Over 130 industry stakeholders gathered in Canberra on Tuesday evening for the Australian Forest Products Association members’ dinner addressed by Senator Murray Watt, Federal Minister for Forestry.
Parliamentary Friends of Forestry co-convenors Senator Jonno Duniam and Senator Raff Ciccone also attended.
Guests were keen to hear Mr Watt further outline the new Plantation Establishment Grants Program that provides $73.8 million in grant funding over four years from 2023–24.
The program will help Australia grow much-needed timber and wood fibre supply for the nation’s future.
Senator Watt said grants would be available to private, First Nations, and farm forestry businesses, as well as state and territory government forestry enterprises through the support program.
The grants would require applicants to provide a co-contribution equal to the grant amount.
The grant program will open later this month for private businesses and farm foresters.
The $73.8 million in grant funding will support the establishment of new plantations, help secure Australia’s future domestic wood supply, and help meet Australia’s carbon emission reduction commitments.
Outlining further government support for the industry, Mr Watt reviewed the Better Future for Regions and A Future Grown in Australia policies that deliver a suite of initiatives totalling more than $300 million to innovate and improve the capacity and capability of the sector.
The government will also reserve $500 million of its $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund specifically for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and food and fibre.
AFPA supports the Plantation Establishment Program
Natasa Sikman, the Acting CEO of AFPA, has welcomed the announcement.
“It’s great news that the federal bipartisan commitment to grow more timber production trees is starting to be rolled out.”
“We welcome the Albanese Government carrying through on this program and thank Minister for Forestry Murray Watt for his ongoing commitment to ensure delivery. We will continue to work with the Government throughout the rollout,” Natasa Sikman said.
According to Sikman, the grants will help boost the future supply, with Australia requiring one billion new production trees to ensure the nation has enough supply to meet future demand over the coming decades.
“These grants will not only help secure Australia’s sovereign capability in everyday timber and wood fibre products, but new trees planted under the scheme can help Australia fight climate change and contribute to our emission reduction targets. They will also underpin many jobs across forestry in key regional areas nationwide,” Natasa Sikman said.
Mick Stephens, CEO of Timber Queensland, was in Canberra for the dinner and said, “bipartian support of an essential industry like timber is what Australia needs and the address and strong support from the Forestry Minister Murray Watt was most welcome.”
Funding for the program will be available across multiple rounds from 2023-24 to 2026-27, with $2000 per hectare to be provided by the Government for every hectare of long rotation plantation established. Applicants will be required to co-contribute.
More information about the program can be found at the Community Grants Hub.
REIA CEO reiterates the importance of timber in construction
The guest speaker at the dinner was Anna Neelagama, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA).
Ms Neelagama was appointed as CEO of REIA in August 2020, replacing long time CEO Jock Kreitals.
Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the establishment of a $2b Social Housing Accelerator Fund, with timber in construction playing an important role in delivering housing supply across Australia.