NSW Supply Chain Demands Transparency Over Koala Park

The NSW hardwood industry has raised concerns over the Great Koala Park process.

Thu 21 Mar 24


NSW will face a chronic shortage of hardwood power poles, piles, hardwood wharves and marine decking if the proposed Great Koala National Park limits hardwood supply. 

That is according to the NSW supply chain for timber products, which sent a delegation of members to NSW’s Parliament House yesterday, concerned over a lack of transparency around the Great Koala National Park.

Speaking to Wood Central today, Timber NSW CEO Maree McCaskill said the delegation met with Tara Moriarty, the NSW Minister for Agriculture, Regional NSW and Western NSW, the entire NSW Nationals Party party room (who, until last year, were in coalition with the Liberal Government) and the Shooters and Fishers Party – a critical faction in the upper house.

“It was important for the industry to stress to the key policymakers the impact that a potential closure would have, not just for the communities directly impacted by the policy but also for the broader NSW electorate.”

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 Martin McCarthy, Shane McCarthy, Todd Gelletly, Paul Michael, Steve Dobbyns, Andrew Hurford, Chair of Timber NSW, with Hon Robert Borzak MLC, Hon Mark Banasiak MLC and Donna Layton (Photo Credit: Supplied)

On Tuesday, Wood Central reported that the NSW government could face a $25m blackhole every year should utility companies need to replace hardwood poles with concrete, steel, or fibreglass poles.

Wood Central spoke to an expert in the utility industry who said the added cost was due to materials other than timber not being fully compatible with the existing setup and may involve additional insulators and installation costs. Another expert said that “due to their distance and availability, the importation of timber poles is a difficult and costly option” and that “it’s likely imported hardwood poles will come from deforested areas.”

Ms McCaskill said both are important considerations, not just for the cost of living crisis and the escalating costs of electricity but also for the increasing scrutiny of deforestation, thanks to the EU’s landmark deforestation legislation, which is shining a torch on irresponsible forest management.

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Steve Dobbyns, Maree McCaskill, CEO of Timber NSW and Andrew Hurford, Chair of Timber NSW, meet with Gurmesh Singh (NSW Nationals), Coffs Harbour MP. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

“One of our businesses that met with policy markers was Coffs Harbour Hardwoods, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of power poles and piles,” Ms McCaskill said. “They have been a long-standing supplier of power poles and sawn hardwoods cross arms – sourced from the NSW’s northeast forest economy — to the NSW electricity network.”

“Our question to the policymakers is, if you close the industry down and limit supply, where is the next generation of power poles going to come, the next time there is a natural disaster,” Ms McCaskill said.

Wood Central understands that the NSW supply chain for hardwood poles is now being stretched after fierce storms across Victoria led to widespread destruction across the energy network.

NSW powerbroker Penny Sharpe is the activist with 4 ministerial portfolios who joined the establishment to "cause trouble." (Photo Credit: Richard Milnes from Alamy Live News)
NSW powerbroker Penny Sharpe is the activist with four ministerial portfolios who joined the establishment to “cause trouble.” (Photo Credit: Richard Milnes from Alamy Live News)

Earlier this month, Penny Sharpe, the NSW Environmental Minister, failed to answer questions about the Great Koala National Park and its impact on the supply chain for power poles – instead taking questions “on notice.”

The Hon. WES FANG (from the National Party of NSW): Minister, how many hardwood utility poles will be needed as part of the new network infrastructure to transition to renewable energy in New South Wales? 

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: Good question. I don’t know. I’ll take it on notice. 

The Hon. WES FANG: Have you done any planning around how many poles you’ll need for the next 20 years? 

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: There will have been some. There are different types of poles. We’re also looking at non-wooden poles, steel poles, a whole range, and concrete poles.

In November, Wood Central revealed that NSW Premier Chris Minns appointed Atticus Fleming AM, the former CEO of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, to oversee the three Great Koala National Park committees—for industry, community, and aboriginal advisory.

The first round of meetings occurred in early December, with “the panel to meet regularly over the next six to 12 months,” according to a notice viewed by the Wood Central publisher last year.

The panel’s establishment follows the Minns Government’s commitment to establish the Park and preserve “a sustainable timber industry for mid and northern NSW,” according to Minister Moriarty.

Wood Central can reveal the 106 coups connected to the Great Koala National Park ban. (Photo Credit: Supplied)
Wood Central last year revealed that the NSW Government has already locked up 106 coups connected to the Great Koala National Park ban. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

According to Premier Minns, the previous government’s inaction and neglect resulted in the koala being listed as an endangered species in NSW. “Creating a Great Koala National Park will turn around the animal’s grim trajectory,” he said before adding, “The panels will ensure we consult with all stakeholders to create a park that will both protect our native animals and create job, tourism and other economic opportunities.”

The announcement follows an announcement last year that saw the NSW government halt harvesting operations in the 106 koala hubs within the areas assessed for the Park.

Penny Sharpe, the powerbroker behind the push to establish the Park, described the decision “as the most significant environmental commitment in NSW history”. They said it was “essential to save koalas from extinction.”


  • 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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