Chapter 8 Forestry into the future
Throughout this report, the Committee has focussed on new forestry
opportunities, both for today and in the future. The Committee firmly believes
that the future of Australian forestry is bright, and looks forward to seeing
those in the industry take advantage of those opportunities. This final chapter
will outline some of the possibilities for the industry in the future, as well
as policies that will be necessary to help the industry fulfil those
The future of forestry
Over the course of the inquiry, the Committee has been impressed by the
passion and commitment of individuals and groups throughout the forestry
industry. This passion and commitment will be key to forestry taking up the
opportunities of the future, and many of these opportunities can be found
across different parts of the industry.
New methods of forest planning and management are continually making an
impact on the forestry industry, and this will enable the industry to be more
efficient and flexible in the future. Innovative approaches to planting,
thinning and harvesting are presenting forest managers with the ability to grow
trees faster, and for different end products than in the past. Ongoing research
and development will provide the forestry industry with the most effective and
up-to-date forest management practices.
Many Australian timbers are prized for their unique qualities and, over
time, further markets for these timbers will develop. In addition to the
inherent value of Australian timbers, new investments and new methods of
processing will enable the industry to add value to all products that come out
of Australian forests. Full realisation of the total value of a tree will be an
important part of the future. Native forestry plays an important role
supporting rural and regional communities, providing opportunities for
employment, skills development and financial investment. This role can increase
in future, given the other trends identified in this section.
The integration of forestry into other land uses is an exciting
opportunity to increase the productivity of land, as well as providing land
owners with diversification, flexibility, and local economic and environmental
benefits. Farm forestry has been described as a ‘sleeping giant’, and the
Committee believes that it has the potential to contribute to every
agricultural region in Australia.
The opportunities for timber as a building product will increase, as we
move into a more carbon-constrained world. Whilst timber is currently used in
certain parts of the building industry, new innovative uses for timber are
being created all the time. Timber can be engineered to be used in many
different applications, and as a renewable and carbon-storing building
material, it has a clear advantage over many other building materials. The
demand for timber in the construction industry is expected to increase in the
years to come, and the forestry industry is well placed to benefit from this
Forestry can play a major role in providing Australia with renewable
energy. Forest waste can be used in many different ways to produce electricity,
biofuels and to provide cogeneration for other applications. This is an
opportunity that is just beginning to develop, and based on examples that the
Committee has seen, it has the potential to transform electricity generation
Making the future happen
The Committee has made a number of recommendations throughout this
report, and they relate to four broad categories:
- security of supply from native forests;
- addressing incentives in the forestry industry;
- maturing of policies such as the Carbon Farming Initiative and Renewable Energy Target; and
- support, information, education and extension services.
This report’s recommendations must be acted on in order to make sure that
the Australian forestry industry can take up the opportunities outlined above. There
are also some areas of ‘additional support’ which will also be discussed. The
Committee also makes a final recommendation about important areas for
discussion amongst all Australian governments.
If the Australian forestry industry cannot meet the future demand for
timber and wood products, continued and increased imports of wood will be
necessary. As noted throughout the inquiry, this means that wood grown in less
regulated and less sustainable forests overseas will be used to meet
Australia’s wood needs.
In relation to future demand for timber, it is necessary to assess what
the likely future demand scenarios might be, and to find consensus on whether
Australia should aim for wood supply ‘self-sufficiency’.
It is also necessary to promote timber and wood products as replacements
for more energy intensive materials. The carbon storage properties of timber
and wood products should also be quantified, providing a national standard
recognising timber’s potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The Carbon Farming Initiative should be developed so that it supports
forestry in a nuanced way. A maturing policy could include support for numerous
forestry activities. ‘Additionality’ must recognise the diversity of
plantations and farm forestry applications, and ‘permanence’ could include the sustainable
harvesting and replanting of plantations and farm forestry.
Existing RFAs should be renewed, including principles of review,
consultation, evergreen extension and concrete timelines. The renewed RFA must
be agreed at least three years before the expiry of the existing RFA, and the
overall RFA regime must be renewed to ensure ongoing monitoring and periodic
assessment of each renewed RFA.
There should be an evaluation of the concept of ‘stewardship’ payments
to reward private forest owners for biodiversity outcomes in their forests.
This should be funded through the market, so that wood producers are rewarded
for products that come from forests where biodiversity is well managed.
The Australian government should decide whether the encouragement of
long-rotation plantations is an appropriate objective of policy. If it is, then
it must be established whether it is necessary and appropriate for government
to provide an incentive to meet that objective. It must also be assessed
whether MIS is the best mechanism to meet that objective, and if so, whether it
needs to be altered to make it more effective.
The expansion of farm forestry will rely on provision of, and access to,
enabling infrastructure. This is an important policy challenge for all
Australian governments. In addition, farm forestry (and extension services to
support it) should be explicitly included for funding under Caring for Our
The use of forestry biomass can be a sustainable way to provide
renewable energy. The use of native forest biomass should be supported where it
is a true waste product that does not itself drive harvesting of native
These areas of action will help the forestry industry to take up the
opportunities outlined throughout the report. In addition, there are priorities
for ‘additional support’ discussed below.
As noted above, there are further priorities for support that will
enable the forestry industry to take up the opportunities above, and to ensure
its viability in the long term. These are
education and training;
- social licence; and
A persistent theme of the inquiry focussed on the need for research and
development in the forestry industry. These calls came from industry, community
and environmental organisations, as well as academics. This need was identified
across all areas of the industry, including native forestry, plantation
forestry, farm forestry, product development and energy generation.
Partway through the inquiry, it was announced that Cooperative Research
Centre (CRC) for Forestry was unsuccessful in its application for ongoing
funding. The Committee is supportive of the work produced by CRCs and the
competitive process for awarding funding to these groups. However, the fact
that CRC for Forestry was unsuccessful in gaining ongoing funding raises
concerns that there may be a reduction in forestry research and development
activities. This means that the industry must ensure that it continues to
invest in forestry research and development, and to set its own priorities for
Professional education and training
The forestry industry provides employment in rural areas, particularly
in regions where the full cycle of planting, managing, harvesting, transporting
and producing forest products take place. The Committee heard that
forestry is no longer a low-skill, high-risk industry; it is a highly technical
and specialised one. Despite the many and
varied careers available in the forestry industry, labour and skills shortages
persist. Evidence suggests that this is due to a growing mining sector, the
rural and regional location of forestry employment, forestry’s fragile social
licence and the loss of professional forestry positions in research
The Committee notes the importance of encouraging more students to
undertake forestry degrees, particularly as the professional forester workforce
is ageing. There is a particular
demand for foresters in rural and regional Australia, and at the moment, this
demand is being met by workers from countries such as Canada, New Zealand and
Evidence suggested that recent forestry graduates found employment in
traditional forestry jobs as well as in other land-based agencies, such as Aboriginal
land councils, catchment management authorities and national parks.
As farm forestry expands, forestry graduates will be able to increasingly
combine expertise in forestry with knowledge about numerous other land uses. Foresters
will continue to develop broad, integrated and innovative skill sets, and this
will support the future of the industry.
‘Social licence’ is generally defined as community acceptance of the
costs and benefits of an industry’s activities. In essence, it means that in
addition to fulfilling all legal requirements, the industry has the support of
the public. It was widely accepted
that the forestry industry needs to improve its social licence and that this
was partially due to the politicisation of forest management decisions.
In the forestry context, this support must come from both rural and urban
communities. A strong social licence
could enhance employment opportunities, lessen social conflicts and provide
industry with greater certainty. Social licence in the specific context of
native forestry was also discussed in Chapter 4.
Social licence is a ‘moving feast’ – there will always be different
opinions in the general community about particular industries, and there will
never be absolute agreement about how those industries operate. However, the
forestry industry can make a difference to its own social licence. One of the
greatest sources of increased social licence can be the income that regional
and rural communities see in their economy as a result of a vibrant forestry
industry. Additionally, it can be promoted through forest certification.
It was also noted that local community support for plantations could be
garnered through ‘good neighbour’ charters.
The Committee heard extensive evidence on the merits of certification
for forests and forestry products from various industry and community
Australian Forestry Standard Limited (AFSL) administers the Australian
Standard for forest management (AS4708-2007) and for forest products chain of
custody (AS4707-2006). Over ninety-five per cent (10.2 million hectares) of
Australia’s large production native and plantation forests are certified to the
forest management standard by independent, accredited auditors.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Australia operates interim forest management
and chain of custody standards that certify over 600,000 hectares of both
native and plantation forests in Australia. FSC Australia is
currently developing a national forest management standard that would be
endorsed by Australian stakeholders and accredited by FSC International. FSC
Australia requires upwards of $1 million over the next two years to undertake
The Committee heard that certification of forest management and chain of
custody can provide benefits in areas such as risk mitigation and international
trade. Certification is the
main way that the forestry industry can tell customers about the environmental,
social and economic credentials of its products. It is one of the best ways for
the industry to tell the ‘good news story’ about its sustainable practices. But
certification is two-way communication: it also enables the industry to
understand what consumers want to buy, the expectations they have about forest
management, and the priority they place on intergenerational equity through
sustainable forest management. The Committee encourages the industry to listen
carefully to what the certification schemes are saying about customer demands,
because that will help them to remain competitive into the future.
Given its understanding that the original development of AFS standards
relied in part on financial support from the Australian Government, the
Committee believes that financial support should be made available for the
development of Australian FSC standards. The funding should be made available
with the expectation that the standards are fully developed, implemented and
approved by FSC International within five years.
||The Committee recommends that the Australian Government
provide funding to FSC Australia to support the development of the proposed
FSC national standard, with the expectation that the FSC national standard
will replace the interim standard within five years.
A national discussion
As noted near the beginning of this report, the National Forest Policy
Statement of 1992 is the fundamental reference point for forestry policy in
Australia. The Committee fully supports the Statement, and believes that it has
played an extremely important role in forestry in the almost two decades since
it was agreed. There are three areas of policy that are not explicitly covered
by the Statement, and the Committee believes that all Australian Governments
should discuss ways to agree to national policies in these areas. Taken
together, the Statement, the recommendations in this report, and the discussion
areas below will provide a strong and comprehensive national approach to
The first area for discussion is the impact of and opportunities from climate
change on forestry. It is important that Australia have a national approach to
climate change and forestry. As noted throughout the report, there are numerous
ways that climate change will impact on forestry, and the Committee is keen to
see an agreed national policy that will set the context in which the industry
will deal with this impact.
The second area for discussion is a national approach to farm forestry.
As discussed in Chapter 6, there are a number of ways that governments can
support the expansion of farm forestry. The Farm Forestry National Action
Statement (of 2005), combined with the recommendations in this report, provide
a good starting point from which to consider further agreement on supporting
farm forestry’s expansion.
The third area for discussion is around the likely future demand and
supply scenarios, and the question of whether Australia should aim for wood
supply security. As noted in Chapter 3, finding agreement on these issues will
provide additional certainty to the forestry industry, and the Committee
believes that these discussions must be considered as part of a national
approach to forestry. In addition to the recommendation made in Chapter 3, the
Committee believes that all governments should engage in broader discussions
about how different demand and supply scenarios will affect the industry, at
the local, regional and national level.
Styx Valley, Tasmania.
||8.37 The Committee recommends the Australian Government lead a
process of discussions with all state and territory governments, to consider
national approaches to:
- Forestry and climate change;
- Farm forestry; and
- Future wood product demand and supply.
This inquiry has come at an important time for the forestry industry,
and the Committee has been privileged to visit some of Australia’s timber
communities to talk about the future of the industry. One of the most important
aspects of an inquiry is to spend time listening to people about the things
they know best, and the Committee is grateful for the contributions of all
those who made submissions and attended hearings. The future of the forestry
industry is full of promise and opportunity, and the Committee firmly believes
that, with the right policy settings, the industry will be able to take
advantage of each and every opportunity. The forestry industry will thus
continue to play the important role it does in Australia’s economy,
particularly in rural and regional areas.
Hon Dick Adams MP
16 November 2011