Careful planning is aiming to ensure the mistakes of the past in establishing plantations and farm forestry are not repeated, the new federal Minister for Forests, Jonathon Duniam, said yesterday. Senator Duniam, speaking to a DANA conference in Brisbane, reiterated the Government’s support for the $500 million Plantation Development Concession Loans program announced before the federal election. Source: Philip Hopkins for Timberbiz
With the overall area of plantations increasing, the Government was looking at how to remove barriers to expanding plantations.
“Careful thought is being put in to the planning for these loans, to ensure we avoid some of the mistakes of the past,” he said.
Similarly, the farm forestry strategy was investigating how to make farm forestry a commercial, timber-supplying enterprise.
“It will include investigating aggregation tools, data needs, mapping and business models, and navigating the challenges of changing land use,” he said.
Senator Duniam said he would also ask the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources to conduct an inquiry into short-term timber supply chain constraints in the national plantation sector.
“With the long growing time for trees, we need to assess any resource access or supply chain constraints in the short term,” he said.
Senator Duniam said the Government also intended to set up two more centres under the $4 million National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) to complement the two in Mount Gambier and Launceston. These were set up with matching funding from the Tasmanian and South Australian governments.
“We are in discussions with state governments that might want to partner with us in delivering additional research in areas that industry is identifying and driving,” he said.
Senator Duniam said the Government was committed to rolling out the nine regional forestry hubs across the country. These were areas with high concentrations of forestry resources, processing facilities, employment and access to markets.
“The aim of the hubs is to identify and address the barriers to growth in the industry and focus on maximising the competitive advantages of these forestry regions,” he said. The five pilot forestry hubs would give important lessons about establishing these hubs before they were extended to other regions.
“Forestry can absolutely run complementary to farming activities, but the key is to ensure that the right trees are planted at the right scale and in the right places,” he said.
Senator Duniam reiterated the Government’s support for the Regional Forest Agreements – the best mechanism for balancing environmental, economic and social demands on our native forests.
“We continue to work closely with state governments to review and extend these agreements,” he said. “RFAs provide the high-level framework to allow our native forests to deliver triple bottom line outcomes.”
Senator Duniam said the illegal logging laws came into effect on 1 January 2018, marking the end of the ‘soft start’ compliance period.
“Robust laws minimise the risk of illegally logged timber entering the Australian market and undermining not only our legitimate timber growers and producers, but also all-important consumer confidence,” he said.
Businesses and individuals importing regulated timber products or raw saw logs faced penalties if they did not comply with the due diligence requirements of the illegal logging laws, he emphasised.