Committee recommends plantation expansion

Friday 23 Sep 2022

An Upper House committee recommended that the NSW government immediately act on expanding both hardwood and softwood timber plantations across the state. The Long Term Sustainability and Future of the Timber and Forest Products Industry inquiry also recommended the state government publicly release and respond to the findings of a leaked Natural Resources Commission's report that demanded a halt to native forestry by the end of 2022.

Other recommendations include providing long-term support to forestry workers during the transition away from native forestry. The inquiry held sessions at Moruya, Coffs Harbour, and Tumut, and received 234 submissions from a wide range of industry experts, academics, and community members.

In its findings, the inquiry committee found the demand for timber and forest products could not "be met with existing supply". Builders have been crying out about supply shortages for more than a year and now a NSW parliamentary committee has spelled it out in black and white. "The demand for timber and forest products is growing and cannot be met with existing supply," committee chair Mark Banasiak said in the committee's report.

The committee heard mixed opinions during public hearings, but Mr Banasiak said it was clear the state was heading towards a timber supply crisis. The Black Summer bushfires wiped out native hardwood plantations and the pandemic also impacted supply, but he said these were not the main contributors to the crisis.

"The timber and forest product industry has suffered from a lack of longer-term vision over successive governments to address supply issues, industry needs and community expectations. The impact of this cannot be overstated."

Mr Banasiak said urgent action was desperately needed and encouraged the government to read the report's 24 recommendations. The report found the demand for forestry products was growing and could not be met with existing supply. It also found there had been no increase in additional plantations over the past decade.

The Nature Conservation Council supported a recommendation to expand timber plantations as long as they did not encroach on native forests or productive farms. Chief executive Jacqui Mumford said transitioning from native forestry to plantation logging would be a win for nature and industry.

Australian Forest Products Association NSW chief executive Victor Violante said the state couldn't afford to lose any more hardwood timber. "It would result in significant cost and supply chain impacts for the housing construction sector and a range of other industries that rely on hardwood timber products," he said. Imported products would also be sourced from places where environmental standards were lower and deforestation and illegal logging posed greater threats, he added.

The government has three months to respond to the report.

For further coverage of The Long-Term Sustainability and Future of the Timber and Forest Products Industry inquiry, click here

Source: AAP, ABC

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