The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Ross Hampton has declared the winner of the impending by-election in the marginal federal seat of Eden-Monaro will most likely be the candidate who delivers the strongest and most positive growth plan for forest industries.
Mr Hampton said, “On many measures Eden-Monaro can claim the title of being Australia’s most important single forest industries federal electorate. It contains major employers in both plantation and native forest industries. Thousands of Eden-Monaro voters therefore either work directly in our industries and tens of thousands more in jobs associated with our industries, like truck driving, heavy machinery maintenance, trades, flora and fauna management, fire-fighting and the list goes on. Forest industries are also spread right across the electorate from the Eden wood chip mill and Boral’s hardwood sawmill in the south east, to the softwood plantations and sawmills at Bombala in the south and Tumut/Tumbarumba in the west.”
Mr Hampton said the by-election would come at a crucial time for the NSW South West Slopes region’s softwood plantation-based industries, which are its biggest employer, supporting nearly $2 billion of economic activity and more than 5,000 jobs. That area includes the Visy cardboard manufacturing plant, the Hyne and AKD sawmills, the Borg panels plant and Forestry Corporation of NSW’s nursery which grows 7 million seedlings each year.
The region’s softwood timber industry was hit hard by the Black Summer bushfires, with about 40 per cent of the softwood plantations burned, and the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19 is forecast to lead to a large downturn in the housing construction market, which will be an additional blow to the softwood timber processing industry.
“The December and January bushfires hit Eden-Monaro very hard, especially the Tumut/Tumbarumba area,” Mr Hampton said.
“The future looks very difficult and businesses and workers are desperate for federal assistance to chart a sustainable future until replacement trees are planted and can grow to a useable size. This will take at least fifteen years for pulpwood and over 22 years for sawlogs.”
Mr Hampton paid tribute to outgoing Eden-Monaro MP Dr Mike Kelly.
“Because forestry in Australia is managed sustainably and every tree used is either replanted or regrown, the products we produce which range from hardwood floors to pine house frames to packaging and tissue products can all truly claim to be the ‘ultimate renewable’. Dr Kelly has been a strong advocate for the forest industries of his electorate and we thank him and wish him well. Our industry needs another pro-forestry representative in Parliament now more than ever.”