Boral closes woodchip export business

A HIGH Australian dollar, imports and some say a lack of adequate environmental standards have driven Boral Timber operations out of Newcastle after more than 30 years.

The company said it would close its woodchip export business and sell its plant and equipment at the Port of Newcastle and Tea Gardens.

The move is part of a restructure of the Boral timber operations in northern NSW and in Queensland and wider changes nationally, to help relieve the "significant" pressure on earnings.

The national shake-up has cost thousands of jobs but not in the Hunter.

After redeployments, only eight peak-period jobs and some casual positions would be lost, the company said.

The company's harshest critics, from the environmental movement, say the company's woodchip products fail because they come from native forests and lack internationally recognised environmental standards.

Wilderness Society campaign manager Warrick Jordan said customers, including the Japanese, preferred products certified from responsibly managed forests.

"Hardwood plantations in places like Vietnam and Brazil are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council that tick all the boxes for higher environmental management," Mr Jordan said.

"Boral has been struggling to meet the market demand for these higher standards."

Boral said the timber business contributed to a loss of $18 million in the building products division in the six months to December 31, 2012.

It blamed economic conditions, increased imports from South-East Asia and a high Australian dollar for its lack of competitiveness.

Boral exported 300,000 green metric tonnes of hardwood chip a year from Newcastle.

The Wilderness Society and the North Coast Environmental Council said the move created an opportunity for the state government to implement better standards and reduce logging, rather than "propping up a collapsing native forest industry".

NSW Nature Conservation Council campaigns director Kate Smolski said Boral's move was a "wonderful day" for the movement that had campaigned for 30 years to end woodchipping of native forests in northern NSW.


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