One of the major issues in the coming elections is climate change and the way our politicians manage our natural resources is at the crux of that. In particular mining and forestry are under the microscope for those who invest in resource extraction, and those who wish to see our coal, our gas and our trees left in place.
This week the announcement that the North East of NSW will be one of nine initial Regional Forestry Hubs which will boost the industry and create more local jobs, was met with a mixed reaction.
The Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the government is sowing the seeds for the first of our Regional Forestry Hubs under the $20 million National Forest Industries Plan.
‘We want the forestry industry in the North East of NSW to be even stronger, and this announcement will ensure a brighter and more secure future,’ he said.
‘This plan will protect and grow the forestry industry in the North East of NSW, create more jobs, and open up opportunities to build new and improved roads and other transport facilities.’
52,000 Australians are directly employed in forestry products
Hogan says around 52,000 Australians are directly employed in growing and processing our forestry products. Tens of thousands more jobs are indirectly supported by a sector that contributes more than $23 billion to the national economy.
‘The North Coast Hub has been welcomed by the forest and wood products industry as an opportunity to help better prepare for future challenges and opportunities.
‘The assessments that come from the North East Hub will provide industry with data that is not currently available, bringing potential to support new investment in the sector.
‘This will assist our region to identify future investment and other opportunities for the forest industries in rural and regional Australia.
‘The end result will be more jobs, better returns to business, more investment, and greater economic security in our community.’
An ambitious plan which aims to deliver a billion new trees
The Government has committed $12.5 million to the Regional Forestry Hubs as well as research and development elements of the National Forest Industries Plan to further grow Australia’s forest industries and set the industry up for the future.
Mr Hogan said the Plan ambitiously aims to deliver a billion new trees to meet a projected quadrupling of global demand for timber products by 2050.
‘This is all about delivering the right trees in the right places at the right scale,’ he said.
‘A billion trees will also allow the Government to capture 18 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year by 2030.
‘Funding will be available to support strategic planning, technical assessments and analyses that will contribute to infrastructure and other decisions by investors.
‘The hubs have been identified in regions with existing concentrations of forests available for harvest, processing plants, transport routes and a skilled forestry workforce and the work now begins to determine the size and make-up of each hub.”
Massive forest rehabilitation needed
Speaking on behalf of the North East Forest Alliance, conservationist Dailan Pugh has another view of the ‘benefits’ of the hub.
‘In this region our native forests are dying as logging spreads lantana and “Bell Miner Associated Dieback” through them.
‘What is needed is a massive forest rehabilitation effort to get rid of the lantana and restore their health. Such an effort would offer major employment opportunities and has to be the highest priority.
‘NEFA supports an expansion of plantations for sawlogs on cleared land, though previous attempts have been fraught with a multitude of failures and problems.
‘The Forestry Corporation has abandoned many of their joint venture plantations and many of the private plantations established with tax concessions are now being cleared and converted to pasture.
‘There needs to be an open inquiry into the successes and failures of previous Government subsidised plantations before we start throwing good money after bad.
‘Most importantly the focus has to be on providing sawlogs, not more pulpwood for export’, Mr Pugh said.
More information on the National Forest Industries Plan is available here: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/forestry/national-forest-industries-plan.pdf