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Australia’s first Wood Encouragement Policy is setting the standard for construction

May 24th, 2015

The initiative, supported by the Latrobe City Council in Victoria, encourages the use of wood as the preferred material in the construction and fit out of its buildings and infrastructure. First Super congratulates the council on this pioneering policy, which not only supports its local timber industry, but sets an Australian precedent.

The Wood Encouragement Policy was formally adopted by Latrobe City Council in December 2014 and has been widely praised by timber and architect industry groups. Rather than mandate the use of wood, the policy simply encourages builders to consider the use of wood as the preferred material for council projects where suitable.

Latrobe, in Victoria’s east, is home to a busy timber industry that provides softwood, value-added hardwood and paper products. It employs more than 1000 workers and injects more than $800 million into the regional economy every year according to Latrobe Major Dale Harriman.

Cr Harriman said the policy aims to promote the use of wood as a suitable material for council projects as well as drive wood-related development in the region.

“Wood is a sustainable, carbon-friendly product we can source locally so we hope this policy will see an increase in research and development opportunities, will support council’s efforts to drive job creation and will see the industry set down strong roots in our community,” Cr Harriman said.

In addition to supporting local economies, the Wood Encouragement Policy promotes sustainable practices that can help meet climate change targets. Using renewable, locally grown wood is a step in the right direction towards reducing the world’s carbon footprint.

Latrobe City Council sought the advice of academics and industry representatives while developing the policy. It also took note of similar policies, also known as Wood First Policies, set up by authorities overseas.

These include the Rotorua District Council in New Zealand and British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario local governments in Canada. Finland has been one of the world’s leaders in wood encouragement. Since 2004, it has used planning incentives to promote the increased use of wood in house construction.
Japan’s government introduced a Wood First Law in 2011, which requires wood to be considered as the primary building material for low-rise government buildings. France and The Netherlands also have wood first policies to encourage the inclusion of wood in new constructions.

Latrobe’s Wood Encouragement Policy has been lauded by ForestWorks, an industry skills council for the forest and timber products industry. ForestWorks chief executive Michael Hartman said international examples had demonstrated the importance of using wood as a construction priority.

“Wood First policies across Europe and Canada have been hugely positive for the industry, the environment, and local economies,” he said.

“Modern timber is cleaner and greener as a primary construction material than other options. So it is absolutely appropriate that local governments, in Australia’s key forestry areas, should be doing everything possible to encourage its use”.

VicForests, an organisation responsible for the sustainable harvest, regrowing and commercial sale of timber from state-run forests, has also praised the Wood Encouragement Policy.

VicForests Chief Executive Robert Green called on other local councils to adopt similar strategies.

“I would hope other Councils around the State and around Australia follow the lead of the Latrobe City Council and introduce similar policies as part of their vision for the future,” he said.

“The leadership displayed by Latrobe will have social, economic and environmental benefits for their local communities.”

You can find out more about Latrobe City Council’s Wood Encouragement Policy and even provide feedback on its draft policy here.


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