Queensland is preparing for a population bomb and has no plan to deal with the shortage of structural timbers.
The draft ShapingSEQ Regional Plan, released for discussion earlier this month, reveals that the State Government plans to build 900,000 new homes by 2046, accommodating 2.2 million additional residents.
According to Deputy Premier Stephen Miles, “Southeast Queensland is booming,” with six million people expected to call this region home by 2046.
Housing Minister Meagan Scanlan emphasised the importance of lifting social and affordable housing capacity to meet the challenging population targets.
“We know that residents in Queensland, like elsewhere in the nation, are facing increased housing pressures that are impacting affordability,” Minister Scanlan said last week.
“With these new targets and requirements for social and affordable housing, government and industry will be clear on what is needed to help deliver for our future population.”
As reported by Wood Central, population pressures are putting strain on Australia’s capacity for structural timbers, with industry calling on the Government to boost plantation capacity to meet the needs for social housing.
None more so than in Queensland.
The Beerwah East Master Plan
Wood Central can exclusively reveal that 2,700 hectares of plantations are proposed to be reclaimed in Beerwah – in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
According to ShapingSEQ, the master plan “is the subject of several years of a collaborative effort to identify how to secure the medium to long term supply of developable greenfield land for the Northern sub-region.”
Beerwah East will provide a new residential community with significant employment lands that support a sustainable and efficient settlement pattern for the Sunshine Coast and northern sub-region.
“Its location is a logical expansion of the settlement pattern along the proposed passenger transport corridor…, enabling efficient and sustainable connections with other communities on the Sunshine Coast and the broader SEQ region.”
The Beerwah East MDA, the Master Plan claims, “will also consider the long-term needs and operation of the adjoining Australia Zoo, which is a significant tourist activity and economic driver.”
Mick Stephens, CEO of Timber Queensland, told Wood Central that the industry has already raised concerns over the proposed resumption of plantation land for housing.
“While we recognise the critical need for more housing in the region and the importance of timber in providing structural framing and other key elements such as timber decking, flooring and cladding, it is ironic that the plan proposes to take the very land away that produces this critical building material”, he said.
“Timber Queensland is working with the Government and industry supply chain partners to minimise any adverse impacts which could be substantial if not addressed adequately.”
Queensland faces a shortage of structural timber
Queensland Forestry Department Director-General Chris Sarra told a budget estimates committee that the State has ‘no plan’ to increase supplies of structural timber.
Dr Sarra responded to Gympie MP Tony Perrett’s questions regarding Queensland’s population surge.
Minister Mark Furner said the Government would “continue our focus and engagement with the timber industry,” acknowledging that it supported “thousands of jobs” and was “no doubt readying for supporting the growth of those houses (along with a supply of power poles).”
The State’s population grew at “over 100,000 last year,” which Minister Furner said “is an area that (we will) discuss with the cabinet very soon.”
Mr Furner did not answer a question on what representations Queensland had made to the Federal Government to ensure imported timber was “sourced from countries with sustainable forestry practices.”
Queensland is grappling with a predicted shortfall of 20,000 houses over the next four years unless urgent action is taken.
The warning comes as Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon was forced to admit the State’s housing crisis was worse than when the Government held its flagship summit on the issue eight months ago.
In June, Ms Scanlon told the Courier Mail that she “strongly supports more density development projects”.
“We need to go up, not just out. We know it’s the best way to get more supply into the market,” she said.
The Olympic Games will create supply-side challenges
In addition to an expected surge in population and associated urban sprawl, a commitment to a carbon-neutral Olympic Games created “challenges” for supply.
As exclusively revealed by Wood Central, Queensland Government will look to mass timber as one of its preferred construction materials for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Athlete Villages.
Announced during the ‘Doing Timber Business in Queensland’ symposium, Assistant Minister to the Premier for Veterans Affairs and the Public Sector Bart Mellish supported greater investment in engineered wood products (mass timber) and their use in constructing Olympic Venues.
“We can see timber as a building material has great potential in achieving the government’s commitment to a climate-positive Games.”
Wood Central understands that the main athletes’ village will be built on prime Brisbane waterfront real estate at Hamilton, with smaller accommodation options near the rowing venue on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Kooralbyn.
“Using timber for the athletes’ village could achieve a dual legacy as a sustainable venue and as lasting affordable accommodation.”