Mills scrambling to meet timber demand

·1-min read

Timber mills across Australia are struggling to keep up with demand and it's prompting calls for a change to the nation's HomeBuilder scheme.

Some sites are producing up to 40 per cent more timber than the same time last year, Australian Forest Products Association boss Ross Hampton said this week.

"Our sawmills around the nation have greatly increased production by adding shifts and are running flat out," he said in a statement.

"But even this isn't enough to keep pace with a tidal wave of demand as Australians are choosing to focus on improving homes or building new ones."

The desire for timber is driven partly by COVID-19 as people save money on travel and want to make renovations to make working from home easier, the association said.

Under the federal government's HomeBuilder scheme, applicants must start work within six months of signing a construction contract, but timber delays mean some people are missing the deadline and therefore the Commonwealth stimulus.

The association has asked for the construction-commencement time frame to be eased to allow more timber stock to be delivered to those projects hoping to take advantage of the scheme.

The proposal is backed by Labor.

"Shortages of timber, caused by the bushfires and a lack of imports, could mean they won't comply with the current HomeBuilder rules," opposition housing spokesman Jason Clare said.

"That means there is a risk some applicants won't get the money."

Labor wants the six-month deadline extended to 12 months.

The federal government has not responded to questions from AAP.