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Forestry has the subject of a long-running campaign by some members of our Mid-North Coast community.

As the Member for Oxley, with its very significant forest estate and timber industry, I have invested substantial time into researching the industry, meeting its stakeholders and understanding how it operates so I can be fully informed. From this I have gathered many facts about forestry as it is in 2018:

From this I have gathered many facts about forestry as it is in 2018:

  • There are 3,088,050 million hectares of publicly-owned forest estate on the NSW North Coast –  between Gosford and the Tweed River
  • Of this 3,088,050 million hectares under National Park, State Forest and other Crown Land tenure:
    • 2,721,632 hectares (or 88%) is reserved from harvesting
    • 366,418 hectares (or 12%) is available for harvesting

Data Source:  Forestry Corporation of NSW annual sustainability reporting and DPI website: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forestry/private-native-forestry

This data can be seen as a map at: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forestry/private-native-forestry

  • in the 25-30 year forestry grow-harvest-grow cycle, only between 1 and 2% of the overall area of State Forest sees harvest activities in any year
  • Timber is a core renewable resource for the construction industry and employment  in NSW:
    • there are 775 timber mill employees between Newcastle and the Tweed River. It follows that there are thousands of people who’re involved in all the associated sectors of fuel, machinery and equipment supply and servicing, professional services and the all Government’s regulatory functions
    • statewide, timber and the forest products industry contribute $2.4bn to the NSW economy each year and employing more than 22,000 people across the State
  • While the annual running costs of National Parks & Reserves is currently some $54/ha, NSW State forests are maintained at a net operating cost of $4/ha
  • For every tree harvested, more than one tree is replanted or regrown

It is also important to recognise that people admire the durability and beauty of native hardwood floors, furniture and features in their homes and workplaces, and there will be an ever-increasing demand for timber and timber products.

It should also be noted that Australia already runs a $2bn annual timber trade deficit by importing large quantities of tropical timbers from SE Asia to make up shortfalls in locally grown and sawn hardwoods

From numerous meetings, it is very clear to me that our foresters are scientifically-trained professionals who work with passion to manage our multi-purpose forests and to cyclically grow and harvest trees. This, in turn, supports thousands of people who are directly and indirectly employed, and to provide a consumer resource that anyone, from architects to builders to engineers to electricity suppliers to miners to pallet-makers to printers, and so-on, can, and do, use every day.

Forests of all types need to be carefully managed to protect against fire, pests, weeds and other threats. Our foresters use their silvicultural practices to help mitigate these threats, especially bushfire; forestry can mimic the outcomes of the ‘fire-stick farming’ practises of regular, purposely-lit, low-intensity fires that this continent evolved under for 30-40,000 years – which delivered the biodiversity that we now aspire to. It is essential not to lose this management experience and capacity.

Further, just changing tenure of an area of land – say from State Forest to National Park – is just a gesture; it does not in itself ‘save’ or ‘protect’ things, it does not automatically confer better conservation, and excluding we humans from the bush makes no sense.

There are many scientists, academics, authors, farmers and experienced landholders who argue to me that the ‘lock it up and leave alone’ approach puts our forest ecosystems at far greater risk (from mega-fires, disease, pests and weeds) than if they are actively managed.

So, I believe the focus should be on the actual performance of the reserve estate in achieving real outcomes, not just enlarging them at election time – which is the policy of the ALP and The Greens.

Clearly, our coastal hardwood forests, and plantations, deserve more than being un-managed exhibits on one side of a line and sustainable timber producing systems on the other. The graph below shows what has happened under the ‘tenure change’ approach.

Currently, ALP and Greens policy supports a campaign to change tenure on another 175,000 hectares of State Forest to form a 315,000 ha ‘Koala Park’ between Grafton and Kempsey.

The key threats to Koala’s are wildfire, cars, dogs, disease and habitat loss. Let us not overlook that Koala’s are living in and around heavily populated Port Macquarie which shows they don’t need a tenure system. Recent work by NSW DPI researcher, Dr Brad Law, using new technology to record koala presence in the forest estate found “… evidence for up to 10 times the rate of koala occupancy in NSW’s north east forests than previously estimated” and “…past timber harvesting did not influence koala occupancy; there was no difference between National Park and State Forest sites”.

The NSW Government has recently moved to modernise the regulations governing forestry in our State Forests, known as the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA). These will not remove protections for threatened species, open-up old-growth forests for logging, nor allow clear-felling in native forests. Rather, the draft Coastal IFOA has been developed to improve clarity and enforceability conditions for protecting the environment and deliver a contemporary framework that is fit for purpose. The draft Coastal IFOA also includes the establishment of additional, not reduced, habitat retention requirements and protections for threatened ecological communities.

To provide for the future, the NSW Government has developed a vision and plan to ensure the forestry industry is economically viable and ecologically sustainable the NSW Forest Industry Roadmap,  which is a plan to build a stronger, more competitive and ecologically sustainable forestry industry.

It outlines a triple bottom line approach to achieving social, ecological and economic sustainability through four priority pillars:

  1. Regulatory modernisation and environmental sustainability
  2. Balancing supply and demand
  3. Community understanding and confidence
  4. Industry innovation and new markets

Under each of these four pillars, there are clear actions the NSW Government will implement. The Roadmap is the most positive whole-of-government plan the state’s $2.4 billion forestry and wood-manufacturing industry has seen in decades. More information on the Roadmap can be seen at: NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap (PDF, 3620.87 KB)

I hope you find this information of interest.

Please contact my office if you would like more information or to discuss this further.

Graph data is sourced from Forestry Corporation of NSW and NSW Office of Environment & Heritage Annual Reports, and from the NSW State of the Environment Report.

Authorised by M Pavey, 37 Elbow Street, West Kempsey NSW 2440. Funded using Parliamentary entitlements. 

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