Community Timber Partnerships

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Forestry Corporation of NSW, Boral Timbers and Planet Ark have a partnership program donating timber for community projects across NSW. Justin Black, from the Forestry Corporation, talks to us about the program and what has happened so far.

Hi Justin. Tell us a little about the program.

The program is about us supporting community groups by supplying beautiful North Coast hardwood timber for projects. The scheme has been operating for about six months now, and we have already supplied timber to seventeen different projects across the state. So far, we have provided timber to schools, sports groups, museums, community gardens and halls. We have around a thousand packs of timber, so there will be a few more projects and community groups that will benefit from this program.

That sounds like a lot of timber; where did it all come from?

When Murwillumbah flooded in 2017 during Cyclone Debbie, water went through Boral Timbers’ processing plant on the south side of town. A fair amount of their stock was damaged and was subsequently determined usable, but unfit for sale. Boral is one of our timber customers, and they had heard about the different partnerships we have with community groups that use State Forests and our networks in regional communities. We decided to work together to salvage the timber for local community projects. Even though the timber is water damaged, it is still pretty good; timber is very forgiving, and a lot of the damage is superficial.

You said there were seventeen projects so far; have any been finished yet?

We really only started distributing the timber in January this year, and already five projects have been completed, with quite a few underways. It’s not easy for community groups when they rely on volunteer support and fundraisers, so the timber has been a real support.
The first finished project was at Bellingen Primary School, where a timber pergola was built around the music room. Another partner, Thora Sawmill, also supported this project, donating the timber posts. The pergola was built on the northern side of the classroom, to keep it cooler over the summer months. The music teacher, Elizabeth Scott, told us that it was designed with vertical slats, creating musical staff lines for students to decorate with notes and music symbols.
The Connect Presbyterian Church has been another recipient of the timber and have restored the ageing floor of their 150-year-old building at South Grafton. The building is an important community facility used by many different community groups each week, so it was great to be able to support this project.
Nambucca Cycle Club have upgraded their mountain bike tracks with a timber donation, and the Nature School at Port Macquarie have created a nature playground using logs from our local forestry operations and some of this timber. The timber has really added something special to these projects, and I can’t wait to see some of the other ways it will be used.

Why is Planet Ark involved in the program?

We have been working with Planet Ark through their Make it Wood campaign for the last couple of years, to promote the important role that wood plays in helping tackle climate change. It was natural to partner with Planet Ark for this program, given the opportunity to promote the sustainability benefits of timber.
Wood is unique among building products because trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and store the carbon in wood, which can be used in buildings such as people’s homes while the forests are being regrown. Wood also requires less energy to produce timber compared with steel, aluminium and concrete. As a rule of thumb, if you replace one cubic metre of concrete or brick with one cubic metre of timber, you will eliminate one tonne of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.
More recently, Planet Ark has started to promote the health and well-being benefits of using wood. Research shows that using wood inside buildings has physiological and psychological benefits that mimic the effect of spending time outside in nature. The research has shown that having wood around you can lower blood pressure and heart rates as well as reducing stress and anxiety. The timber we are donating is a real gift that not only looks good; it feels good as well, and helps the environment at the same time. Hopefully, through these projects, we are sharing the message that locally grown timber is an important sustainable industry on the North Coast.

It must feel pretty good being able to support community projects with the timber.

It’s a very positive way for us to support the communities where we live and work. Staff from across our organisation are helping to find a home for this timber, and ’it’s helped that many of us live in regional communities across the state. We have always seen caring for State forests while providing community access and supporting the local timber industry as being of benefit to regional areas, and this is just another way in which we can give back. We are grateful that we’ve been able to develop this program with the help of Boral Timbers and Planet Ark.

Thanks, Justin.

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