Gathering at a cypress certification meeting in western Queensland… Todd Lewis, Walker Cypress, Mitchell Goodchild, Yuleba Cypress, Roger Brent, Hurfords, Mick Stephens, CEO, Timber Queensland, Vic Gersekowski, Vic’s Timber, Simon Dorries, CEO, Responsible Wood,  Ian Wilson, Injune Cypress, and Ian Hornick, Hornick Cypress.

MOST of Melbourne may be in lockdown during the Covid ‘Dan-demic’, but the curve of timber orders from wholesale merchants has gone through the roof.

“It’s crazy times,” says western Queensland cypress sawmiller Mitchell Goodchild.

“Merchants are climbing over themselves for wood, with lead times up to four and six weeks for supplies,” he said. “And cypress is getting a good share of this market.”

Sounding a cautious note, Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens said fortunately the market, particularly for cypress, had held up through the initial impacts of the coronavirus.

“However, we are still concerned about future impacts as pipeline projects begin to dry up with the added uncertainty over future restrictions and the drag on general economic activity in key markets for cypress such as Victoria,” he said.

Mitchell Goodchild says the cypress industry has never had it better with merchants from the Gold Coast to Melbourne contacting every cypress sawmiller for every measure of timber – from house frames, heavy-end sections and posts to garden landscaping.

“DIY home owners are coming out of the blue, starting or finishing renovation projects in their spare time while they’re in lockdown,” Mr Goodchild said.

The family’s Yuleba Cypress Sawmills at Miles, about 330 km from Brisbane, which processes about 5000 tonnes of sawlogs a year and is certified by Responsible Wood, has seen turnover in the last three months increase by 25% month on month.

In 2013, the LNP’s Minister for Forestry John McVeigh struck a 25-year sales agreement between the government and industry, which delivered longer contracts for companies already allocated a license to harvest cypress.

Eleven cypress sawmillers in western Queensland and the western Downs region draw their logs mainly from Barkula, the largest state forest in the southern hemisphere spanning 283,000 ha, which supplies much of the state’s cypress pine timber resource. They are based at Mungallala, Mitchell, Roma, Injune, Miles, Chinchilla, Cecil Plains and Inglewood.

Cypress memories… enjoying a social gathering in Brisbane as Covid measures ease in Queensland are Don Towerton, Thora Wholesale Timbers (formerly manager, Bretts Inglewood cypress mill), Harvey Goodchild, Yuleba Cypress Sawmills, Miles, Tim Evans, Coast to Coast Pacific, Caboolture, and Charles Achilles, formerly manager, Hyne and Sons cypress mill, Chinchilla. Harvey and his wife have moved to Brisbane, but he is a regular commuter to the family sawmill at Miles where you will often find him tinkering with machinery. The lunch table number will give a clue to Harvey’s birthday celebration this month.

These mills are now salvaging burnt cypress from Barkula, which saw some of the better stands in the core of the forest hit by bushfires last year.

“We’ve salvaged about 4000 tonnes of logs from Barkula with other sawmills taking about the same amount,” Mr Goodchild said.

“It’s about eight months since the blaze and despite the bark being cooked by the fires, the timber is still cutting well. We’ll be back into the green forest in five or six weeks and you wouldn’t find better trees anywhere.”

Mr Goodchild said the sudden interest in cypress for house frames was interesting.

“We supplied two house frames last month, one to the Gold Coast and the other to the Granite Belt and that’s unusual for us,” he said.

“This is a real bright spot and it will let people know more about the advantages of cypress framing.”

The writer can recall that most western cypress prior to the 1960s finished up as flooring sent on semi-loaders to Sydney. It was not until 1962 after a busload of producers, architects and engineers visited the region that cypress came to dominate house frame construction in the 60s before losing favour in the early 70s and 80s.

The Goodchild’s Yuleba sawmill is continuing to invest in the future of cypress; last Christmas it upgraded a twin-edge bandsaw with a new log turner and computerised sizing, and before that invested in a new front-end loader.

“But finding loyal workers out here is still difficult,” said Mitchell.

“Three Filipinos turned up at the gate and they’re still here three years later. It’s hard to find any fair dinkum 17-year-old Aussies who will stick with the job The fruit pickers in north Queensland know what I’m talking about.”