Forestry adds AU$731 million to the Queensland economy

The forest industry contributed AU$685 million to the Queensland (QLD) economy in direct sales alone last financial year, increasing to a total of AU$1.624 billion once flow-on effects in other industries are included. This led to a total contribution to gross regional product (the regional equivalent of GDP) of AU$731 million.

That was among the key findings of a new industry snapshot funded by Forest & Wood Products Australia and conducted by the University of Canberra in conjunction with consultancy EconSearch, a division of BDO. In terms of jobs, the QLD forestry industry generated over 8,400 direct jobs including almost 3,300 in forest growing and initial processing, and over 5,100 in secondary processing.

The plantations of southern pine generate the largest number of jobs (1,666 in growing and initial processing), followed by timber harvested from native eucalypt forests (691 jobs), Araucaria plantations (608 jobs) and native cypress forests (207 jobs) – showing the QLD forest industry draws on timber from a range of sources. All these areas also generate further jobs in ‘secondary processing’ of initial timber products into further products, with imported timbers also used in the secondary processing sector.

The industry is an important contributor to the economy in several regional communities and contributes to diversification of the economy in many regions. While most jobs - 5,167 - are in the South East region that includes Brisbane, 1,837 were generated in the Wide Bay Burnett region, 919 in the Southern region, 393 in the Central region, and 577 in the North region.

The Local Government Area with the highest dependence on the forest industry for employment was Gympie, with 4.6% of jobs directly dependent on forestry. While ABS Census data shows a 40.7% decline in total employment in the forest industry between 2006 and 2016, reflecting both increasing productivity in some parts of the industry and overall decline in size of other parts, this overall trend masks some differing trends within different industry sectors.

For example, between 2011- 2016, there was growth of 9.5% in employment in jobs involving establishing, managing and harvesting forests and plantations. QLD forest industry workers are slightly less likely than those in other industries to earn lower incomes (less than $600 per week), largely due to the higher rates of full-time work, but also less likely to earn high incomes (above $1,250 per week). In addition, 3% of the industry’s workforce identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, slightly higher than the 2% amongst QLD workers more generally.

Over 70 per cent of forest industry businesses reported difficulty recruiting heavy machinery operators, people with skills in occupational health and safety training and those able to operate hand-held machinery such as chainsaws.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer said that businesses remain hopeful: “A little less than half surveyed (45%) felt demand would remain the same, and the remaining businesses (55%) felt that demand would grow over the next 12 months. That said, obtaining labour, the increasing cost of labour, government regulations and rising input costs are still big challenges for many businesses”.

“It is important to remember that the majority of forestry jobs are generated by the processing sector, as is the majority of the industry’s flow-on economic impact. This highlights the importance of local processing of wood and fibre for generation of jobs.”

Dr Schirmer would like to thank the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for their support in the project. To read the report Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry – Queensland in full, click here

Source: FWPA

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