Boral’s decision to ‘mothball’ their Batemans Bay sawmill due to poor markets is another blow to the industry, coming as it does just after the collapse of forest peace talks in Tasmania, due to sawloggers wanting to pass on their native forest quotas, rather than retire them.
Relative to area, sawlogs make up a similar proportion of trees cut down in Tasmania as they do in the Eden region but, big differences are a lot more old-growth forests to log in Tassie and in NSW, woodchip logging is only allowed if sawlogs are cut as well.
While the proportion of sawlogs is small relative to pulplogs, if the sawlog industry were to wind up woodchipping would also have to stop, unless the State changed the legislation to allow woodchip only operations.
Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly has recently confirmed that the 2,800 hectares protected from all logging for koalas was paid for by the Biodiversity fund and it’s now several months since the NSW gov proposed new logging prescriptions for koala habitat outside this area.
There are some problems locally given the perception that sawlog only operations may not be as damaging and it may be possible to retain a regional sawlog industry.
Tragically after 40 years of Forests NSW’s management system, based on cutting down as many trees as they can, any future regional sawlog industry will require logging several times the area they currently log, to get what’s left.
While I believe there is scope to utilize trees locally to produce some sawn timber with a portable mill, generally wind-throw that is currently cut up for firewood, sawlog operations at a regional scale will require large subsidies.
In Tassie , Forestry have started to buy private sawmills to keep sawlog operations alive, so the best outcome would seem to be that markets for native forest products produced via State government management, get poorer.