IF YOU LOOK AT THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOWNS AND COMMUNITIES
THROUGHOUT NSW OVER THE PAST CENTURY,
THE SUPPLY OF TIMBER HAS UNDERPINNED THE CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
THAT ENABLED THEIR GROWTH.
Forestry Corporation and its predecessors supplied the sleepers that allowed the building of
thousands of kilometres of rail lines across the state. We provided the poles for thousands
of kilometres of power lines, the timber for hundreds of thousands of homes, the piles for
countless wharves and seaports and much more, making a significant contribution to the
state’s economic development.
Within the forests themselves, early harvesting infrastructure relied heavily upon timber
type and ingenuity. Sleepers were chopped out of large logs by skilled and patient axemen.
Early support beams reflected the locally-available trees and power poles were crude in
comparison to today’s elegant ones. Bridges were often chunky, narrow and serviceable,
lasting much longer than ever expected. It is these extraordinary achievements that
have built a robust infrastructure foundation within our forests for both production and
community access today.
In response to the settlers’ need for easily worked timbers, softwood plantations were
established throughout the state. Locations and sizes of plantations were closely monitored,
with some species emerging as favourites based on factors such as optimal growth time and
ease of harvesting.
Pinus radiata forests now account for 90 per cent of plantations across NSW. These
plantations reshaped the market for non-native timbers, and addressed the growing
requirements of pulp and paper mills. Smaller-scale hoop pine and eucalypt plantations
were also established as improved transport enabled the large timber to be conveyed to the
city in greater numbers.
After World War II, timber continued to play its role in the building boom, particularly
in housing; although with the growth of brick house cladding, timber was favoured more in
flooring and furniture or in hidden frames, rather than as an external feature.
At the same time, artists and architects started to use timber for decoration and
to capture a sense of place. You do not have to look far to see the subtle yet poignant
references to forests in our architecture. Iconic buildings such as the Sydney Opera House,
with its high vaulted ceiling panelled in white beech and brush box for warmth and colour
or Parliament House in Canberra, with its foyer parquetry and Great Hall are odes to the
structural and aesthetic wonders of timber and its role in Australian history.
Designers and architects delighted in the adaptability and attractiveness of timber
and wood features and crafted furniture began to reflect the status and personality of the
owner. Timber was fast becoming a luxury quality item as cheaper, man-made materials
became ubiquitous. Today, timber is a sign of quality, sustainability and individuality.
In the last 20 years, as design and construction transformed with technology and
innovation, so too have our skills with timber. With the ability to be either moulded, glued
or shaved, natural, painted, polished or lacquered, timber has a versatility rarely found in
The next generation of wood products are innovative and exciting. The development
of sophisticated engineered wood products and treatments have ensured that timber is
a viable replacement for steel and concrete. Product development in laminated veneer
lumber, known as LVL, cross-laminated timber and glulam reconnects us with a time in
which entire buildings were cast from timber. Just like the buildings of the past, architecture
of the future will be natural, superior in strength, robust, warm, sustainable and beautiful.
Today, emphasis is placed on producing a renewable and sustainable product from
NSW’s forests, which supply 14 per cent of all timber produced annually in Australia.
Our forests of today are not all for work, they are also some of our State’s most visited
tourism destinations. Visitor sites complement the beauty and vastness of the forests; and
over the years, many have been bestowed with tourism excellence awards. People readily
enjoy our forests for bushwalking, riding bikes and horses, driving 4WDs and trail bikes,
camping and picnicking. The growth of recreation and tourism within forests is another
aspect of forest management that we carefully balance with environmental preservation
and timber production and further demonstrates how sustainable forest management
techniques maintain productive forests for the whole community.
Looking back to the start of the last century, the world was a smaller place and timber
served the nation’s immediate needs. As we progress into the next 100 years of forestry,
focus is now placed on securing a sustainable supply of timber for future generations, while
also enhancing the reputation of timber as a desirable and durable material for the future.