I would love to know how many hundreds of forest industry reports, strategies and reviews have been written in Australia over the last 50 years; how many thousands of dust-covered pages now lie forgotten on library shelves?
So here we have yet another new report to join the list:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4187545/Transforming%20Australia’s%20forest%20products%20industry%20-%20Recommendations%20from%20the%20Forest%20Industry%20Advisory%20Council%20May%202016%20(2).pdf (10.7 MB pdf file)
And straight away from the title of the report it is clear where the focus of the report lies, and why we have another industry report already consigned to the dusty library shelves.
The focus is the forest industry, the wood processors. Once again wood growers are the minor party in the scheme of things.
The maxim that the only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing is completely absent in this report. In fact the word “profit” is completely absent from the report.
This report originated in the Tony Abbott government era when Richard Colbeck, minister responsible for forestry, established the Forest Industry Advisory Council. The FIAC was tasked with developing yet another vision for the future of the industry.
It’s a political document. It’s not a business plan. It’s not a report designed to engage the rural community, nor the broader Australian community.
So why am I bothering to review this new report?
Well at least the report does mention farm forestry, if not in a very encouraging manner.
Farm Forestry features on page 8 of the report under the heading:
Strategy: Expand the productive forest estate in strategic regions – Farm forestry
This is one of 8 strategies in the report, and here are a few of the more positive quotes from the section:
Farm forestry can provide an opportunity to contribute to the industry’s resource needs through increasing the volume of wood.
Landholders can derive financial returns from farm forestry through improved land values and on-farm benefits. Benefits include: shade and shelter for stock or crops; soil and water protection; erosion control; reversed salinity; and increased biodiversity, landscape and amenity values.
No mention at all of profits or good financial returns from tree growing, just secondary benefits from trees on farms. Are farmers expected to sell their trees at a loss to subsidise the forest industry?
That kind of talk will definitely ignite the interest of rural community!!
The report then talks about barriers to farm forestry investment and participation.
This confused discussion on farm forestry ends with the recommendation:
Recommendation 5: That industry develops a strategy for expanding the productive forest estate in strategic regional hubs through farm forestry, and identifies the role for government.
Well we already have a strategy developed including a role for Governments. As I identified in an earlier blog it’s called the National Action Statement on Farm Forestry (NASFF). It was written in 2005 and currently resides on one of those dusty library shelves.
This new report has a list of references at the end that does not include the NASFF. Curious!
The new report finishes with the following recommendation:
Recommendation 19: That the Australian Government convenes a meeting of state and territory ministers responsible for forestry to discuss issues raised in this paper.
Yet another ministerial meeting. Another talk-fest!
Instead of expecting politicians to solve the industries many problems why doesn’t the report have a list of all the new initiatives that the forest industry is implementing to move towards this new/old vision?
Does the forest industry know anything about profitable tree growing?
Unfortunately there is nothing in this new report/vision for growers of high value timbers such as blackwood.