The View - August 2016
Investing in the Future of Regional Victoria
Over $5 million dollars is being invested into the Victorian timber industry by local businesses which will boost regional economic growth and provide job security in rural areas.
The majority of the investment has come from three VicForests’ regional customers, however, there has also been significant support via a range of Local, State and Federal Government grants aimed at supporting regional communities.
Robert Green, VicForests’ Chief Executive Officer said that these investments will help provide economic stability in regional areas that rely heavily on the timber industry.
“The majority of the residents in many rural communities where timber mills operate are in some way connected to the local timber industry.
“By investing in the future of the company, our customers are also investing in the future of their town and all its residents,” Mr Green said.
Mr Green said that the continued growth in demand for timber in Victoria has resulted in an increase of timber imports from other countries that may not meet the same strict sustainability requirement as VicForests.
“With the demand for locally sourced, sustainable timber on the rise it is vital that we continue to invest in the timber industry.
“Australia currently imports more than $5 billion in wood and wood products every year. Investing in new equipment improves efficiency and better utilises the timber resources we have available.
“VicForests’ operations are certified to the Australian Forestry Standard demonstrating the sustainability of our forestry practices. We harvest, regrow and sell high grade timber to be used in products such as quality hardwood furniture and flooring,” Mr Green said.
Radial Timber Australia is investing $4 million into building a new radial sawmill and dry mill upgrade in Yarram. The Yarram site is the only commercial radial sawmill in the world and operates by cutting logs into wedges in order to utilise more of the timber. Ryan and McNulty in Benalla and Talbot Timbers in Talbot, near Maryborough, are also investing in upgrades in technology and increasing their capacity to improve productivity and energy efficiency.
Tim Johnston, CEO of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries, said it is great to see continued investment by business in the industry.
“The work these companies are undertaking now is vital in ensuring we continue to use this natural renewable resource to its full potential for the benefit of Victoria.”
Talbot’s new operations will save at least 50 per cent in diesel usage and double productivity.
“More and more sawmills and timber production companies are looking to greener and more environmentally friendly ways of operating,” Mr Green said "
The more environmentally conscious we are now, the more our industry can continue to be sustainable well into the future.
“Forestry in Victoria is all about sustainability. Our timber resource is renewable. By being good stewards of it we can look after the environment and continue to produce the high quality timber that consumers are looking for,” he said.
VicForests opinion piece submitted to The Age
Sustainable native forestry is the economically viable option in Victoria
People connect to trees and forests on an emotional level. Beyond the fundamental role they play in providing the air we breathe, forests are often viewed as the gateway to nature and we feel the need to protect them from threats both man-made and natural.
This emotional connection can led to misconceptions about our native timber industry and the important roles forests also play in meeting our demand for wood products.
Wood and wood products are very much connected to our everyday lives. They are a part of the homes we live in, the floors we walk on, the newspapers we read and many more products that we ultimately couldn’t live without.
A recent report by PwC questioned the value of the native timber industry in providing these products to Victorians.
The headlining claim of this report is that each native forestry job costs $5m. It is difficult to take this claim seriously when the authors of the report at no point made an attempt to contact anyone from the native timber industry in either the formulation or the conclusion of this report.
Even more surprising is the fact that the report looks at our industry through a key hole and only considers the jobs associated with ‘the cultivation of trees and forestry support services’. As a result, the regionally-based mills who process this timber are ignored despite being responsible for the majority of the employment and economic benefits provided by our industry.
Without these mills, and without the significant demand for our local timber, there would be no need to cultivate trees or engage forestry support services.
Another recently released study by Deloitte Access Economics looked at the primary processing of native timber as well as the forest-based activities and found that $573m of economic activity was generated in 2013/14 from VicForests timber harvesting operations in just one region of the State.
It can be easy to also forget how vital this industry is to the people living in small Victorian communities.
Further, according to Deloitte, this activity resulted in 2117 direct equivalent full time jobs from less than 0.3% of the public land in the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement area. We don’t generate this income, and provide this social benefit, indiscriminately. In any year, we harvest and regrow less than 0.1% (one thousandth) of Victoria’s forests.
We carry a serious responsibility to ensure the social sustainability of thousands of regional Victorians and their families who are directly employed by the industry. These regional families are the ones we read about in the city whose young people have less opportunities, and whose older people have fewer chances to reskill and transform.
It continues to be suggested that we can meet the demand for high quality local timber by moving to an entirely plantation based model. Expert studies looking at the reality of this ‘transition’ model have shown it is not straight forward and presents different challenges.
High quality sawlogs are grown over 60 to 80 years. Native timber could be cultivated over a shorter period of time but it would not be of as high quality and it would still take at least 40 years as there is no current established market.
A ‘rapid transition’ into plantations, meaning establishing hardwood plantations of timber that is not native to Australia, would still take 25 years before achieving any results.
More plantations also mean acquiring more land, which comes at a great cost to the agriculture and farming industries.
The only other immediate alternative is to replace our local hardwoods with imported wood from South-East Asia, where sustainable harvesting may be in a completely different league.
Our focus remains on the long term economic returns to Victoria that include maintaining thousands of regional jobs and the associated businesses that generate hundreds of millions of revenue dollars annually. We agree it would be great to further improve the industry’s profitability, but not at the expense of the future sustainability of our forests.
But profitability aside, we need timber as a fundamental part of a long-term renewable economy.
We believe it is far better to source timber from our sustainably managed local forests than to push the pressure to meet our demand for wood onto developing nations.
Leadbeater's Possum detected in 2005 regrowth
A Leadbeater’s Possum has been detected in an area of Powelltown State forest that was harvested only 11 years ago.
If verified, this detection will contribute to the 276 new Leadbeater’s Possum colonies that have been verified in Victoria’s forests since February 2015, 222 of which are located in State forest.
The area in which the recent detection was made was previously cleared for a Forestry Commission airstrip and replanted in the 1970’s before being harvested again in 2005.
This gives an interesting example of how the Possum can move through different forest age classes, however, they still require nesting habitat such as tree hollows.
This detection, which was made by a third party, was found outside the VicForests planned harvesting area in adjacent post-timber harvesting regrowth forest.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will verify this detection and if confirmed, a 12 hectare protection buffer will be implemented around the detection where no timber harvesting will occur.
In the map you can see that there is also another Leadbeater’s Possum detection in this area. Which will also be protected by a 12 hectare buffer if verified.
Filming with ASH for promotional film
VicForests and Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) headed out to a two year old regrowth timber harvesting area to film an educational video about sustainability in the native timber industry.
VicForests actively regrows all areas it harvests. We survey regrowth areas at around two years to ensure they are appropriately growing back to their natural state.
The successfully regrown areas are handed back to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to manage until it is at a stage where it can be once again harvested for timber.
Around 200,000 seeds are sown per hectare of which only 10,000 seedlings might germinate and only 300 trees will survive in the natural growing process.
VicForests currently stores around 20 tonnes of seeds which is equal to around 6.2 million dollars in value. Just one kilogram of seeds contains 250,000 potential trees.
2016 Fire Awareness Awards
The 2016 Fire Awareness Awards are now open to anyone who has implemented a project or program over the last two years that helps reduce the effect of fire in Victoria.
Projects can focus on any fire type, including structure (housing, commercial, industrial) fires, bushfires or grass fires.
Community categories: Access and Inclusion, Community-led Prevention, Community-led Preparedness, Education, Innovation and Design, and Recovery.
Long-standing supporter of the awards, RACV Insurance provides a $10,000 Award for Excellence to the most outstanding project.
Entries close 15 September 2016
VicForests information session at Camp Toolangi
VicForests Tactical Planners Andrea Wandek, James Gunn and Nick Broomhall visited Camp Toolangi on Wednesday August 3 to provide the students at St Lukes Primary school with information about Victoria’s native timber industry.
The VicForests Planners took the students out to the forest to show them the process of harvesting and regrowing. The students took a lot away from the information session and asked lots of questions.
As a member of many local and rural communities, VicForests actively engages with its community members by supporting local events and educating school students, university students and businesses about the native timber industry in Victoria.
The education VicForests offers can be in the form of open day events, a stand at a local event, a speaker at a local school or field trips for interested stakeholders to areas that VicForests operates in.
If you are part of a school or business that is interested in learning more about VicForests and the native timber industry in Victoria by taking part in a field trip or speaking to someone then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.