NSW’s forest industries are calling on the Coalition and Labor parties to commit to growing the state’s forest plantation estate ahead of next month’s state election to create more regional jobs and meet growing demand for Australian timber.
Timber NSW General Manager Maree McCaskill and Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Chief Executive Officer Ross Hampton said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement last week that the Commonwealth will establish three Regional Forestry Hubs in NSW – on the North Coast, Central-West and South-West of the state – creates a unique opportunity for state and federal governments to work together on growing the state’s forest industries.
NSW’s forest industries contribute $2.4 billion annually to the state’s economy, with an annual export value of $220 million and directly employing 22,000 across the value chain.
Ms McCaskill said urgent action at a state and national level is needed to address the decline in NSW’s forest plantation area at a time when there is growing demand for sustainably grown Australian timber.
“The numbers speak for themselves: 75 per cent of all sawn timber produced in NSW is used in residential construction, NSW needs 660,000 new homes by 2031 to meet population demand, and yet our forest plantation area is either stagnating or going backwards,” Ms McCaskill said.
“This means we will increasingly rely on imported timber products at the expense of Australian manufacturing jobs and regional investment.
“The NSW Government’s $24 million commitment in the 2018-19 Budget to grow the state plantation estate was a welcome first step in growing the resource, but much more is needed to deliver the level of new plantings needed to meet the projected demand for Australian timber,” Ms McCaskill concluded.
Mr Hampton said the Regional Forestry Hubs should ensure all levels of government work with industry and landowners to identify ways to lower the investment hurdles and leverage private investment to establish new plantations, and support farmers to incorporate farm forestry into their operations.
“The creation of three Regional Forestry Hubs in NSW has the potential to deliver the right trees in the right places to secure the long-term future and growth of our renewable forest industries, but we now need genuine commitment and significant investment from local, state and federal governments to make it happen,” Mr Hampton said.