Flashback: State, Territory Ministers Endorse Multi Forest Use

Article by Jim Bowden, Managing Editor of the Australian Timberman June 7, 1983.

Tue 04 Jul 23


The Australian Forestry Council has endorsed the continuing practice of multiple-use management of public forests.

The Forestry Council comprises state and territory forestry ministers and is chaired by the Minister for Primary Industry John Kerin.

The council agreed at its meeting in Melbourne on June 6 that every effort should be made to achieve an acceptable balance between wood production activities and the conservation of the natural environment. 

It agreed that preservation of scenic values, provision for recreational use, maintenance of wildlife, erosion control and water catchment protection were established goals in forest management.

Individual states are pursuing forest management policies which encompass those objectives, but the council plans to bring them together in a national forest policy statement.

The standing committee of the council is preparing a draft forest policy for consideration by the council at its next meeting. The council expressed support for the draft national conservation strategy which will be considered shortly by a national conference.  The council will, however, seek major amendments to the background paper on forestry included in the Strategy Document. 

In his first speech to the Australian Forestry Council since becoming a minister, Mr Kerin said national conservation strategy was concerned with striking a balance between the current utilisation of living natural resources and the conservation of those resources indefinitely into the future.

“I understand that states subscribe to the aims and objectives of the strategy but wish to see amendment of some of the text,” the minister said.

“The draft raises a plethora of issues – sustainable yield of wood; visual and recreational amenity; age structure of forests; soil fertility, erosion, and salinity; control burning; softwood versus native plantations; dieback; selective cutting; wood chipping; wildlife corridors and flora reserves; and more. All must be addressed.”

Then-shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon and current CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association (left) with John Kerin in 2016. (Photo Credit: AAP)

Recently, community attention has been directed at the devastating effects of bushfires, not only in terms of personal loss but also the effect upon Australia’s forest resources.

“Fires and forests form a combination which bears the closest scrutiny,” Mr Kerin said.

“These and other issues will directly influence the direction of forestry in Australia.  They need to be taken in hand by a coordinating body such as the Australian Forestry Council.”

Mr Kerin said forestry had had the traditional role of producing wood for commercial purposes. The community increasingly demanded that forest development be tempered by a concern for the environment. But it had not been widely recognised that foresters had been striving hard and successfully to operate within a framework that is conservation oriented.

“Each state through its forest service has long been directly involved in development and maintenance of forests for purposes of soil conservation, wildlife preservation and protection of water catchments.”

Mr Kerin said the Prime Minister had pledged a commitment ‘to develop with the states a massive national re-afforestation and tree regeneration program’.

“It will be my task to cooperate with my colleague, Barry Cohen, the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment, to give effect to this commitment in as sensible a way as is possible,” Mr Kerin said.

“This council has a very significant role in the careful exploration of ways and means of establishing common ground on the wide range of conservation/preservation issues. It must have a positive input into the national conservation strategy and the programs which will flow from it,” he said.

Mr Kerin said the forest industries played an important part in the national economy.  Australia currently utilised some $3.2 billion worth of forest products annually, of which $2.2 billion came from local production.

Editor’s note: John Kerin, AO, an agricultural policy elder statesman, economist and Labor minister during the Hawke and Keating governments, died on March 29 this year, aged 85. He played a key role in the Hawke government’s economic agenda, including the removal of tariffs from imported agricultural products and driving major reforms aimed at boosting farm and forest productivity, including the establishment of research and development corporations.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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