The Federal Government’s new National Forest Industries Plan unveiled today lays the foundation to turbocharge Australia’s renewable forest industries and has the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in regional Australia.

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Chair, Greg McCormack said the Plan, announced tonight by Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Richard Colbeck in front of a packed National Press Club audience in Canberra, was a watershed moment for Australia’s forest industries, which contribute $24 billion annually to the Australian economy and employ around 120,000 people across the full value chain.

“The plan, ‘Growing a better Australia – A billion trees for jobs and growth’ is the first major blueprint for Australia’s forest industries in more than 20 years and responds to our key policy priorities of driving growth in forest products manufacturing and innovation and putting forestry at the heart of Australia’s emissions reduction strategy,” Mr McCormack said.

“This document addresses key challenges faced by our industries; in resource supply, recognition for positive environmental contributions, perception and training and skills. It’s excellent to see the new mantra ‘Wood – the ultimate renewable’ appears as a key part of the plan,” Mr McCormack said.

Industry welcomes the Government’s focus on ensuring this additional one billion trees over ten years will be planted in the right places at the right scale and with the right partnership models which properly reward farmers with certainty about the returns.

Industry also endorses the Government’s determination to start development of our 30 forestry regions or hubs.  We need to ensure we have the greatest chance of maximising the value in downstream Australian jobs – and that will happen if the trees are located close to processing facilities. The Government plans to ‘pilot’ a hub and we look forward to understanding more about this aspect of the plan. We also welcome the two additional National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) centres announced in the Plan.

“AFPA has long identified the positive contribution production trees can also make to Australia’s carbon reduction targets and AFPA is delighted that the Government has committed to reviewing an artificial annual rainfall barrier which is working against farmers and landowners gaining carbon credits for participating in production forestry – a review which now has bipartisan support,” Mr McCormack said.

“Australia already imports about a third of the softwood framing we need for our houses.  This new Plan won’t change that situation overnight but it is finally a step in the right direction.

“We know the Government wants to be sure that its goal of a billion trees becomes a reality and not just a slogan and we look forward to helping ensure that the measures are indeed now put in place which will deliver the right trees in the right places at the right scale.

“The $20 million announced in the 2018-19 Federal Budget to progress the Plan is an important down payment to kickstart this vision, and it will require ongoing commitment from industry and all levels of Government to ensure this opportunity is not squandered,” Mr McCormack concluded.

The plan can be found at: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry

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