has called for bipartisan support for government investment into the forestry sector following the release of a ground-breaking draft roadmap. Source: The Border Watch

The report released by the South Australian State Government shows around $1b of investment is needed to transition the regional powerhouse sector towards a sustainable future.

The document recommends the industry should move towards a cluster of new product pathways, which could boost its annual revenue by at least $365m each year.

Forestry union Greater Green Triangle district secretary Brad Coates urged the Abbott Liberal Government to support manufacturing jobs in the forestry sector.

“With the Abbott government’s track record in the food and automotive manufacturing sectors, I wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about the government supporting the timber industry,” Coates said.

He said the industry could not afford to have the important blueprint “shelved” without continued investment and infrastructure planning.

The outspoken union official also called for more investment at state level.

“I haven’t heard much on either side of politics,” said Coates, with the state election just four weeks away.

Meanwhile, the report’s key recommendations included the need to secure a biomass plant, creation of veneer-based engineered wood products and markets for cross-laminated timber.

Other products included glued laminated timber, wooden bridges, biocomposites, as well as establishing a bio-oil market.

Another major recommendation was the need to progress the opportunity for gasification-based biofuels and bio-based electricity production.

According to the study, investment needed for a gasification project could be between $636m and $1.07b.

The study also revealed Mount Gambier relied more heavily on forestry sector employment than other cities or regions in Australia.

SA Forest Industry Advisory Board chair Trevor Smith said the document was critical for the future of the industry and for the first time pulled together support of government, industry and the community.

“This has not occurred in South Australia or the Limestone Coast’s history,” Smith said.

Regarding the goals set out in the document, he said they were achievable given the region’s expansive resource.

“The resource is there, the investment will come,” Smith said. “There is now an opportunity to seize the reins and drive the industry forward.

“If we don’t seize it now, it will not come around again for some time.

“To do nothing is not an option.”

He said the board looked forward to engaging with stakeholders and sharing the vision of an evolving, innovative industry that was making the best possible use of world-class plantation assets.

Forestry Minister Gail Gago said the forest and wood products industry was a significant primary and manufacturing sector in the state.

“The blueprint identifies and advises on emerging opportunities to enhance the sustainable economic development of the industry sectors,” Gago said.

“A number of opportunities to advance this important industry are outlined in the blueprint and it offers direction for activities that can achieve significant economic, social and environmental outcomes.

“There is tremendous potential for the South Australian forestry and wood products industry in areas, including collaborative innovation and research, maximising our competitive advantage, sustainability and trade.”

Following consultation, comments will be considered in developing a final blueprint for release later this year. The blueprint can be downloaded from