More plantations needed despite record log harvest
AUSTRALIA’S SUSTAINABLE forest products industries had a record plantation log harvest in 2015-16, increasing in both value and volume, according to statistics from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
However, the need for more plantations remains.
“ABARES’ latest figures underscore the need for government policies that incentivise and support new plantation investment and associated forest product industries,” said Ross Hampton, Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Chief Executive.
“Demand for wood-fibre in the Asia-Pacific region continues to expand, creating huge potential for our sustainable forest industries. Australia is well placed to meet this demand for wood-fibre, if opportunities are grasped and our industries are supported.
“All levels of government need to support new plantation investment. New plantings have been going backwards due to continuing commercial pressures to not replant some areas. The good news is that if governments act now, it is not too late to support the establishment of new plantations, provide wood supply certainty to industry, and support regional jobs and investment,” Mr Hampton said.
Australia’s total commercial plantation area was around 1,974,770 hectares in 2015‒16, an increase of 1,331 hectares (0.1 per cent) from 1,973,439 hectares in 2014‒15. The total area of new plantations established in 2015–16 was 1,415 hectares, comprised entirely of softwood (radiata pine) planted in New South Wales. Around 83 hectares of Australia’s plantation estate was converted to another land use.
In 2015‒16 the total area of softwood plantations was 1,036,800 hectares, an increase of around 1,400 hectares from 2014‒15. Total hardwood plantation area remained relatively unchanged at around 928,300 hectares, a decrease of 66 hectares from 2014–15. Softwood plantations account for almost 53% of total commercial plantation area; hardwood plantations make up the remaining 47%.
In 2015‒16 Victoria had the largest commercial plantation estate (423,000 hectares), followed by New South Wales (394,400 hectares) and Western Australia (383,400 hectares). Western Australia accounted for the largest proportion of hardwood plantations (30%) and New South Wales had the largest share of softwood plantations (30%).
Government-owned plantations accounted for 98% of the new plantation establishment; the remaining 2% was funded by institutional investors. Private plantation ownership remained unchanged at 1,505,200 hectares in 2015‒16, representing 76.2% of the total plantation estate. Public plantation ownership accounted for 20.2% and jointly owned (public and private) plantations represented the remaining 3.6% of the estate (Downham & Gavran 2017).
Mr Hampton said the AFPA would continue to work closely with the Federal Government on new policy initiatives to support Australia’s renewable forestry industry, such as the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation and the development of a National Wood and Fibre Plan, and through ongoing efforts to have the forestry sector included in the Emissions Reduction Fund and the inclusion of bioenergy in renewable energy policy development.
He also welcomed Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston’s supportive statement (following the ABARES release) that the Government was committed to the forestry sector and recognised industry’s significant contribution to the environment, regional jobs, communities and economies.
Demand for wood-fibre in the Asia-Pacific region continues to expand, creating huge potential for our sustainable forest industries.