Forestry industries have welcomed a new federal policy, the National Forest Industries Plan, which government says is a blueprint to increase investment across the sector.
Following a four-year, $20 million funding contribution in the federal Budget earlier this year, the new plan represents the first refresh of forestry policy in 20 years.
The plan found future demand requires plantation to expand above the current crop of 2 billion trees with an addition 1btrees over the next 10 years, or 400,000 hectares of land.
Assistant Agriculture Minister Minister Richard Colbeck launched the plan in Canberra last night.
He said foreign investors were a crucial source of new capital for plantations, which are 75 per cent foreign-owned, and the government would investigate speeding up the Foreign Investment Review Board process.
Also, the federal government would continue to negotiate with state governments for improved 20-year Regional Forest Agreements, Mr Colbeck said.
“The goal and the actions contained in the plan will provide industry with the certainty it needs to invest in its own future and be prepared for the many challenges as well as opportunities ahead,” he said.
“This document addresses key challenges faced by our industries; in resource supply, recognition for positive environmental contributions, perception and training and skills. It’s excellent to see the new mantra ‘Wood – the ultimate renewable’ appears as a key part of the plan,” he said.
Australian Forest Products Association chairman Greg McCormack welcomed the government’s commitment to review restrictions on plantation in areas with average rainfall above 600 millimetres a year, and highlighted the untapped demand in domestic housing construction.
“AFPA has long identified the positive contribution production trees can also make to Australia’s carbon reduction targets,” he said.
“AFPA is delighted that the Government has committed to reviewing an artificial annual rainfall barrier which is working against farmers and landowners gaining carbon credits for participating in production forestry – a review which now has bipartisan support.
“Australia already imports about a third of the softwood framing we need for our houses.
“This new plan won’t change that situation overnight but it is finally a step in the right direction.”
The plan also aims to develop regional hubs for industry across the country.
Forestry is a significant regional employer, with 70,000 direct jobs nationally, generating around 25b in economic activity.
A billion extra trees in the national plantation estate would create an estimated 18,000 jobs.
Government investment in freight infrastructure could help development of processing facilities and new industry research would help create to generate confidence among investors.
Mr Colbeck said government supports increased native hardwood harvesting and development of forestry operations on Indigenous-owned land.
“The plan will also support sustainable access to native forests to supply highly valued appearance grade wood products such as flooring, stair treads, furniture, boat building and architectural veneers and features.”
“There are huge opportunities for Indigenous employment and we will be working with interested Indigenous communities to unlock potential timber supply and deliver economic returns to landholders.”
National Forest Industries Plan goals
- Develop policy and on-ground support for regional industry hubs
- Work with states and industry to help farmers expand farm forestry
- Reducing barriers to forestry expansion and supporting the planting of more trees
- Increasing research and innovation for value-added production from forest products
- Build public support for sustainable forestry activities in Australia.
- Develop forest resources on Indigenous owned and managed land and on privately-owned land