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Forestry sector providing solutions

Recently PF Olsen Australia has had the opportunity to discuss with federal politicians and national forestry representative bodies about some of the key emerging issues that we see as requiring attention.

What has become clearer than ever is that there is a need to refocus priorities with respect to the policy environment for forestry in Australia. What is most encouraging is that the industry is probably better placed currently than it has been for some time in terms of being able to offer positive solutions which underpin the commercial viability of the sector into the future. In particular, a greater degree of clarity around the respective roles of the various industry representative bodies seems likely to bring an improved level of collaboration and momentum to address some of the important issues that need to be dealt with.

The areas that we have focused on in these discussions include:

  1. Research and development
    Ross Hampton, the new CEO at the Australian Forest Products Association is on the record as wanting to redefine the image of the Australian forestry and forest products sectors as a "sunrise" industry, rather than the "sunset" industry perception that pervades the current political view. While the change in words seems simple, the amount of effort that must be put into succeeding with a change like this is significant. It must start with continuing to focus on industry research and development. With AFPA and Forest and Wood Products Australia focusing on this as a positive industry opportunity, the scope for generating positive policy support is substantial – at the end of the day we know that legislators prefer solutions to problems, and our sector is well placed to reframe political perceptions by offering positive policy solutions that governments can hang their hats on.

  2. Harmonised safety laws
    Various state governments have resisted the move to harmonised safety laws in Australia. However, this is potentially a significant gain to the forestry and forest products sector. A clear example of where we might see some short term gains is the Green Triangle region which is currently experiencing a substantial ramp up of harvest and haul activity from both hardwood and softwood plantations in Victoria and South Australia. Challenges with finding suitable contractors and managing the rapid escalation of truck movements means that we are likely to see contractors coming in from other states, and in the case of log freight, hauliers from other sectors. A harmonised safety management framework will make this much easier to manage.

  3. The role of forestry in regional landscapes and economies
    One of the major negative outcomes of the collapse of the MIS system has been the perceived lack of attention that much of the hardwood plantation estate has received over several years. This has exacerbated negative community views about forestry in some parts of the country, particularly where neighbours have struggled to identify who they can talk to in order to address basic stewardship issues like fencing, feral animal and noxious weed control. Lack of clarity about what the long term plantation estate might look like in terms of area and location is also an issue driving negative sentiment. The forestry sector has a job at hand to address this negative sentiment, starting with an active good neighbour approach and moving to clear demonstration of the positive economic role of forestry in regional landscapes.