The timber industry is not an end in itself, but a means of realising key national social, environmental, and other goals. Imported timber products make a valuable contribution to these goals, while at the same time, supporting substantial employment in building and construction industries.
Imported timber products lead the development of innovative building products and systems, including prefabricated and engineered wood products. This effort will greatly assist extending timber product use to commercial and high rise building construction. This extension to the more “˜traditional’ use of timber products, commonly cited in residential housing construction, will assist with expanding the market for both domestically-produced and imported timber products with the associated economic, social and environmental benefits.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that imported timber products account for approximately ten per cent of material inputs for the construction industry. This means that imported timber products keep 29,000 people working in construction, and an additional 80,000 people in occupations that contribute to the construction process.
It is evident that imported timber products are growing in significance, and as a result will be central to the performance of the Australian building and construction industries in the years ahead. Innovative products and building systems arise more readily within larger consumer markets, capable of delivering research and economies of scale. Such markets also have the potential to fill the gaps in timber type, quality and supply, notably absent from Australia’s domestic timber product offering. It is therefore logical that imported timber product innovations and supply will continue to be led by the Northern Hemisphere researchers and timber product manufacturers.
Imported timber products are also essential because of their cost and utility benefits, or because there are simply no Australian-produced substitutes available in the quantities or specifications currently demanded by residential and commercial building applications.
Unlike the steel industry, for example, the timber industry does not have an adequate collective, coordinated marketing effort. The exception is the generic wood promotion campaign managed by Forest and Wood Products Australia (funded by industry levies). Collectively, timber importers make the second-largest contribution to levy payments and endorse any additional timber marketing efforts.
Future campaigns need to include both the use of the products, including a range of well-understood values, and be more specifically targeted at the opportunities emerging, including more sophisticated products that allow for growth in the size and range of applications for timber products. Marketing sophisticated and emerging engineered products is an important challenge for the future that should be pitched at architects, specifiers, and product ‘gate-keepers’ – as well as consumers.
The timber industry also needs concerted efforts to ensure that the Building Code of Australia and local government building ordinances are amended to accommodate for the use of prefabricated building systems and engineered products in residential building and commercial construction applications.It is logical that imported timber product innovations and supply will continue to be led by the Northern Hemisphere researchers and timber product manufacturers.