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Friday analysis: Budget bundles of good news for forestry but not bundles of wood

As with any Federal Budget, there is a lot to unpack from Tuesday night.

This year’s announcements, while not totally terrifying, did not deliver any great news.

But there were some bundles of good news for the forestry industry.

The big one of course was the $100 million in funding for the new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation at Launceston.

The project was first announced by the Morrison government in May and later matched by the then-Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture Julie Collins.

The Budget in fact also delivered on several other Federal Labor election commitments including $8.6 million to extend Regional Forestry Hubs from 2024 25 and to provide extension services, and $10 million for skills and training to equip the forest industries workforce with competencies, credentials, training and accreditations.

Additionally, the Budget recommits $86.2 million for plantation establishment grants and $112.9 million for wood processing innovation grants funded in the March Budget. Forest industries are also expected to benefit from the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.

And then there was the target of one million new homes to be constructed by 2030 under the National Housing Accord.

This has raised a couple of eyebrows; AFPA CEO Ross Hampton quite rightly points out that to build the new houses with timber Australia needs to grow supply by planting more timber production trees.

He quite rightly points out that the Government has a ‘one billion new trees’ by 2030 goal that must be achieved, otherwise Australia will be 250,000 timber house-frames short of demand by 2035.

To date there has simply been no evidence that the planting has begun.

And it has been mentioned before; where is the land for the one billion trees going to come from?

That thought was echoed by VFPA CEO Deb Kerr who pointed out that instead of relying on imports, Australia’s timber estate needs to increase.

Commenting on the release of a grants programs under the Victorian Forestry Plan to support timber communities and innovation, Ms Kerr made an observation that also applies to the timber shortage the housing industry is facing and will continue to face for some time.

“…we keep asking the same question: if native hardwood isn’t coming from Victoria anymore, where will it come from?”

Good question.