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New Zealand’s timber shortages aren’t expected to end anytime soon

Tomas Rice
timber shortage
Ongoing building work  Tomas Rice

New Zealand is currently facing one of, if not the worst, timber shortages the country has seen in recent memory, and local suppliers don’t expect it to end anytime soon.

Covid-disrupted shipping, along with the country's current building boom, are a couple of factors being attributed to the shortage.

GIB, the main plasterboard providers in New Zealand, are facing their own disruptions which are slowing down production and supply. 

In GIB’s latest statement, Winstone Wallboards General Manager David Thomas says as New Zealand continues to build at record pace, the high levels of demand for plasterboard continue to exceed their production capacity.

“We are very conscious that this situation is challenging for the industry and want to reassure you that we are doing as much as we can to maximise supply.”

The company's Auckland and Christchurch manufacturing plants are currently running at record levels, and it's also looking for ways to bring forward the manufacture of board at the new facility in Tauranga, which is currently under construction.

It hopes to be producing GIB plasterboards there from mid-2023.

A plasterboard allocation model was introduced to combat current shortages and will remain in place until the new facility is built.

Timber yards across the country have been struggling with supply and demand, with stock flying off the shelves.

A spokesperson from Kenneally Timber says like all timber yards they are struggling to source timber.

"It has meant we order way in advance and have to increase our stock levels.

“Most timber that arrives is sold immediately.”

A secondary market has appeared on sites such as TradeMe and Facebook Marketplace where people are selling materials for higher than retail prices.

The spokesperson says they have taken notice of a secondary market, but feel it’s relatively small at the moment.

They say it's the worst shortage they have ever experienced and are expecting it to last for another 18-24 months.

In a statement, Mitre 10 New Zealand says the imbalance of demand over supply for building materials is an ongoing challenge.

“We’re doing everything we can to manage continuity and ensure our customers can keep their projects moving.”

They are keeping their trade customers regularly updated to enable as much forward planning as possible.

“It’s an ongoing industry-wide issue and we’re doing our best to mitigate impacts on our customers.”

The issue has been having a harsh effect on local builders as they battle for supplies.

Paul Arthur, owner of P D Arthur Builders, says this is the worst shortage he has seen in 35 years of building.

“Before you could book and get timber a week later, now at some places you can't buy it in bulk for months.”

He believes the larger building companies are buying timber in bulk and storing it for future use, putting supply pressure on smaller builders.

Arthur says this is a key reason behind the shortage, along with Covid disruptions and the huge building boom New Zealand is experiencing.