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Jamestown sawmill at the cutting edge of SA timber dispute

Local MP Geoff Brock has spoken out in defence of Jamestown's family-owned sawmill Morgan Sawmill as the company's grievance with the South Australian government has once again placed the state's timber shortages in the spotlight.

Mr Brock currently represents the South Australian state seat of Frome and said he fears for the longevity of timber processing in the state:

“I have had some grave concerns for some time regarding how the Morgan Sawmill has been treated by not being able to source timber from South Australia."

Morgan Sawmill's had an axe to grind last May when the company failed to secure a contract with ForestrySA, which would have enabled it to continue sourcing wood logs from the Adelaide Hills.

According to Brock, the ForestrySA charter requires South Australian companies to be preferred in their tenders.

Brock, who appeared on Flow last week, called for "a sensible approach" to the tender process last year and now believes the state government has turned its back on Morgan Sawmill.

“I am worried about the ongoing viability of this long-standing Mid North business, and I have been working with Morgans and the industry to try and locate timber from Kangaroo Island.”
“The State Government has left the building and timber industries high and dry, forcing them to source materials from elsewhere at increased costs, forcing project costs up and causing major delays in completion.”

Clare Scriven MLC, state Labor's shadow Minister for Forestry who also appeared on Flow last week, drew another splinter for the government on the thorny topic:

"The Marshall Government has been sitting on their hands and ignoring the deepening timber shortage in South Australia and this is further proof of that." "Construction companies are in desperate need of structural timber immediately and the Marshall Government should have addressed this in June last year." "What has Minister Basham been doing since June last year to address this timber shortage in the industry? He needs to deal with this as a matter of urgency."

South Australian Minister for Primary Industries David Basham hit back, referring to the former Labor government's privatisation of Forestry SA. The Forestry Minister implied in a statement to Flow that Morgan Sawmill squandered an opportunity to secure an agreement with ForestrySA:

“The State Government’s independent statutory forest company, ForestrySA, manages a small plantation estate in the Mount Lofty Ranges and is only a small supplier of timber into the South Australian market following Labor’s decision to privatise the extensive south-east plantation estate."
“Private forest growers represent the majority of log supply in the state on competitive, commercial terms.
“Morgan Sawmill Jamestown were given an opportunity to secure a long-term supply agreement with ForestrySA but were not competitive with current market conditions."
“As a result, ForestrySA undertook a competitive tender process for long-term supply of timber from the Mount Lofty Ranges. This process has resulted in new long-term supply agreements, helping to secure the future of the domestic processing industry."

In November the state government granted $283,000 to Morgan Sawmill to assist with equipment purchases and train staff.

The Mill is no stranger to political controversy, attracting the attention of former senator Nick Xenophon in 2016:

The latest arguments about the future of SA forestry came as the federal government announced it would pivot its support towards the use of timber in the national construction industry.

On Thursday the Government said that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) would invest $300 million to support the Timber Building Program.

The Program will promote the use of low-carbon engineered wood materials in apartments and office buildings to reduce construction-related emissions and create jobs in the forest industries.

Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the forestry industry has great potential to contribute to support jobs in our cities and regions while reducing emissions:

“Increased use of low-carbon construction materials like wood products will help achieve our target of net zero emissions by 2050.
“The production and delivery of building materials account for 28 per cent of emissions in the construction industry globally.

Thursday's commitment builds upon a further pledge in January that the Government was establishing a new Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) method to support plantation forestry projects to earn Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).

ACCUs can be sold to the government or the voluntary private market, which rose significantly during 2021 due to private demand.

Reputex Energy reported in mid-January that 2021 was carbon prices increased 219 per cent across the year, and a further 11.8 per cent in January - expected to soon reach $60 per tonne.


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