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$15 million lifeline for Kangaroo Island timber

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More than $15 million in Federal Government funding will be provided to help salvage bushfire damaged logs off Kangaroo Island to address severe timber shortages in the building industry.

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The timber could be enough to build between 8000 and 10,000 new houses.

However, the $15.1 million funding will only support the transportation of the softwood to timber mills with immediate spare processing capacity, raising concerns that the timber may not end up in the hands of South Australian builders.

All of South Australia’s timber mills are currently at full capacity but in New South Wales there are a couple of major mills with huge spare capacity as a result of a lack of local timber available to process, in part due to bushfires in their own state.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the program would target pine from Kangaroo Island and was an expansion of its previous Foresty Salvage Transport Measure that was made available to bushfire-affected timber in New South Wales and Victoria last year.

“We stand ready to work with states and urge them to act swiftly to help us bring bushfire-affected construction timbers to mills with immediate capacity to produce structural timbers,” he said.

“(It wil) allow for both intrastate and interstate transport of remaining bushfire-salvaged construction-grade softwood to mills in any state with capacity to process it.”

Listed company Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber has about 14,500 hectares of plantations, about 80 per cent hardwood (blue gum) and 20 per cent softwood pine, which is used to produce structural timber.

But about 95 per cent of it was damaged in the Kangaroo Island fires that began on December 20, 2019 and burnt 210,000ha – almost half of the island – across a 612 km perimeter before it was contained on January 21, 2020.

SA Primary Industries Minister David Basham said the State Government had pledged up to $3 million to bring additional timber to the local housing industry and welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s new support package.

“This will be a game-changer for South Australia’s housing construction industry and will significantly increase the amount of structural timber currently available,” Basham said.

The local building industry has been calling for help to access the timber for more than six months to help address major shortages as a result of tightened supply and huge demand as a result of the building boom.

KIPT has since struggled for 18 months to get the fire-affected timber off the island before it rots and last month announced it now planned to fell and burn the timber and convert the plantations into farmland after the State Government rejected its bid to build a $40 million port at Smith Bay on the island’s north coast.

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