The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the NSW Government’s $140 million Bushfire Industry Recovery Package, which will provide urgently needed support for the state’s forest industries which were severely impacted by the Black Summer bushfires.

AFPA Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said he is pleased the Government has taken on board several of AFPA’s recommendations during consultation on the design of the program, which will ensure that it provides targeted support for the state’s forest products industries.

“Forest industries are significant regional employers in NSW, supporting over $7 billion of economic activity and directly employing over 21,000 people,” Mr Hampton said.

“The state has had a significant amount of the softwood plantation assets and sustainably managed native forest estate damaged by the Black Summer bushfires, and now the Covid-19 pandemic means there will be long-term impacts on the supply chain, manufacturing businesses, and jobs. This program will provide immediate support across the whole forest industry sector, softening the impact of the bushfires, and supporting employers as they address the long-term challenges of CoVid-19.

“Crucially, the first tranche of the program will allow mills and forest growers to receive support for significant costs they’ve already incurred recovering from the bushfires, combined now with a forecast economic downturn due to the pandemic.”

Mr Hampton said he was pleased the Government was providing up to $10 million in matching funding for the Federal Government’s $15 million program to assist with the additional cost of freight and storage for burnt logs. He has also urged the State Government to extend the program to cover the increased cost of carting green logs to mills from further away, to manage the log shortages caused by the fires.

“Timber workers continue the huge and urgent task of recovering fire damaged timber to be processed into renewable timber products for Australia’s housing and other markets. The window of opportunity to effectively recover usable timber from the burnt plantations is only about a year, and we need flexibility in managing the available resource to ensure our mills can continue to operate,” Mr Hampton concluded.