The federal government has unveiled the Strategic Forest and Renewable Materials Partnership, a new initiative to bolster the country’s forest and wood products industries.
The announcement by Agriculture Minister Murray Watt signals a significant move towards fostering collaboration, information exchange, and consultation among various stakeholders in the forestry sector, including industry leaders, unions, and government representatives.
How the Strategic Forest and Renewable Materials Partnership will work
The partnership, comprising 15 representatives from industry, unions, indigenous, environmental, and other stakeholder groups, is set to guide the government on plans to help the forestry sector realise its full potential.
The Partnership takes on the responsibilities of the Forest and Wood Products Council as stipulated under section 11 of the Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002 (RFA Act). The Forest and Wood Products Council (FWPC) is the forest industry advisory body reporting to the Minister for Agriculture.
Diana Gibbs, who chairs the Australian Forest Products Association, and Michael O’Connor, national secretary of the CFMEU Manufacturing Division, co-lead the Partnership. They are supported by 13 members, all appointed by the Australian Government.
The members were chosen based on their:
- Expertise in the field
- Understanding of the social, economic, and environmental issues impacting the forest and wood products sector
- Capability to contribute to the industry’s long-term interests
New members of the partnership include:
- Harry Burrows from AWU
- Denise Campbell-Burns from CFMEU
- Gina Castelain from WIK Timber Holdings
- Brad Coates from CFMEU
- Dr. Michelle Freeman from Forestry Australia
- Cameron MacDonald from OneFortyOne
- Frank Miller from Northern Territory Ord Valley Forestry Hub
- Sharon Musson from AKD
- Carlie Porteous from Australian Forest Contractors Association
- Amber Seehars from Hyne Timber
- Jim Snelson from Borg Manufacturing
- Ian Telfer from WA Plantation Resource
- Penny Wells from Private Forests Tasmania
Mr. Watt highlighted the importance of the forestry industry, which employs more than 51,000 Australians and sustainably harvests and processes substantial timber for local construction, manufacturing, and trade.
“It’s critical that government receives the best advice to ensure the industry is productive and sustainable into the future,” he said.
“Importantly, this new partnership will operate on a tripartite basis, retaining the involvement of leaders of forestry businesses while also including the voices of forestry workers, unions, and First Nations participants in the industry.”
The partnership also presents an opportunity to fine-tune policy settings for the forestry sector.
The new group replaces the Forest Industry Advsory Council
FIAC presented a paper to the Australian Government in June 2016, Transforming Australia’s forest products industry – Recommendations from the Forest Industry Advisory Council.
The Australian forest products industry responds
The Australian Forest Products Association CEO, Joel Fitzgibbon thanked the government and Minister Watt for fulfilling a key pre-election commitment.
“With the right strategy and government guidance, the forest products sector can employ more people, make a larger contribution to the economy, and play an even greater role in addressing climate change,” Fitzgibbon said.
The Australian Forest Products Association Chair Diana Gibbs added: “This is an exciting opportunity for all voices to support the important role of the forest products sector in Australia’s future. Not just of course for the climate and achieving sovereign capability, but also in providing employment and value-adding in the regions,” Diana Gibbs said.
With the government’s record $300 million investment in the forestry sector and the impending forestry ministers meeting, the new initiative will pave the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future for the forest and wood products industries.