A seedling with op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow

Australian Forests and Timber - - In the News - By Se­na­tor Anne Rus­ton As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Water Re­sources

IWAS re­cently in­vited to plant a seedling to cel­e­brate Na­tional Forestry Plant­ing Day. Na­tional Forestry Plant­ing Day, which has been ini­ti­ated by the Aus­tralian For­est Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion (AFPA), recog­nises the sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of seedlings that are planted each year in our for­est plan­ta­tions to sup­port Aus­tralia’s for­est and wood prod­ucts in­dus­tries into the fu­ture. AFPA es­ti­mates that around 70 mil­lion seedlings will be planted in Aus­tralia this plant­ing sea­son to grow into to­mor­row’s log re­source.

Along­side the plant­ing of 70 mil­lion seedlings, the Aus­tralian Bureau of Agri­cul­tural and Re­source Eco­nom­ics and Sciences (ABARES) re­cently re­ported that in 2015–16 Aus­tralia’s log har­vest ex­ceeded 30 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres for the first time.

With the plant­ing of the seedlings, to en­sure logs for the fu­ture, and Aus­tralia’s record log har­vest - this got me think­ing about what we do with our logs and the prod­ucts we pro­duce.

The For­est In­dus­try Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil (FIAC) recog­nised that there is a need to “Dis­cover new and en­hanced ways to use wood fi­bre” and that the emerg­ing bio-econ­omy of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties to use all parts of the tree to cre­ate new prod­ucts.

Trans­form­ing Aus­tralia’s for­est and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try from one that pro­duces tra­di­tional wood and tim­ber prod­ucts to one that, as well as pro­duc­ing tra­di­tional prod­ucts, pro­duces a va­ri­ety of in­no­va­tive and new prod­ucts will re­quire re­search and col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween re­searchers and in­dus­try.

Sig­nif­i­cant re­search work

There is al­ready sig­nif­i­cant re­search and in­no­va­tion hap­pen­ing in Aus­tralia, but we need to work to bring these ideas to­gether in or­der to col­lec­tively ben­e­fit. Build­ing and main­tain­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween the in­dus­try and re­searchers al­lows for prac­ti­cal in­no­va­tion and is key to pre­serv­ing and grow­ing Aus­tralia’s for­est and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try.

Along­side the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s in­vest­ments in re­search by CSIRO and the ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, we are proud to di­rectly sup­port for­est and wood prod­ucts re­search and de­vel­op­ment through For­est and Wood Prod­ucts Aus­tralia (FWPA). The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment matches el­i­gi­ble re­search and de­vel­op­ment ex­pen­di­ture made by FWPA in sup­port of the sec­tor.

Shortly af­ter com­menc­ing with this port­fo­lio, I was pleased to an­nounce we would also match pay­ments for el­i­gi­ble re­search and de­vel­op­ment ex­pen­di­tures from vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions to FWPA. The Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing avail­able $1.382 mil­lion in 2017-18 and $1.659 mil­lion on­go­ing from 2018-19 to match in­dus­tries vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions.

In­no­va­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Last year I an­nounced that the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment is con­tribut­ing $4 mil­lion to sup­port the es­tab­lish­ment of a Na­tional In­sti­tute for For­est Prod­ucts In­no­va­tion to in­ves­ti­gate in­no­va­tion in ar­eas such as for­est man­age­ment, tim­ber pro­cess­ing, wood fi­bre re­cov­ery, ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and the bioe­con­omy. The in­sti­tute con­sists of re­gional hubs in Launceston, Tas­ma­nia and Mount Gam­bier, South Aus­tralia with each re­ceiv­ing $2 mil­lion each to fund in­no­va­tive re­search. More­over, in a show of na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in sup­port of the for­est and wood prod­ucts in­dus­try, each re­gional hub will also ben­e­fit from a $2 mil­lion match­ing com­mit­ment of funds from the Tas­ma­nian and South Aus­tralian govern­ments.

The scope of the Na­tional In­sti­tute’s ac­tiv­i­ties will cover the whole for­est in­dus­try, look­ing be­yond the ‘tra­di­tional’ for­est in­dus­try, and de­velop links with the dis­ci­plines that use or can po­ten­tially use for­est prod­ucts, in­creas­ing the de­mand for such prod­ucts. It will have a strong fo­cus on in­dus­try li­ai­son and re­search com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion.

Pos­i­tive fu­ture

Once op­er­a­tions be­gin, later this year, the in­sti­tute will fund in­no­va­tion re­search and ex­plore emerg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. I ex­pect these will be in wood pro­cess­ing, wood fi­bre re­cov­ery, bio-en­ergy and a range of bio-prod­ucts, par­tic­u­larly those that of­fer a re­new­able sub­sti­tute to more emis­sions-in­ten­sive ma­te­ri­als. I say ex­pect, be­cause I in­tend that the lead role in de­cid­ing re­search pri­or­i­ties will be vested in in­dus­try, not gov­ern­ment.

As FIAC iden­ti­fied, “the re­search and de­vel­op­ment needs of Aus­tralia’s forestry in­dus­try are di­verse and com­plex”.

In re­cent years we have seen the evo­lu­tion of mul­ti­storey tim­ber build­ings and the use of forestry waste to pro­duce new and in­no­va­tive chem­i­cal com­pounds. The re­search that is un­der­taken to­day will sup­port the seedlings that are go­ing into the ground this sea­son become prod­ucts that we pos­si­ble can’t even en­vis­age to­day. It’s a pos­i­tive fu­ture.

More de­tails on the re­search un­der­taken by FWPA is avail­able on their web­site at http://www.fwpa.com.au/.

Emerg­ing bio-econ­omy of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties to use all parts of the tree to cre­ate new prod­ucts

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