Joint media release: Growth tipped for northern forestry industry

30 April 2020

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, The Hon Karen Andrews MP
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, The Hon Keith Pitt MP
Senator for Queensland, Senator Susan McDonald
Member for Herbert, Phillip Thompson OAM MP

The Morrison Government has welcomed the findings of a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) study that has identified the enormous economic potential of the Northern Australian forestry and forest products industry.

The study, by the CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), found the industry could potentially treble its production value to up to $300 million per annum and create 600 new jobs over the next five to ten years.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the forecast of new jobs and more revenue couldn’t come at a better time for the industry, as the economy continues to deal with the effects of COVID-19.

“The report indicates the sector could achieve these increases through the sustainable management of northern forestry areas for timber harvesting, and in a manner in which conserves the natural values of the forest,” Minister Andrews said.

“The project means the northern forests products industry has a pathway for future growth in partnership with regional stakeholders, investors and governments.”
The industry currently supports around 1200 direct jobs with an annual production value of over $80 million.

“But growing Asian and domestic markets means the industry is in a good position to take advantage of increased demand for a range of plantation wood fibre and timber products,” Minister Andrews said.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the nation’s north boasted 63 million hectares of native forest, and 13 million hectares of this had been identified by the study as having commercial timber potential.

“The study also identifies opportunities to grow indigenous native forestry, with 73 per cent of the forests in Northern Australia under indigenous ownership or management,” Minister Pitt said.

“To take full advantage of this potential, the study shows government and industry must focus on removing barriers for downstream processing and value-adding for forest product and timber markets.

“There must also be a focus on addressing barriers to new plantation investment,” Minister Pitt said.

Townsville-based Queensland Senator, Susan McDonald said she was pleased to see North Queensland feature strongly in the report.

“Sites near Townsville, Mareeba and Western Cape York have been identified for plantation softwood and native hardwood harvesting sites,” she said.

“While I am on the record opposing the Vegetation Management Laws imposed on timber collection by the Labor State Government, the CRCNA and Timber Queensland have done a great job identifying projects that can operate within these rules.

“The report states a beefed up forestry industry in North Queensland could generate an extra $32 million in sawn timber output per year, and create 150 direct jobs, while a 20% increase in productivity of the existing Far North Queensland softwood estate could generate an additional $10 million per annum in sawn output.

“To really grow the North and provide sustainable employment, we need to get serious about industries such as forestry.”

Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson said Townsville was well positioned to take advantage of growth in the forestry industry.

“As a city we are ready and well equipped to take on any opportunities presented to us. It is pleasing to see the CRC work diligently with stakeholders to ensure we continue to develop these opportunities for Northern Australia.

“Economies and local jobs have taken a real hit during Covid-19 and anything we can do to stimulate the economy and bounce back will be important in our recovery.”

The CRCNA’s Northern Australia forest and forest products industry situational analysis is a collaboration between the CRCNA, Timber Queensland, the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

This is one of five industry situational analyses currently funded by the CRCNA examining the aquaculture, rice, cropping, beef, health and communication sectors.
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