“The five yearly State of the Forests Report 2018 lays bare the serious decline in the number of forestry related researchers in this country and demands urgent action,” according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Mr Ross Hampton.
The report reveals that the number of scientists working on forestry related research has plummeted in the five years covered by the report.
There were 733 forest scientists in 2008 but by 2016 there were just 276.
“Anecdotally we know that that decline has not stopped,” said Mr Hampton, “the number in 2019 will actually be even lower.”
“This is a crucial issue and unless this trend is reversed it is hard to see how the Government’s ambitious and laudable growth plans for the industry can be achieved. The Government has committed to delivering an additional one billion trees and has recently announced the areas or ‘hubs’ in regional centres where it wants to see growth focused.
“R&D is vitally needed to support that growth,” said Mr Hampton. “Our analysis is that getting that right is a crucial ingredient in growing our sector by 20,000 jobs. The Government has made a promising start by allocating $4 million two years ago to two new nodes of the National Institute for Forest Innovation (NIFPI) in Launceston and Mount Gambier. This however is only touching the surface of the opportunity. AFPA’s budget bid has detailed to Government the $40 million required to fully operationalise these two centres and support other specialist centres. More centres have been flagged by the Government in the ‘Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth’ document but their locations and funding is as yet unknown.
“AFPA will also be campaigning strongly in the lead up to the Federal Election, calling for all sides of federal politics to commit to further funding in this space so new innovative opportunities can be realised, and long-term regional jobs secured,” Mr Hampton concluded.