The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) welcomes the recent announcement by the Federal and South Australian Governments, of over $5 million in combined funding and industry support for the second round of forest industry related R&D projects, through the Mount Gambier National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) centre, Chief Executive Officer of AFPA, Mr Ross Hampton said today.

The Mount Gambier NIFPI centre will attract $5.08 million in its oversubscribed second round of R&D projects, with new projects focusing on forest biosecurity, tree breeding, sawn softwood characteristics, forest contractor safety, and forest water use. It comes ahead of the soon to be announced second round of successful R&D projects at the Launceston NIFPI centre.

“The second round of project funding for the Mount Gambier NIFPI centre is great news for forest industry related R&D and innovation. This substantial investment and vote of confidence in our renewable industries follows the successful first NIFPI round awarded in November 2018. It’s a proud moment for AFPA, which helped spearhead the concept of NIFPI centres,” Mr Hampton said.

“R&D is vitally needed to support ongoing growth in our industries,” said Mr Hampton. “Australia has experienced a huge decline in the number of scientists working on forestry related research. According to the State of the Forests Report 2018, released last month there were 733 forest scientists in 2008, but in 2016 there were just 276. Today that number is even lower.

“Our analysis is that getting that right is key to growing our sector by 20,000 jobs. The Federal Government made a promising start by allocating $4 million two years ago to the Launceston and Mount Gambier NIFPI centres. This however is only scraping the surface of the opportunity.

“AFPA will also be campaigning strongly in the lead up to the Federal Election, calling for all sides of federal politics to commit to $40 million to underpin the existing two centres and support other key NIFPI centres around Australia. We note Assistant Minister Colbeck is seeking state government support for further centres in south west WA, NSW and QLD.

“We look forward to the growth of the NIFPI model and continued longer term funding for these centres to contribute to innovation and in turn the resilience of forest industries across Australia,” Mr Hampton concluded.