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Q: How large are Tasmania’s forests?
Tasmania has a total landmass of approximately 6.81 million hectares, of which nearly half (3.35 million hectares or 49 per cent) is forested. Native forest makes up 91 per cent of this and plantations 9 per cent.
Tasmania’s plantation forests (302 000 hectares) are made up of 25 per cent softwoods and 75 per cent hardwoods. Pinus radiata is the main softwood species, while Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus nitens are the main hardwood species.
Of the native forest, 69 per cent is either wet or dry eucalypt forest, but there are significant areas of other non-eucalypt forest types such as rainforest, blackwood forest, paperbark forest, tea-tree forest, silver wattle forest, she-oak forest and Oyster Bay pine forest.
Production forests are managed to supply a wide range of wood products to local and overseas customers, including high and low-quality sawlogs, high-grade domestic peeler logs, special species timbers, pulpwood and firewood.
These forests also support other commercial activities, such as apiarists and tourism ventures, as well as recreational activities.
Q: How much of Tasmania’s forests are protected?
Over two-thirds of Tasmania’s forests are in reserves.
The majority of forestry activity in Tasmania is from plantations or regenerated regrowth forests, many of which are on private property.
Q: What is old-growth forestry?
Old-growth forests are mature forests where the effect of any previous disturbance is now negligible.
Often, forest with old-growth trees that are harvested today were in fact harvested in the past, regenerated for the future and now harvested again. It is the farming cycle of some types of forest.
Of the 1.2 million hectares of forests classified as old-growth in Tasmania, 91% – or over one million hectares – is permanently protected in reserves.
Less than four per cent (35,700 hectares) of old-growth forest is potentially available for timber production.
Native forestry, including forests that contain old-growth trees, provides specialty timbers such as celery top pine, blackwood and sassafras for furniture makers and craftspeople and eucalyptus hardwood timber which is mainly used for special purposes like timber flooring, window and door frames, stair treads etc.
Q: Why don’t we move to plantation only?
Forestry products are not a one size fits all proposition.
Tasmania’s diverse industry provides societies needs for a range of products such as:
- Construction materials including framing timber, engineered timber products, ply and dressed timber for flooring, windows and doors.
- Specialty species timbers for boat building, furniture makers, craftspeople and artists.
- Fibre to make paper and cardboard products that are critical in the battle against plastic pollution.
Achieving this requires a range of different timbers from different tree species or what we call a mixed forestry approach.
Taking a diversified, mixed forestry approach, ensures that we can domestically produce the product range that markets demand, and this is vitally important for several reasons:
- Domestic production from our sustainable and highly regulated industry produces the best environmental outcome by far.
- Any voids created by moving to a single species approach will quickly be replaced with imported timber from often unregulated markets, as is currently happening in Western Australia and Victoria.
- The use of carbon-neutral forestry products has been proven to replace high emitting and non-renewable industries such as steel, concrete, and plastics.
In Tasmania the forestry footprint is small and remaining diversified is critical. Our working forests on public land are not converted to plantations, they are regenerated like-for-like for future generations to use and our plantation sector is strong and growing as our industry continually transforms and innovates utilising all tree species.
Q: What is forestry’s economic contribution to Tasmania?
The Tasmanian forest industry makes a significant economic contribution to the State. In 2017-18, there were 3,076 direct jobs in the forest industry (primary and secondary processing), and 2,651 indirect jobs generated in other industries as a result of demand from the forest industry.
Of the direct jobs, 24 per cent of jobs were in the Cradle Coast region, 37.4 per cent in the Northern region and 38.6 per cent in the Southern region.
In 2015-16, the direct value of output by the Tasmanian forest industry at the point of sale of primary processed products was $712 million. This figure rises to more than $1.2 billion when considering the flow-on-effects generated in other industries as a result of spending by the forest industry.
This total includes more than $270 million in the Cradle Coast region, more than $450 million in the Northern region and more than $420 million in the Southern region.
Q: Why is there a shortage of construction timber?
100% of the plantation pine timbers, processed in Tasmania, stay on Australian shores.
We do however import around 25% of our construction timber needs Australia wide.
Currently due to global construction demand prices in the US and Europe have soared up to 400%.
This means the 25% of timber we previously imported is now going to countries where they are getting a higher price.
In Australia housing demand, construction is booming, and our mills are working at capacity to produce timber at record levels however, despite processing at full capacity the gap caused by the 25% of imported timber not reaching our shores is causing shortage issues.
Q: Why don’t you have certification?
This is the biggest myth of all.
The two largest internationally recognised forest certification schemes are PEFC (called Responsible Wood in Australia) and FSC. These are the two main certification schemes within Australia.
Many of our members have either one or both of these certifications.
Certification is a voluntary market-driven process that’s got two components, the first being forest management certification and the second being chain-of-custody certification.
Tasmanian forestry is a world leader in responsible forestry management and that is why our products are so sought after and you can learn more about these certifications HERE.
Q: Are we at risk of losing our forests?
No. In the native sector, only 14 trees out of every 10,000 are available for harvesting and every single tree harvested is regrown for the future.
Plantation forestry in Tasmania is growing and new uses are being developed for these types of trees.
Forestry is simply farming trees with long crop cycles and we provide society with renewable construction material, fibre and dressed timber.
Q: Is forestry a loss-making industry propped up by the government?
Not at all.
The businesses we represent are a diverse list of private and public forestry enterprises.
This statement is often used to criticise the broader forestry industry and is generally targeted at the government-owned land and forest manager.
The state-owned forests are managed by a Government Business Enterprise (GBE) called Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT).
The Tasmanian Forest Products Association does not represent STT however as we all often get lumped into the one basket here is some background.
GBE’s and State-owned companies (SOC) exist to manage infrastructure, resources or services on behalf of the government and the people of Tasmania.
Other state government GBEs and SOCs include Hydro, Aurora, Metro, Tasmanian Irrigation, Tasracing, The Public Trustee, MAIB, Port Arthur Historic Site, Taswater, Tasports, Spirit of Tasmania and Tasrail.
Often these government businesses make a loss. The reason for this is they are there to provide services on behalf of the government and therefore their responsibility to the people of Tasmania extends beyond making a profit, STT are an example of this.
For example, STT sowed 160 million seeds to regrow forests for future generations and maintained over 3,000km of roads to provide access for tourism businesses, bushwalking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and forestry.
STT also protects communities from the impacts of bushfires, contributing 32,000 hours of firefighting activities while attending 47 bushfires in 2019/20.
Some of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association members purchase timber from STT at market rates under legal, commercial contracts and these businesses then value add and provide timber products to market whilst employing staff, paying tax, supporting the economy and supporting local communities.
It is not correct to suggest that the forest industry as a whole makes a loss and is dependent on taxpayer subsidies.
Q: Why are forestry products in such high demand?
Attitudes have changed in recent years to embrace forest products as part of the environmental solution.
Forest products are renewable, biodegradable and importantly many of them store carbon.
Builders, architects, environmentally responsible companies and consumers are demanding forest products such as cardboard packaging and timber construction materials as the responsible way forward in protecting the environment.
Q: What is a permanent timber production zone?
Permanent timber production zone land (PTPZ or PTPZL) is State-owned or Crown land that is managed by the government.
PTPZ land is primarily for the purposes of wood production; specifically, activities undertaken include native forest harvesting/reforestation, plantation harvesting or quarrying and road construction and maintenance.
PTPZ is accessible to the public.