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Long term sustainability, future of timber & forests products industry report

The Australian Forest Products Association NSW has expressed support for the expansion of timber plantations in NSW as recommended by an Upper House timber inquiry as the best way to guarantee timber supply. Source: Timberbiz

The expansion of plantations was a key recommendation of the upper house inquiry into the future of the timber industry that tabled its report this week.

“Significantly, the report acknowledges the enormous contribution NSW forest industries make to the economy, regional communities, and our everyday lives by making essential wood products we depend on,” AFPA NSW CEO Victor Violante said.

He also welcomed the inquiry’s pragmatic approach to calls to end native forestry in NSW.

The inquiry reported that the deficiencies in the Great Koala National Park Economic Impact Assessment and Environmental Benefits Analysis were significant enough that they would not be relied upon to make a rigorous and objective decision on the proposal to establish the park.

“NSW cannot afford to lose any more of its hardwood timber production,” Mr Violante said.

“It would result in significant cost and supply chain impacts for the housing construction sector and a range of other industries that rely on hardwood timber products.

“It would also increase our reliance on imported products that would largely be sourced from tropical forests that are at high risk of deforestation and illegal logging,” he said.

“In contrast, NSW forest industries operate to the highest environmental standards in the world, replacing every tree after harvest to ensure there is no net loss in forest coverage.”

“The demand for timber and forest products is growing and cannot be met with existing supply,” committee chair Mark Banasiak said in the report.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP said a lack of vision from successive governments had left the timber industry exposed.

The committee heard mixed opinions during public hearings, but one thing became clear.

“We are heading towards a timber supply crisis in NSW,” Mr Banasiak said.

The Black Summer bushfires wiped out native hardwood plantations and the pandemic also affected supply, but he said these were not the main contributors to the crisis.

“The timber and forest product industry has suffered from a lack of longer-term vision over successive governments to address supply issues, industry needs and community expectations.

“The impact of this cannot be overstated.”

Mr Banasiak said urgent action was desperately needed and encouraged the government to read the report’s 24 recommendations.

The report found the demand for forestry products was growing and could not be be met with existing supply.

It also found there had been no increase in additional plantations over the past decade.

Independent MP Justin Field, who sat on the committee, objected to one key finding in the report, which related to the proposed Great Koala National Park.

Mr Field said now was time to establish the 315,000-hectare reserve near Coffs Harbour and protects its trees, which are some of the most valuable koala habitats in NSW.

However, the majority of the committee found an economic and environmental impact report prepared for the National Parks Association contained significant deficiencies and could not be relied upon.

The committee recommended the government pump the brakes on the park until an “independent and comprehensive” study was conducted.

It also found changing forest areas to protect trees rather than harvest them had been done with little consideration about the loss of supply.

It said the government should do more to capitalise on the “untapped potential for innovation in the timber and forest products industry”.

The government has three months to respond to the report.

Download the report here.