17 November, 2010

New study shows a way out of native forests for Victorian timber industry

Media Release - The Wilderness Society and Australian Conservation Foundation
Wednesday, 17 November 2010                    
An independent report commissioned by The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation outlines how the Victorian forestry and wood products sector can achieve real resource security by making a smooth and rapid transition from native forests into plantations, paving the way for an end to Victoria’s long running forest disputes.

The report by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR), ‘Opportunities, issues and implications for a transition of the Victorian wood products industry from native forest into plantations’ outlines a path for the native forest industry to shift into Victoria’s now huge plantation resource, Australia’s largest, starting immediately.

“So far this election, the Coalition has committed to intensify native forest logging, and the ALP has said they’ll convene talks between the industry & conservationists. Neither party has promised to properly protect our precious native forests, but this report shows it is possible and can be done very quickly,” said The Wilderness Society’s Victorian Forest Campaigner Luke Chamberlain.

“Victoria’s extensive plantations, mainly in Western Victoria, can provide an additional 3.5 million cubic metres of eucalypt hardwood a year – almost three times the volume of low-value logs currently harvested from public native forests.”

According to the study, the vast majority of the wood currently extracted from native forests (mostly woodchips and low value products) can be replaced with plantation timber now, while higher grade wood for joinery and flooring can be sourced from native forests until suitable wood is available in plantations.

“The coming on stream of Victoria’s plantation resource fundamentally shifts the forest debate. It is no longer a case of jobs versus the environment,” said Lindsay Hesketh, Forest Campaign Coordinator for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“We can protect our native forests and have a vibrant plantation based wood products industry with more jobs, and well positioned to take advantage of growth export markets into Asia.”

“It leaves open the opportunity to leave native forests to do what they do best – store carbon, supply water and protect biodiversity, while using existing plantations for what they do best – wood production.” he concluded.

The report finds:

  • just as the housing and construction industry has made a transition to plantation based softwood products, it is now possible for the woodchip, pulp and paper sectors to move to a plantation-based resource 
  • the newly restructured wood industry would have security of supply and be based on leading-edge technology
  • Victoria could become a world leader in forest-based carbon stores, helping the state address climate change 
  • if Victoria’s native forest estate competed with the hardwood plantation sector in a commercially neutral manner, it would generate a return to taxpayers of between $200 and $300 million per year
  • the transition to plantation-based forestry will create real financial incentives to invest in the State’s plantation estate and improved processing technology without the need for ongoing State and Federal Government subsidies.

For further comment contact:

Luke Chamberlain, The Wilderness Society                          0424 098 729
Lindsay Hesketh, Australian Conservation Foundation         0418 655 551

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