In­ter­na­tional Day of Forests

Aus­tralia’s for­est in­dus­try con­tin­ues to make a strong con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional econ­omy, par­tic­u­larly in re­gional Aus­tralia

Australian Forests and Timber - - IN THE NEWS - By Sen­a­tor Anne Rus­ton As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Sen­a­tor for South Aus­tralia

THE AUS­TRALIAN Gov­ern­ment is pleased to be cel­e­brat­ing the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Day of Forests and its theme of “Forests and En­ergy”. I am per­son­ally ex­cited about the fu­ture of the Aus­tralian for­est in­dus­try - it is a sun­rise in­dus­try and pro­vides a raft of new and emerg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. These in­clude wood pro­cess­ing in­no­va­tion, car­bon farm­ing, bio-en­ergy and a range of bio-prod­ucts that of­fer a re­new­able sub­sti­tute to more emis­sions-in­ten­sive ma­te­ri­als, such as steel and con­crete.

These ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are founded on a rig­or­ous for­est man­age­ment frame­work that sup­ports the sus­tain­able use of Aus­tralia’s forests. The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ples of eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able for­est man­age­ment main­tain­ing eco­log­i­cal pro­cesses; main­tain­ing bi­o­log­i­cal diver­sity and op­ti­mis­ing for the full range of ben­e­fits forests can pro­vide.

A key frame­work for im­ple­ment­ing sus­tain­able man­age­ment are the Re­gional For­est Agree­ments (RFAs).

The RFAs are 20-year agree­ments be­tween the Aus­tralian and State Gov­ern­ments that bal­ance com­pet­ing eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­mands and pro­vide re­source se­cu­rity and in­vest­ment con­fi­dence to in­dus­try. In any one year only 0.06% of Aus­tralia’s na­tive for­est area is har­vested and the for­est man­agers en­sure both tem­po­ral and spa­tial sep­a­ra­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties to cre­ate a mo­saic of age classes and ecol­ogy across the land­scape to sup­port bio­di­ver­sity.

Aus­tralia’s for­est in­dus­try con­tin­ues to make a strong con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional econ­omy, par­tic­u­larly in re­gional Aus­tralia. In 2014-15 the for­est in­dus­try gen­er­ated a record turnover of $22.2 bil­lion from for­est prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing sales and ser­vice and pro­vided em­ploy­ment for 69,000 peo­ple in forestry, har­vest­ing and wood prod­ucts man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The RFAs also pro­vide for the pro­tec­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal val­ues through a com­pre­hen­sive, ad­e­quate and rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­serve sys­tem. When the RFAs were signed, be­tween 1997 and 2001, more than 3.3 mil­lion hectares was added to the re­serve es­tate, in­creas­ing the re­serve sys­tem by 44% – a tremen­dous re­sult for con­ser­va­tion. There is also a range of ad­di­tional recre­ational and tourism job-cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that can be un­der­taken within our spec­tac­u­lar re­serve sys­tem.

For all these rea­sons, the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to the ex­ten­sion of the RFAs as the best mech­a­nism for man­ag­ing the pro­duc­tive use and con­ser­va­tion of Aus­tralia’s pub­lic na­tive forests. The ex­ten­sion of the RFAs will en­sure that ro­bust, sus­tain­able and adap­tive for­est man­age­ment con­tin­ues to be de­liv­ered. The ex­ten­sion will also as­sist in pro­vid­ing a sta­ble busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages in­no­va­tion and in­vest­ment, which will al­low the in­dus­try to thrive for gen­er­a­tions to come. That is why I have been work­ing with the State Gov­ern­ments to com­plete the RFA ex­ten­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions as a pri­or­ity.

In keep­ing with the theme of Forests and En­ergy, the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment has re-in­tro­duced na­tive for­est wood waste into the Re­new­able En­ergy Tar­get (RET) scheme. Biomass can func­tion as a car­bon neu­tral, base-load en­ergy source. It is not de­pen­dent on sunny or windy days; it can pro­duce sus­tain­able, re­new­able and re­li­able en­ergy, 24 hours a day. All car­bon re­leased in gen­er­at­ing the elec­tric­ity was orig­i­nally se­questered in the tree or plant – and sus­tain­able man­age­ment means the forests are re­planted to se­quester more car­bon. Biomass-to-en­ergy plants also re­duce the amount of waste go­ing to land­fill. Its in­clu­sion as an el­i­gi­ble en­ergy source is an­other con­tri­bu­tion to meet­ing the Re­new­able En­ergy Tar­get (RET).

The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to work­ing with in­dus­try to achieve its goals and looks for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing its fu­ture on the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Day of the Forests.

In­for­ma­tion on the Aus­tralian for­est in­dus­try can be found on the Forestry page of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources web­site: www. agri­cul­ forestry. In­for­ma­tion on the In­ter­na­tional Day of Forests can be found on the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the United Na­tions web­site: http://­ter­na­tion­al­day-of-forests/en/

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