Forestry is a key Australian industry and part of agriculture in the sense that most Australian forests are managed, not necessarily as plantations but as natural resources that need for example burning back at times to clear undergrowth or logging large timber strategically in old-growth forests, so their natural renewal process is optimised for example with the backdrop of varying seasons in terms of temperatures and rainfall.
Science is a key part of this process!
South Australia, the birthplace of the Australian softwood plantation industry and a leader in forestry innovation, has been further strengthened with the launch of a new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation hub in Mount Gambier.
The Institute, which will be hosted at the University of South Australia’s Mount Gambier campus, is backed by $4 million funding from the Australian and South Australian Governments and will be supported by industry contributions.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said the new hub will play an important role in building knowledge on Australia’s plantation forests and revolutionising the way they are used.
It’s about maximising the value from every cubic metre harvested from plantations. It’s about moving Australian wood products up the value chain.
The end result is better returned to business, more investment, more jobs and greater economic prosperity and wealth in the South East Australian community.
Importantly, the research done in Mount Gambier will have national implications. The research can be applied to other softwood plantation regions across Australia. The innovation hub will work closely with industry to maximise the economic returns from every dollar spent. In Australia, an important aspect as capital is in short supply.
The hub will strengthen ties between our research institutions and the sector’s strategic needs.
Forestry is truly a sunrise industry?
There is great potential in the new frontiers such as bio-materials and bio-plastics.
Australia’s plantation forestry sector is a real success story. Now in its third consecutive year of growth, Australia’s plantation industry increased the volume of logs harvested to a record 26 million cubic metres in 2015-16.
Member for Barker Tony Pasin said South Australia has a long history in plantation forestry dating back to the establishment of some of Australia’s first forest plantation trials in the 1870s.
In South Australia, there were 178 800 hectares of plantation forests in 2015-16 with logs produced to a value of $321 million. The innovation hub will enable the local industry to advance even further.
Over 13 000 South Australians are employed in the forestry sector.
Storm clouds on the horizon!
Logging is not exempt from national environment laws if Regional Forest Agreements are breached, so Regional Forest Agreements that govern logging in Australia is now under a huge cloud of uncertainty.
The logging industry across Australia will face closer scrutiny, the Wilderness Society said after the Federal Court ruled that a Regional Forest Agreement is not completely exempt from the national laws to protect endangered species, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act.
Regional Forest Agreements were supposed to exempt logging from the EPBC Act, but the Federal Court ruled that logging in the Central Highlands in Victoria may not be exempt from the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act if terms of the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement have been breached, which has implications for logging across Australia, including South Australia.
Justice Mortimer found that Management Plans for threatened species, and requirements under Action Plans and Recovery Plans, must be observed for logging to get the exemption from the EPBC Act. The judge’s decision did not examine whether or not VicForests’ (in the state of Victoria) logging has complied with these requirements.
If logging under breached Regional Forest Agreements has had a significant impact on endangered species, then that logging may be in breach of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act, which could carry fines of millions of dollars.
Regional Forest Agreements have been death warrants for endangered species, making logging the only industry exempt from the national laws to protect endangered species, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act, said Wilderness Society Victoria Campaign Manager Amelia Young.
The judgement, however, finds that if logging in the Victorian Central Highlands does not comply with terms and requirements of plans for threatened species, the exemption from national environment law potentially falls away.
The 20-year-old Regional Forest Agreements are expiring all over the country a real issue contributing to industry uncertainty.
Activists claim the logging industry must abide by the same national laws to protect endangered species that every other industry and person is obliged to. There should be one rule for all, not special exemptions for an industry that continues to drain taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Environment Justice Australia, acting on behalf of Friend of the Leadbeater’s Possum, a native Australian animal, has taken court action against VicForests to argue that past and future logging in Victoria’s Central Highlands should not be exempt from the EPBC Act, as it has not been undertaken in accordance with the RFA.
The Federal Court now must rule on whether the logging has breached the EPBC Act.
Federal Court Case: Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum v VicForests
The Australian Government has welcomed the decision of the Federal Court in relation to the matter of Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum and VicForests in which the Commonwealth’s submissions were accepted.
The Australian Government is committed to Regional Forest Agreements, which are the best mechanism for balancing environmental, economic and social demands on our native forests, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston said.
With over 67,000 people employed, the forestry industry brings jobs and economic prosperity to regional Australia and we want to make sure those jobs are secure into the future.
The Australians Government strong view is that RFAs have delivered for the environment. More than 3.3 million hectares of native forest has been transferred into conservation reserves through the RFAs. This has increased the reserve system by 46 percent.
The government will continue to work with state governments to fulfil our promise to roll out the extensions of RFAs in all ten RFA regions across Australia.
Dear readers, what is your perspective?
A. Environment comes first?
B. Possums come first?
C. Industry comes first?
D. Compromise is needed?
Please leave your comments, we need them!