The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) welcomes Federal Labor’s policy package announced today, which agrees to several AFPA policy priorities to grow Australia’s renewable forest industries, AFPA CEO, Mr Ross Hampton, said.

Mr Hampton said there are three key commitments which should be noted.

“A Labor Government would provide $13 million to fund 13 Regional Forest Industry Hubs (this includes the $4 million for 4 hubs already committed by the Coalition Government, and welcomed by AFPA). AFPA has asked for Hubs to allow the future growth of forest industries to take place in strategic regions to maximise efficiency and productivity. To ensure that each of the 13 Regional Forest Industry Hubs are able to quickly begin the work of identifying barriers and opportunities for growth and innovation, we expect each hub to receive $1 million over four years and Labor is yet to specify this,” Mr Hampton said.

“AFPA is pleased the ALP has now matched the Coalition in backing a growth target of an increase of 400,000 hectares of plantations by 2030. It should be noted that there is 375 million hectares of rural land in Australia and plantations currently occupy 1.9 million hectares. The growth we need to supply timber for our homes and businesses would take that to 2.3 million hectares.

“A second key promise from Labor is to promote the sustainable growth of the plantation estate by allowing forestry to participate in carbon markets, alongside environmental plantings and farm forestry. This requires the removal of the regulatory water rule barriers, which AFPA has been advocating for 4 years and Labor has now committed to.

“Thirdly, Labor has now agreed to AFPA’s demand to support Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) and commit to no more lockups of native forestry. There is 125 million hectares of native forests in Australia, of which 5.5 million is multi-use forest, and of that multi-use forest, a tiny percentage is harvested and regenerated each year. Native forestry in Australia is 100 per cent sustainable and the ALP has, in this document, recognised that.”

Labor has also delivered on several other fronts which are in line with AFPA’s 10 Actions for Growth, such as:
• Addressing skills shortages in forest industries.
• Considering an increased role for bioenergy and biomass.
• Establishing a cross departmental team to work with forest industries on trade issues.
• Reverting the name of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources back to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and appointing a Minister specifically for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

“Labor has failed so far to deliver against industry requests for $40 million for the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) across a national network of centres, including extended funding for the existing centres in Launceston and Mount Gambier. Labor has also not committed funding to support forestry-specific community education programs.

Mr Hampton said, “Forest Industries look forward to also receiving the Coalition’s Forest Industry Policy and assessing it against our national industry growth plan.

AFPA will be publishing a scorecard of the major political parties based on our 10 key policy asks before polling day.” Mr Hampton concluded.