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TFPA Submission to the Inquiry into the timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector

TFPA Submission to the Inquiry into the timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector

The Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) appreciates the opportunity to provide comment to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources.

About TFPA

TFPA was formed in June 2020 and is a Committee of the Board of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) under a special delegation. We have 14 founding members who are leading
forest growers and processors in Tasmania.

TFPA is a policy development, lobbying and advocacy organisation for our members interests. We collaborate strongly with other industry bodies to ensure the best outcomes for the industry
generally and our members more specifically. Our charter provides autonomy to manage State issues and we cooperate with AFPA on any issue that transcends State borders and has National
implications.

Background

Today, more than 80% of Tasmania’s wood fibre is sourced from plantation and that is highly appropriate for softwood sawn timber and fibre, and for hardwood fibre.

Forest plantations or estates are often owned or leased by global investment, by Tasmanian State agencies or by other private forest owners. The forest management companies typically oversee
planting, plantation treatment, harvesting and haulage and replanting activities.

Plantations cannot provide mature hardwoods and special species timbers that are sourced from natural forests, which are used to produce high quality flooring and appearance joinery, furniture
and specialty veneers. From experience if these products are not sourced and manufactured from our own natural forests then they will be imported from regions where environmental and social
outcomes are very poor compared to what we do in Tasmania.

Forestry will sustainably provide essential products such as timber for housing, building and construction; wood fibre for pulp, paper, and hygiene products; biomass for fuel such as domestic
firewood and industrial boilers. Forest managers hold sustainability certification through forest management certification to internationally recognised standards with traceability of log products
through to Tasmanian processors via their certified chain of custody certification. Forestry provides many jobs and economic activity in rural and regional economies where there are often few
alternatives. The industry makes a positive contribution to our first world standard of living and delivery of sensible, science based environmental outcomes.

The role timber and forests play in reducing carbon emissions is significant. Native forestry and plantation agriculture are carbon positive industries which should be embraced and expanded as
part of Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy. Significantly, managed or production forests sequester more carbon over time than unmanaged forests, timber products store carbon – often for centuries, and timber has much lower embodied energy than other popular building products such as concrete and steel.

Forests in Tasmania also produce social and environmental benefits, in addition to marketable timber outputs. These non-market benefits include space for recreational activities, landscape
amenity, biodiversity, air quality, water supply and quality, and protection of cultural artefacts and sites of significance.

Comments to Inquiry

TFPA supports the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) submission and fully endorses their recommendations, and provide the following comments:

To increase production, the forest industry must grow more commercial trees in plantations. That can be in partnership with agricultural businesses where tree plantations are integrated into farming activity, or it may be by conversion of sub-optimal cleared agricultural land into plantations in designated wood production zones. Plantation productivity and yield must also be improved
through advanced tree breeding and genetics, better silvicultural practices and next generation harvesting technology that enables log and forest product optimisation.

The value of plantation tree crops as an investment opportunity would be greatly enhanced if Australia were to adopt a carbon trading scheme that saw the current ownership of carbon stored in
existing plantations be repatriated from the National Accounts back to the tree owner.

The positive impact of the above measures can only be realised with strong Government and legislative support and the forest industry presenting a unified and collaborative approach on
industry policy and research and development initiatives.

An area that needs continuous focus is the supply chain activities, including road, rail and port infrastructure. This is to ensure that existing and new infrastructure deliver the maximum benefits
for the forest industry. Government can assist further to concentrate on the transport flows of the infrastructure together with pinch points, ie. load limits on bridges.

The National Forest Policy and the State Policy for the Protection of Agricultural Land both recognise plantations as a form of agriculture, not a land use separate from and potentially in conflict with agriculture. However, the State Policy for the PAL is restricting new plantations on class 1-3 land which is reducing the ability to increase the new plantations on farmland, as per the policy states:

New plantation forestry must not be established on prime agricultural land unless a planning scheme reviewed in accordance with this Policy provides otherwise.

Plantations do not compete significantly for prime agricultural land with other agricultural users in Tasmania. The market should determine the allocation of land between agriculture and plantations, and where trees are grown.

Integration of plantations as part of a farm’s enterprise mix can achieve improved environmental outcomes and productivity gains. The opportunity for government to consider improvements to the
PAL Policy will assist with providing further area to grow plantations on farmland.

Furthermore, it has long been acknowledged that planting trees in deforested areas leads to significant conservation gains. Trees on farms are used as shelterbelts for stock shade and wind
breaks, to prevent and remediate soil erosion, to outcompete weeds, to manage salinity problems and as a secondary source of income. Where farmers establish trees along waterways there is the
added benefit of shading, reduced stock movement, and much improved stream habitat and water quality as a result. Having trees on farms improves the productivity of surrounding paddocks. Well
managed agroforestry plantings have the potential to become an important source of high-quality logs for the timber processing sector and used for fibre and for engineered wood products.

Forestry has the potential to attract significant new investment into growing commercial tree crops which will be essential in the global objective of reducing carbon emissions and ameliorating the
impacts of climate change. This will require adoption of best available technology to support cost efficiency and optimal productivity and the recruitment, training and retention of a highly skilled
workforce that is valued by our communities.

Finally, something the Committee should be aware of is the North-Northwest Tasmania Regional Forestry Hub, which was established in 2019 by the Tasmanian Forest and Forest Products Network
with funding from the Commonwealth Government as part of the National Forest Industries Plan – Growing a Better Australia – A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth. The Hub, through engagement with its stakeholders have identified four priority themes which are currently under assessment and
stakeholder engagement with final reports due for completion later this year. These priority themes being:
1. Access to land and land use policy for plantation forest investment
2. Supply chain and infrastructure
3. Climate change and carbon policy
4. Culture, skills and training
Please contact the TFPA if you require any further information.

The submission can be downloaded here: TFPA submission_ Inquiry into timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector_021020

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