If you go down to buy wood today you're in for a big surprise

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Timber yards just don't bother stocking hardwood timber any more. Why?

It is because no one wants to buy hardwood timber. There are no uses for native forest hardwoods which pine and other plantation products cannot replace, and at a lower price.

Many sawmills that cut native forest logs are teetering on the brink of receivership. The industry is collapsing quickly. Here are some examples:

  •     The largest sawmill in East Gippsland went into receivership in early June.
  •     Up to half of all the remaining mills are near receivership.
  •     The old stalwart of the industry, Micah's sawmill in Erica, is up for sale.
  •     Neville Smith Timber Industries at Heyfield is the largest hardwood sawmill in Australia, yet only made $67,000 profit last year.
  •     Terra Timbers at Bairnsdale was predicted to be the saviour of the east with millions of dollars investment in kiln driers for producing value added export timbers. It is also finding it difficult to sell its intended volumes.
  •     Recent auctioning of timber at Fowles in Port Melbourne saw lots of hardwood timber left unsold, and those which did sell, went for 10% of their value.
  •     Pine now makes up more than 80% of the market for building timbers. This dominance has been growing for the past 20 years. There are few applications where pine is not the preferred product.
  •     The advent of the five star energy rating system favours concrete slabs over stumps and bearers, rough sawn hardwood's last toehold in house framing.
  •     In buildings where sub-floor construction is still used, engineered and treated pine products are preferred. Laminate flooring and floating floors (made from pine) are a cheaper and better wearing than hardwood tongue and groove.
  •     The Victorian Timber Promotion Council has folded. Hardwood timber marketing promotion campaigns (like 'eco select') have all but disappeared.


Pine has taken over as a building timber. Feature grade kiln dried products like tongue and groove flooring is the last hope for the state's hardwood sawmills. But it costs about the same as comparable hardwood flooring imported from Europe. Victorian sawn hardwood is now a specialty product precariously holding on to a niche that is shrinking by the day. There is no light at the end of the tunnel and it can only get worse.

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