NSW Hardwood Industry Urged to Make Noise Or Face Oblivion

One of the architects behind the protection of old-growth forests, the expansion of national parks and the wood supply agreements has challenged the NSW hardwood industry to articulate its worth is face extinction

Wed 06 Dec 23


The NSW State Government is under intense pressure to act on native foresty. And unless the hardwood industry makes noise and articulates its value to communities in the greater Sydney region, it will shrink into oblivion.

That is according to Bruce Hawker, Bob Carr’s chief of staff and former founding director of Hawker Britton – one of Australia’s most powerful advocacy groups.

Mr Hawker, one of the architects behind the protection of old-growth forests, expansion of national parks post 1995, and the 20-year wood supply agreements addressed the elephant in the room: the enormous challenges facing the state’s native hardwood industry.

Speaking at Timber NSW’s Annual General Meeting, he drew comparisons between the challenges faced by the Carr Government post 1995 and the current Minns Government and urged the timber industry to learn from the lessons from the past. 

Mr Hawker was a special guest of Eamonn Fitzpatrick and Julie Delvecchio of Fitzpatrick Advisory, who, since July, have been advising Timber NSW on strategy and advocacy.

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Former Bob Carr Chief of Staff Bruce Hawker, who also advised former Australian Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard with Julie Delvecchio and Eamonn Fitzpatrick from Fitzpatrick Advisory in Sydney.

He answered spirited questions from Timber NSW members, many of whom lost production areas during the Carr Government, with Timber NSW CEO Maree McCaskill reporting that the session “provided a deep insight into politics and the art of compromise and trade-offs.”

The native forest industry has been under siege in recent months, and according to Ms McCaskill, the uncertainty over the state forests’ future will significantly impact the downstream supply of native hardwood products in the NSW economy.

In September, the NSW Government announced the establishment of a Great Koala National Park – an election promise – with the Minns Government announcing the creation of three distinctive advisory panels, which will report back to the NSW Government.

Last month, Wood Central exclusively revealed that Atticus Fleming will chair the panels. Mr Fleming is the Acting Environment and Heritage Coordinator-General for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and former CEO of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, the world’s largest private owner of land for conservation.

The native hardwood industry in the state’s northeast – which, according to an Ernst Young report published earlier this year, generates $1.8 Billion for the state economy and employs 5,700 workers, has been invited to participate in an “industry panel” with invitations still being drawn up for “industry,” “community” and “aboriginal” advisory committees.

According to Mr Hawker, demonstrating value, or social license, is critical to protecting the hardwood industry’s supply from the dreaded death by a thousand cuts.

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The North East NSW Forestry Hub captures a significant amount of Australia’s hardwood and softwood forest resources. (Image Credi: North East NSW Forestry Hub)

In September, a report commissioned by the North East NSW Forestry Hub – one of eleven regional forestry hubs supported by the Commonwealth Government – found that 72% of residents believed the native forest industry is a ‘legitimate industry’ and 69% recognised its importance for the economy.

However, the challenge for the NSW hardwood industry, as it is for the forest products industry across Australia, is to communicate to the silent majority who are either ambivalent or neutral to the industry.

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Timber NSW members with Wood Central Publisher Jason Ross (fifth from back) next to Maree McCaskill, Timber NSW CEO centre in front, with Timber NSW Legal Expert Stuart Coppock (back centre) and the Hon Mark Banasiak, Shooters and Fishers Party next to Stuart Coppock.

Timber NSW members and stakeholders were also briefed by the Hon. Mark Banasiak MLC, a cross-bencher in the NSW upper-house who provided insights into the political trade-offs with the current and previous governments in NSW. 

The Wood Central Publisher also joined Timber NSW legal expert Stuart Coppock to co-host a panel discussion titled “The Tangled Web,” which challenged stakeholders to examine the financial trails, international funds, political processes and the interconnecting web.

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The Timber NSW membership representatives the entire supply chain for hardwood products in the NSW economy.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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