Australia Urged to Strengthen Ukraine’s War-Hit Forest Sector

Richard McCarthy Opinion: Australia must ‘fire-up’ commitment to aid war-torn country

Thu 25 May 23


Over a year ago, concerned foresters and Forestry Australia established an Australia-Ukraine forestry support project.

Ukraine forest authorities have established an initial equipment manifest to help them suppress forest fires caused by indiscriminate Russian bombing.

That manifest included:

  • 10 x Fire tankers 2000-4000 litre capacity.
  • 20 x small ‘first attack’ style units, 4 x4, 200-500 litre capacity.
  • 160 x radio units.
  • 20 x thermal imagers.
  • 50 x thermal suits (hopefully, they mean wildfire protective clothing).
  • 30 x UAVs aka drones.

Recently, Ukraine forest authorities asked Australia about the progress of the forestry support project and when they might expect some much-needed equipment.

Footage courtesy of @MongabayTV

Retired Australian Major General Mick Ryan’s article in the Age prompted Australian authorities to stop being fence sitters and become involved in much greater efforts of assistance to Ukraine through the forestry support project.

To overcome issues such as emergency equipment, donors are extremely wary of being involved in the purchase or donation of any item unless there exist accessible serving facilities and accessible spare parts capabilities.

For these reasons, donated Australian fire-fighting equipment (operating in an extremely hostile forest environment where breakdowns may occur) could become unserviceable if spares and the capacity to effect quick repairs are unavailable.

For the above reasons, Australian support would have to be in funds to allow Ukrainian authorities to purchase suitable firefighting equipment in nearby countries.

Australian Ukraine Forestry Project member Gary Morgan AM AFSM back in 2022 advised that Ukraine foresters needed more firefighting equipment.

“However, Australian equipment may not be what Ukraine needs; it will also be difficult to transport considering the current conflict,” Morgan said.

“Neighbouring countries most possibly have similar equipment to replace what has been destroyed.

“It would be in their neighbours’ best interest to assist, which they should be able to do without delay.”

Gary Morgan: Funding to Ukraine will help purchase items urgently needed.

Furthermore, Mr Morgan has advised that he is involved in Rotary Australia, which had sent funding across to Ukraine to help fellow Rotarian’s purchase items they urgently need.

An NW Jolly Medal recipient, Mr Morgan draws on more than 40 years of service to the forest industry. He has significantly contributed to managing forests and forest fires at state, national and international levels. He acted as Victoria’s Manager for Commercial Forestry before being appointed Chief Fire Officer for Victoria’s public land.

Australian Ukraine Forestry Project member Ross Smith AFSM (forester, Assistant Commissioner NSW Rural Fire Service, and an international fire expert) continues to explore possible measures to address the situation.

Queensland forester Dr Gary Bacon, AM, BSc (For) Hon, PhD, FIFA and Wood Central contributor, said the sums of money involved in the forestry support project dictated a whole-of-government thrust within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade remit.

“Seemingly, this is an apt portal given it is the department of the federal government responsible for foreign policy, relations and international aid,” he said.

“Given the largesse of aid that the Ukraine condition necessitates in military, health and infrastructure, getting agriculture and forestry prioritised will be a task. Such endeavours require, to my mind, political clout and thus where to ‘look and lobby’.

“The only forestry arena I am aware of that has political currency is the Australian Forest Products Association whose CEO Joel Fitzgibbon is politically linked to Michael O’Connor, national secretary, CFMEU, via the newly-created Strategic Forest and Renewable Materials Partnership (taking responsibilities of the previous Forest and Wood Products Council).

This partnership reports to Agriculture Minister Murray Watt. The president of Forestry Australia Michelle Freeman, also sits on the partnership.

As Wood Central readers can see from the above commentary, Aussie foresters have and are very involved in sourcing funds for Ukraine forest authorities. But overall, it needs support funding from the Australian federal government.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates 3 million ha of forests In Ukraine have been affected by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Eight Ukrainian nature reserves and 10 national parks remain under the control of Russian troops.

Editor note

Wood Central is committed to providing relevant, up-to-date coverage from Ukraine. Below is a list of Wood Central articles on the conflict and its impact on Ukrainian forests:


  • Richard McCarthy

    Richard (Dick) McCarthy is a highly experienced operational forester with postgraduate qualifications in forest management. His many years of experience, especially PNG-Dept of Forests, PNG Forest Industries Association and Australia as operations manager APM Forests-AMCOR in forest management and plantation development in the public and private forestry sectors, in both temperate and tropical forestry is recognized globally.


Related Articles