$110 million plantation promise
THE VICTORIAN Association of Forest Industries (VAFI) has welcomed the announcement in the Victorian State Budget of $110 million in funding towards plantation establishment in the Latrobe Valley.
VAFI Chief Executive Officer Tim Johnston said the funding would help strengthen Victoria’s longterm wood supply.
“This is the first step in augmenting existing wood supply and will benefit the whole industry supply chain. It is helping to build a strong and resilient forest, fibre and wood products industry that contributes significant economic, social, and environmental benefits to Victoria,” he said.
“As the area of new plantations established has steadily declined over many years, I congratulate the Victorian Government for investing in a resource that is renewable and recyclable, and will help Victoria operate in a low carbon economy.
“Given wood is the material of the 21st century, VAFI looks forward to working with the Government in determining the next steps to bring this plantation establishment to fruition,” Mr Johnston said.
The forest, fibre and wood products industry is the lifeblood of many rural and regional communities across Victoria; it is a $7 billion industry that employs 21,000 Victorians and supports another 40,000 to 50,000 local jobs, many of these in regional areas.
Victoria has the largest total area of plantations in Australia with more than 420,000 hectares of commercial hardwood and softwood plantations. Hardwood plantations (mostly bluegum) make up roughly 47% of plantations while softwood plantations (mainly radiata pine) account for 52% of the plantation area in the state.
Plantation forestry provides additional economic diversification across regional Victoria as well as environmental benefits including carbon sequestration.
Australia’s national industry governing body, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), also gave the thumbs up to the Victorian Government plantation plan.
AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said the move would provide a major boost to Victoria’s plantation estate and if properly targeted, strengthen Victoria’s long-term wood supply.
Mr Hampton said softwood and hardwood plantations provided more than 80% of the wood fibre and timber for our national forest product industries, and in 2016 plantations added $778 million to the Victorian economy.
“However, investment in new plantations in Australia has effectively come to a standstill.
“Although we are experiencing strong demand for wood fibre, much of the growth has been filled by imports. This is, in part, because we aren’t providing sufficient plantation resource in this country for our domestic manufacturers.
“The forest products industry looks forward to working with the Victorian Government to ensure that that this investment is directed towards projects that help grow our sustainable industry and the tens of thousands of regional jobs we support,” said Mr Hampton.
Latrobe City Council Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said Latrobe City was awaiting further information following the announcement in the budget. “As yet we have no understanding of time frames, potential sites or any details of significance. Once we have some information, we will inform the community,” the Mayor said.
VAFI Chief Executive Officer Tim Johnston.