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Forestry in the City

Forestry in the City

by Kate Sutton

2 years ago

Part of the CERES Fair Food newlsetter series, words by Chris Ennis.


In February, not long after a storm hit outer-Melbourne, urban-sawmiller Paul McKay, emailed CERES Fair Wood’s manager Hayden Cronin, a list of timbers he was about to begin milling.

Paul’s list included a large manna gum that had fallen on a home at Three Bridges and two trees nearby that an arborist had assessed as dangerous.

Over at Cottles Bridge a yellow box had come down over a road and needed clearing.

And in Narre Warren there was a spotted gum overhanging a house and was going to be removed.

Paul also added two stands of canker-affected macrocarpa trees that were coming down in Berwick and Keilor.

Hayden scanned Paul’s list; after a couple of weeks drying in Fair Wood’s solar wood kiln the manna gum and yellow box would be good furniture-making timber.

The spotted gum he knew was perfect for flooring or decking while the macrocarpa would help feed the huge demand he’d been getting lately for cladding, screening and garden sleepers.

Each year around Melbourne hundreds of trees simply die, come down in storms, are felled for safety reasons or removed to make way for new roads and housing.

Usually when a large tree comes down in the city arborists cut the trunk into manageable blocks for firewood, though often downed trees end up in landfill.

When scientist, entrepreneur and master tinkerer, Paul McKay, learned about this huge amount of perfectly good timber going to waste he decided to do something about it in the most practical way he could.

Paul bought himself a portable Lucas Sawmill and began letting arborists know he could take the large labour-intensive logs off their hands for free.

The response was overwhelming; arborists loved him and landowners regularly took the valuable timber he milled from their fallen trees.

Over the last decade Paul’s milled hundreds of trees all over Melbourne and has been a major supplier of often hard-to-find timbers for Fair Wood’s customers.

It’s weird to think of the city as a forest but at almost 10,000 square kilometres, the Greater Melbourne area is home to millions of trees, a number which is set to grow in the future.

In 2019 Melbourne’s thirty-one councils, along with the State Government, Parks Victoria, various water and catchment management authorities committed to transform Melbourne into the world’s most extensive urban forest.

The City of Melbourne alone with 90,000 trees have planned to almost double their tree canopy from 22 to 40 percent by 2040.

And as our urban forest grows Paul McKay has been busy training young sawmillers to keep putting the trees that come down in the city to their best possible use.

Check out our timber availablity list to see what timbers we currently have in stock.