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Ministers agree to work together to grow the forestry estate

State and territory forestry ministers have agreed to work together to grow the forest estate and secure the future of the Australian forestry industry. Speaking after a meeting of ministers on Wednesday, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said the Federal Government believed that collaboration with jurisdictions and industry was key to growing the forestry industry going forward. Source: Timberbiz

AFPA Acting CEO Victor Violante commended the government for convening the landmark meeting and for giving industry representatives the opportunity to brief the ministers on the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

“The Ministers heard first-hand from some of Australia’s leading timber sawmills and plantation growers about the need for immediate policy support to grow Australia’s timber plantation estate, which has fallen well short of meeting our future housing construction needs,” Mr Violante said.

Senator Duniam said he was pleased to hear directly from industry representatives about the opportunities and challenges for the industry.

“Over the past three years the forestry industry has demonstrated its resilience, continuing to kick goals despite the Black Summer bushfires and interruptions to international trade,” he said.

“The Morrison Government has been able to provide support to industry in response to these challenges, including the loss of over 130,000 hectares of plantation forests during the bushfires.

“Jurisdictions indicated a strong willingness to work together across a number of areas, including investigating opportunities to incentivise the planting of trees and grow the plantation estate, with a number of actions already underway.

“As the managers of productive forests, it is crucial that states and territories and industry are front of mind in future policy decisions,” Senator Duniam said.

“Discussions acknowledged the issues faced by industry in meeting establishment costs and the role that forestry could play in carbon abatement efforts, amongst other issues.”

Mr Violante said Australia’s forest industries hoped the meeting was the start of a new era of state and federal government resolve to grow Australia’s plantation estate, and to unlock forestry’s potential to contribute further to Australia’s climate change mitigation efforts.

“Our industry’s key message to the Ministers is that we do not have enough timber plantations in the ground today to meet Australia’s future home-building needs,” he said.

“This is a vital issue that demands a COAG-level plan to deliver on the Federal Commonwealth’s goal to grow our plantation estate by one billion trees by 2030.  We hope the meeting was a significant step towards that.”

Mr Violante said industry representatives outlined a range of measures that governments could deliver that would trigger the private sector to establish new plantations, including:

  • Unlocking the carbon market opportunities for the plantations sector through the Commonwealth’s Emissions Reduction Fund as well as the voluntary national and international carbon markets.
  • Supporting farmers to incorporate forestry alongside their agricultural production, which studies have found can boost crop and lambing yields as well as provide an additional income stream for farmers.
  • More regulatory certainty, particularly around water, land use and planning laws, to provide the stability forest growers need to make 30-plus year investment decisions.
  • Supporting innovation in forestry and wood processing to find higher value uses for sawmill and forest residues and smaller logs, such as engineered timber products and biomaterials.

“The good news is that Australia is well-placed to achieve these goals. We have some of the best forestry and timber operations in the world that lead the way in innovation, sustainability, skilled workforce, and market confidence.

“What we need now is a national consensus to grow the plantation estate to secure the home-building needs for future generations, and industry stands ready to play its part,” Mr Violante said.