END OF THE TIMBER TRADE: hardwood industry faces uncertainty
IF A major forestry agreement isn't renewed by the State Government, Curly Tatnell says it could be the end of the hardwood timber industry on the Fraser Coast.
The part-owner of the Dale and Meyers Timber Mill provided the grim warning as the South-East Queensland Forest Agreement, one of the cornerstones of the state's timber industry, nears its
Signed in 1999, the SEQFA agreement aimed to cultivate hardwood plantations in the state over a 25 year agreement to be ready for an industry transition by 2025.
More than 400,000 hectares of national park was created across the state because of the agreement.
But setbacks, including the privatisation and sale of several hardwood plantations in 2010, resulted in the resource not materialising.
Mr Tatnell said not renewing the agreement would have a particularly heavy impact on the local supply of hardwood timber to sawmills in the Wide Bay region.
"We wouldn't be able to produce it locally, it would need to be imported," Mr Tatnell said.
"And that timber is not particularly good, we have world-class recognised eucalyptus gums.
"We want to know what's going to happen by 2024 as there's been a lot of uncertainty in the hardwood industry for years."
Mr Tatnell said if there was adequate industry legislation covered by the State Government, the hardwood industry would be "sustainable forever".
"We've got an industry here where we're not really competitive and have to spend a lot of money to get the latest machinery to produce goods," he said.
"Who will invest millions of dollars into an industry where in five years' time there might be no resource?
"Most millers in the area would dearly love to know what the government's decision is, so they can plan for expansion and replace machinery."
A review of the state's hardwood plantation program by GHD in 2015 concluded the State Government's original plantation resource would not be a suitable replacement for "the native forest resource as currently sourced from State land". Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens claims thousands of jobs could be lost and the $200 million industry would be at risk of collapse if the agreement is not renewed.
"The industry entered into the agreement in good faith but is now facing a looming dark cloud," Mr Stephens told the Chronicle.
"In theory, this (agreement) was supposed to allow for sufficient resource to exclude industry access to the remaining state forests by 2025."
A spokesman from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said Minister Mark Furner was leading the development of policy "on the future state-owned native timber production across Queensland" in line with a charter letter commitment.
"The State Government will consult with industry as part of this process," the spokesman said.