Chapter 1 Introduction
The course of the inquiry
On 7 February 2011 the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
asked the Committee to undertake an inquiry into the Australian forestry
The Committee received 121 submissions over the course of the inquiry,
listed at Appendix A. All public submissions are available on the Committee’s
website. The Committee also
received 23 exhibits during the inquiry, which are listed at Appendix B.
The Committee travelled to New Norfolk (Tasmania), Melbourne and Grafton
(NSW) to hold public hearings with local communities about the forestry
industry in each region. The Committee also held numerous public hearings in
Canberra over the course of the inquiry. All hearings and witnesses are detailed
in Appendix C.
The Committee extends its thanks to every individual and organisation
that made a submission and that gave evidence at hearings, as well as those who
attended the public gallery during hearings.
The scope of the inquiry
The terms of reference for the inquiry are relatively broad, but in
general the Committee is directed to ‘inquire into and report on the current
and future prospects of the Australian forestry industry.’ The Committee has
focussed its attention on the opportunities for forestry both today and in the
future. However, the Committee has also discussed elements of the history of
Australian forestry where appropriate.
The terms of reference for the inquiry direct the Committee to consider
the environmental impacts of forestry, and the Committee has done so. Where
submissions have made constructive contributions to understanding and improving
the environmental management of forestry, the Committee has included these
views. However, submissions that have simply criticised the industry and called
for an end to particular kinds of forestry have not been included in the
report. The Committee is firmly of the belief that all forestry sectors will
continue to be fundamental to the industry, and environmental considerations
must be seen in this context.
The Committee is mindful of the different jurisdictions exercising
powers and responsibilities for forestry. Whilst the Australian Government must
drive national policy, it is usually state, territory and local governments
that are responsible for policy relating to individual forestry operations. In
addition to this complexity, a considerable part of the forest estate in
Australia is publicly owned. This complexity need not be a barrier to good
forestry outcomes, but the Committee has taken care to address its
recommendations to the Australian Government, often calling for it to pursue
policy goals through intergovernmental processes.
Structure of the report
In chapter 2, the report provides a historical overview of forestry in
Australia, covering the softwood agreements of the 1960s, the 1992 National
Forestry Agreement and the subsequent development of Regional Forest Agreements
(RFAs). The more recent Tasmanian Statement of Principles is also discussed.
The future role of forestry and forest products is considered in chapter
3. Anticipated demand and consumption trends present significant opportunities
for the forestry industry. At the same time, the effects of climate change present
risks to some forests. The chapter finally considers the potential for the
Carbon Farming Initiative to support forestry.
Chapter 4 examines native forestry. Native forests are considered in
various ways, and the Committee discusses the best way to provide wood supply
security to native forest harvesters. The interplay between different kinds of
forest management is considered, as well as producing high-value timber and
Chapter 5 addresses plantation forestry. The chapter considers the
impacts of plantations on land and water competition, as well as the best way
to encourage greater investment in long-rotation plantations. Finally, the
chapter considers products and innovation.
Chapter 6 deals with Farm forestry, which involves integrating trees
into existing farmland. This is an emerging means for farmers to diversify
their land uses, and to improve land management. The Committee identifies some
barriers to great farm forestry expansion, and has considered various ways to
reduce these barriers.
Chapter 7 focuses on forestry biomass, and the multitude of possible
uses for forest products and by-product that may provide alternate and diverse
sources of income for the industry. The chapter considers how to ensure that
waste products can be utilised to create renewable energy, as well as the role
of forestry in producing biochar for agricultural use.
The final chapter considers the possible future of forestry, and the
opportunities that will present themselves. It then reiterates the necessary
policy initiatives to enable the industry to take advantage of these
opportunities, as well as discussing additional support needed for the future
strength of the industry.
Committee members with Ms Janelle
Saffin MP (Member for Page) and Mr Spiro Notaras in Grafton.