The troubled state of the forestry industry has had a significant impact on the Tasmanian economy – and its property markets.
Once an economic powerhouse within the state, a contraction in demand over the last few years has hit the industry hard, with timber mills closing and employment falling by around a third. The long-running Mexican stand-off between green campaigners and the timber companies has also impacted the industry’s future in Tasmania, putting off investors. Indeed, even the massive Bell Bay pulp mill project – long trumpeted as the saviour of the north-east of the state – is still to get off the ground, with the company behind it, Gunns, still seeking funding and coming up largely with nothing.
The malaise around the industry has certainly affected property markets. Herron Todd White’s latest Month in Review report suggests that the north-east centre of Scottsdale, traditionally underpinned by the forestry industry, has seen value falls of up to 20%, and that the south-east centre of Triabunna is “almost unmarketable at present”.
So, it may have been with some relief that the federal and state governments released the details of the long-awaited Tasmanian Forest Statement of Principles – a blueprint for managing native forest in the future. As well as setting aside 430,000ha of forest put into informal reserves, the deal also sees $276m being pumped into the state, including funds to assist in diversifying the Tasmanian economy and assist forestry firms and companies.
While the plan offers some certainty, it may not be the result many were looking for. The agreement has been slammed by the forestry industry for compromising the state’s wood supply. But will the influx of funding help the state’s north – and therefore its property markets? Buyer’s agent Rob Zubin isn’t confident.
“The effects on the economy will play out in the coming years. I can’t see it having an impact on the economy as such,” says Zubin. “There are challenges for both parties, and good and bad elements – it’s going to impact on somebody. Saying that, I’m aware of a number of people in the timber industry who have left to go to Queensland for jobs.”
He’s also sceptical that this is the end of the ongoing fight over Tasmania’s forests.
“There will always be animosity between the forestry sector and the green sector. The divisions are so strong, their opinions so strong that when something happens there will always be a negative response from the other party.”
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