Desperate need for more forest planting now
More trees in the ground generates more investment, and more confidence and can ultimately play a huge role in helping Australia overcome its acute housing shortage.
That was one of the main take-away points from the FWPA/DANA/ ATIF convened Insights and Outlook Conference in Melbourne recently.
Really, it was a day of positives and negatives .... Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, was exceptionally positive about the industry and its future.
“The Australian Government thinks that your future is very bright, and we look forward to helping you achieve it,” she told the almost 100 delegates to the conference.
However, she was quick to add ... “remember, you’re the leaders of this sector and its people will be looking to you to help set the shape and direction of that future. The Australian Government is a stakeholder in your sector, but it is not a leader of it.
“We have a role to play of course, but it’s not a leadership role. That’s your role.
“It’s up to you to determine and drive the Government’s role in your industry, not the other way around,” the Senator said of an industry that supports more than 64,000 Australian jobs and which contributes more than $23 billion to the Australian economy.
On the less positive side was the fear that not enough has been done to bolster timber supplies within Australia. Most were of the opinion that it was now a case of more of the right species of trees in the right places ... and now!
As John Halkett (Forestland Consulting), one of the co-convenors of the event, said -“Alarmingly, it’s the continuing story of the real shortage of log supply in Australia and there’s no doubt that unless we do something about putting trees in the ground we’re going to see a continuation of timber product imports.
“The message here today was that, overall, we want to do something about that.
“More trees in the ground generates more investment, more confidence and it helps Australia to achieve some of its housing goals,” said Mr Halkett.
The Australian Forest Products Association has long been a driver of the more of the right trees in the right places policy and unveiled a plantation/hub system some years ago.
“We’ve heard today that while we’re building about 200,000 houses a year we still have a shortfall of something in the vicinity of 200,000 to 300,000 houses that we need to catch up on.
“Unless we can start to produce some more timber products in Australia then the only way we can build those houses is to import the timber.
“And some of that timber is coming from areas where quite clearly the standards of forest management practice and compliance are less than they are in Australia,” he said, referring to a Ministerial release on illegal logging (see separate article).
On the housing front, Mr Halkett said there was a “spate of innovation in the housing design/construction area, which is important in Australia.”
Robert Pradolin (a former general manager of Fraser’s Property Australia) also addressed the delegates on housing but he took aim at the crucial shortage of social housing. He suggested a possible plan to help ease the social housing shortage would be from investments from superannuation funds. Currently there is no incentive for the funds to invest in this sector in Australia. Legislative changes would be required before this could eventuate.
“We need a paradigm shift in thinking,” he said, “we need to create an economic business case.” He said that in the US they call it multifamily housing and within its residency mix is social and affordable housing. That rental sector does not exist in Australia.
“We need to create an investment environment where big institutional players, such as superfunds, invest their equity in creating tens of thousands of additional homes for rental,” he told the conference.
More trees in the ground generates more investment, more confidence and helps Australia to achieve some of its housing goals.
(l-r) Warren McGregor (CEO prefabAus), Art Schmon (Partner, Forest Economic Advisors, Canada), Ian Tyson (CEO Timberlink Australia and New Zealand), Duncan Mayes (Vice President Group R&D & Innovation, Stora Enso, Finland), John Halkett (Managing Director, Forestlands).
■ Dennis Neilson (Director, DANA) and conference convenor.
■ Art Schmon (Partner, Forest Economic Advisors, Vancouver, Canada), Dennis Neilson (Director, DANA) and conference convenor, and James Malone (Wesbeam).
■ Jodie Mason (FWPA, Forest Research Manager), Brad Barr (Wespine Industries) and Andrew Morton (Indufor).
■ John Simon (FWPA Chairman).
■ Shane Orchard (OneFortyOne Plantations) and David Bylund (WoodSolutions).
■ Duncan Mayes (Stora Enso) and Paolo Lavisci (WoodSolutions).
■ Angelo Hrastov (Lonza) and Paul O'Keeffe (Timberlink).
■ Kenny Kinoshita (Mitsui Bussan Woodchip Oceania).
■ Yoshi Shimoda (WAPRES) and Gavin Hao (RISI).