Expert Advice
Jeff Harvey

About 2 years ago I was playing golf with a person I had never met before. In the obligatory small talk, he asked if I was still working, to which I duly replied I was in the timber industry. His reply surprised me a little “so your part of those who chop down trees”.

To my shame I let the comment go through to the keeper. What I should have said is; I wonder what material is holding up your house, statistics would indicate it is 90% a timber frame. Also, all the wood-based materials that are within his house; skirtings & architraves, tables & chairs, kitchen cupboards, shelves, lining boards, window frames and many more items. I then should have said wood is probably the most versatile building material known to man and importantly wood comes from a tree.

” (…) wood is probably the most versatile building material known to man and importantly wood comes from a tree.”

Trees are essential for the biodiversity of our planet. A tree not only absorbs carbon but also stores it and is still present in the products we sell. However, it will lose carbon if it burns or if they decay. Trees also emit oxygen into the atmosphere and are often referred to as the lungs of the earth. Even today it is not unusual to hear of an organisation, such as a council, planting thousands of trees to increase the biodiversity of certain areas.

Basically, the timber products we sell are made up of either softwoods or hardwoods. The conservation lobby have no problem with softwoods in Australia as they see those products coming from pine plantations, or a crop with 20 to 30-year rotations. However, they take an opposite view to hardwood forests and would have all hardwood logging terminated, even though the timber industry no longer logs in old-growth forests.

All hardwood logging is from regrowth forests. Interestingly, I am reliably informed; a tree’s growth is very vigorous in its early years and is absorbing carbon and could be called carbon positive. However, many of our hardwoods, whilst still absorbing carbon, at around 80 years to 100 years can lose limbs & leaves and become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

The facts are, about 65% of Australia’s forests are in national parks or reserves where commercial logging is NOT permitted. Also, the timber industry only harvests 1% of total forest canopy and where they have harvested will replant trees for future generations to use. Accordingly, the timber industry in Australia strongly asserts it is a sustainable industry going forward. To that end, most Australian producers have formally signed up to standards of sustainability in either FSC or PEFC responsible wood certification.

“(…) about 65% of Australia’s forests are in national parks or reserves where commercial logging is NOT permitted.”

The industry has had to adjust the resource from the forest which has been cut back to remain viable. The days of green hardwood for construction are gone, replaced by high-priced products via lamination and other processes. Industries like staircase and furniture manufacturers rely on hardwood produces for many of their basic products.

My final comment goes back to trees. I love walking through the Dandenong’s admiring Mountain Ash trees reaching for the sky. When touring Western Australia, I admired Karri trees in the Valley of the Giants. This species grows some of the tallest trees in Australia. There is a plantation of Californian Redwoods planted in the 1930s on the doorstep of Melbourne at Warburton, which I believe is a gem for people to admire.

All the timber industry asks is that people have an objective, balanced view about how we should treat our forests.

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