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Opinion: Nick Steele – Growing our Future

Nick Steel

Forestry and the wood it produces, has a role to play in addressing climate change, but attitudes need to change. It is an ongoing obstruction – the rigid divide between science and emotion that if not resolved will leave us scratching our heads and unable to move forward on climate change.

Following decades of campaigning, the misinformation around Tasmanian forestry has resulted in less investment and less trees in the ground than there could and should be.

The world wants wood.

This is undisputed and the demand is growing by the day as outcomes from the COP26 in Glasgow are implemented by governments and industries around the world.

Any business that is environmentally conscious is currently looking at how they can replace metals, concrete and plastic from their products, their packaging and their supply chains to lower their environmental footprint.

And there is one product the world is talking about – wood.

Problem is that past and present politicians and environmental activists have created empires by condemning forestry without considering of the bigger picture.

But now, the outcomes from Glasgow and the scientific community have put the environmental politicians squarely on the wrong side of history as they continue to slow progress to real climate action.

They will tell you they “support plantation forestry but not native” however, as recent letters to the editor prove, this is just political opportunism. They will again, as they have done in the past, change this stance to ensure political relevance.

We need a diverse forestry industry.

Engineered timber products, bio-composite materials, construction grade timbers and ply, dressed timber products and some of the highest quality fibre in the world is coming out of Tasmania.

But to continue to be successful, to continue to be a part of the solution to climate change, these products will always need to come from a variety of tree species.

A diversified industry is stronger, more varied and more able to invent and create the environmentally friendly products of the future.

If you have built a house recently you would know all too well the high demand for all species of timber.

Australia imports around 25% of our framing timber simply because we do not grow enough here.

To understand why you need to look back 15 to 20 years, to when these plantation trees needed to go in the ground. The extreme pressure from the environmental politicians and activists, who were dead against expanding plantation forestry at the time, put downward pressure on plantations and investment.

They selfishly politicised plantation forestry to get themselves elected, and we are paying the price for that today.

Now proven wrong about plantation forestry they have other species in their sights, longer growing species that we need in the ground today so that they too will be available in the future.

So where to from here?

Well just like the attitude flip on plantation timber from 15 years ago, it is time to accept the fact that sustainable, mixed species forestry is the future, for both people and for the climate.

It’s time we catch up to the rest of the world in understanding and celebrating the benefits of forestry products and appreciate what our local industry produces, because it really is the best product on earth and is part of the solution to climate change.

Nick Steel is CEO of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association.