The Queensland Government has taken the first steps to rededicate more than 2,500 hectares of timber reserve as part of a shift that will see a portion of state forests to national parks.
Yesterday, the State Parliament approved the revocation of land tenure classification, which will see the timber estate transition into a national and conservation park in the coming months.
The change is part of the Native Timber Action Plan, which will see 20,000 hectares of the State’s forest transition in the coming years.
It follows feedback from the Native Timber Advisory Panel, which provided “views on a sustainable future for the industry that also ensures conservation outcomes.”
According to Leanne Linard, Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef, “the government is strongly committed to protecting areas of high environmental value across the state.”
“This will afford stronger protections and enhanced management for crucial habitat for threatened species, including our iconic koala.”
This afternoon, Wood Central contacted Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens, who said the industry “was aware of the new declarations for new protected areas as part of the Timber Action Plan.”
However, he pointed out that the key objective of the plan was to ensure a sustainable native forestry industry and long-term jobs.
“In 2019, the Premier herself committed to the preservation of the Queensland hardwood timber industry with a laser-like focus on supporting jobs and a commitment to look at sustainable wood supply options including on private land to be completed by 2021”, according to Mr Stephens.
He said the industry is still waiting for the results of the study on future sustainable wood supply options and a Discussion Paper promised by the Government to outline critical policy decisions for hardwood supply and industry development into the future.
“The industry has been patient, but it is now critical the Government provide policy certainty given that current state wood supply contracts expire at the end of 2024,” Mr Stephens told Wood Central.
“This lack of resource security is putting at risk thousands of jobs and new investments and putting unnecessary risk and stress on businesses and families in the industry.”
Timber Queensland is surveying members on pipeline investment, “and it is clear that once given promised resource security, there is overwhelming confidence to grow and expand the sector.”
In August, Agricultural Minister Mark Furner praised the high environmental standards of the Queensland native forest industry.
Before an Estimates Committee, he confirmed that the Government was “focused and highly engaged with the timber industry,” with the supply of “softwood and hardwood” pivotal to meeting the State’s population surge.
“We commend the Minister for his recognition and support of the sustainable Queensland industry,” Mr Stephens said.
Mr Stephens was a member of the Native Advisory Panel, which comprised stakeholders including First Nations people, representatives from the conservation sector, unions and the native timber industry.
He said the Action Plan sought to achieve a balanced outcome, “so it is ironic that state forest areas being transitioned to the protected area estate will likely make no material difference to conservation outcomes and lead to a worse outcome regarding total social benefits.”
He points to a recent cost-benefit assessment of the state forests compared against national parks in South East Queensland, which “found that state forests provide superior long-term benefits from an ecosystems approach.”
“The Beerwah state forest is a case point,” he said.
“This forest has been sustainably managed since the late 1800s and was most recently selectively harvested in the 1990s.”
“It continues to provide valued ecological services and public recreation, which is testimony to the multiple-use management that state forests provide to the community.”
“These benefits include conservation requirements for koalas and protected plant species, cultural heritage considerations, and the carbon captured and stored in forests and harvested wood products.”
According to Mr Stephens, the concern largely centred around the impact of mountain biking.
“The reality is that the existing mountain bike trails form part of the underlying multiple-use philosophy of state forests,” and “a transition to the park may lead to restricted use or lack of resources for adequate maintenance.”
“State forests should rightly be considered part of a protected area system, just like National Forests in the United States and many other multiple-use and cultural landscapes across the world, given that state forests are managed in accordance with strict environmental regulation and adopt selective harvest practices to ensure permanent forest cover for public use.”
“Decisions on the long-term management and use of our forests should rightly be based on evidence-based policy and underlying science rather than ideological opinion.”
“We are looking to the Government for strong leadership to finalise the Action Plan and provide much-needed wood supply for industry, workers and the community for building and housing construction from both state and private forest land.”