SLOW DEMISE: Gympie sawmiller Graeme Robertson says the region's timber industry is being slowly strangled by ever-growing regulations and limited supply.
SLOW DEMISE: Gympie sawmiller Graeme Robertson says the region's timber industry is being slowly strangled by ever-growing regulations and limited supply. Valerie Horton

Timber industry fears death by thousand cuts

GYMPIE sawmill owner Graeme Robertson is worried the constant challenges to his industry may be death by a thousand cuts.

And he worries this may be welcomed by some urban Queenslanders as the trees' revenge.

But Mr Robertson says he is part of an industry that is used to surviving.

UNCERTAIN TIMES: Graeme Robertson of Robertson Brothers Sawmills says he faces uncertain times as forestry lock-ups of timber resources threaten the milling industry's sustainability.
STILL INVESTING: Graeme Robertson of Robertson Brothers Sawmills says his firm is still investing in the future, despite fears. Arthur Gorrie

"I've been here since 1992,” he said.

"Since then we've seen the regional forest agreements.

"We saw a loss of timber, but the outcome allowed us to progress for 20 years and to invest.

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"We're still investing, but part of that agreement was the shift to hardwood plantations.

"The whole thing was set up to be sustainable, but part of the government regime seems to be to take everything from the regions.

"Part of the agreement was that the government was to plant timber and that plantations would be commercial, with product available in 2024.

"That is something that is not going to happen. It's not on the table.

"I was in the bush the other day. There's plenty of timber as you drive around, if it is managed sustainably.

"Our timber comes from two places, the Crown and private forestry owners.

"We have only until 2024 with Crown-sourced logs.”

The word in the industry is that the agreement - designed to help millers cope with less supply as a result of conservation measures - is being bypassed as logs are exported for milling overseas.

Some of the milled product may then be imported back into Australia or sold overseas in competition with Australian milled product.

"According to what I hear in the timber industry, it seems to have been getting worse in the last 18 months,” Mr Robertson said.

"These are the cuts we just keep getting.

"There's a lot of timber on private land that currently is cut under the Vegetation Management Act, which mills like ours work under. We're value-adding and keeping jobs here.”