He points to the recently published issue of Australian forest and wood products statistics by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Bureau of Rural Sciences that sets out timber production and consumption trends for timber and wood-based products for 2009-10.
The report points out that housing activity is one of the key indicators of domestic demand for structural timber products in Australia. After declining by 17 per cent in 2008–09, total dwelling commencements rebounded strongly in 2009-10, increasing by more than 25 per cent. This has had a major impact on demand for timber products in Australia.
The report confirms that demand for structural timber products improved markedly over 2009-10, in response to increased building activity in all states and territories, following low housing activity in 2008-09.
“In 2009–10, total dwelling commencements rose by 25 per cent to 165 000 units, with the largest percentage rises in the ACT and Western Australia. New South Wales and Victoria also recorded strong housing growth,” the report says.
The report goes on to say that while the overall value of imported forest products fell by 5.8 per cent to $4.2 billion in 2009-10 relative to the previous year mainly because of the decrease in the value imported panels, paper and paperboard, and pulp, against this trend was the value of timber product imports that rose notably in the year.
The value of timber imports increased by 6.0 per cent to almost $430 million and the volume increased by 19 per cent to 748 000 cubic metres in 2009-10. “This indicates an increase in domestic demand for timber in line with the recovery in housing activity.”
New Zealand, the largest supplier of pine timber products to Australia, accounted for the largest increase in imports. However, there was also a significant increase in the volume of imports from Europe.
Mr Halkett said that with the outlook for expanded domestic production of solid timber products and for plantation expansion not looking too promising the timber importing sector will have a increasing significant role to play.
“If Australia is going to deal not only with its housing construction backlog, but with new housing starts that are predicted to exceed 180,000 dwellings a year timber importers will be key players.”