The Queensland Government is “focused and highly engaged with the timber industry,” with the supply of “softwood and hardwood” pivotal to meeting the State’s population surge.
As Prime Minister Albanese joins hundreds of ALP powerbrokers at the 49th Labor conference in Brisbane, the Queensland Labor Government “will not be going down a path like other states.”
That is, according to Queensland’sQueensland’s Minister for Agricultural Industry Development, Fisheries and Regional Communities Mark Furner at an Estimates committee.
Minister Furner answered a question posed by Tony Perrett, the LNP Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Wood Central understands that the comments concern Western Australia and Victoria, where State Labor Governments have mandated forest bans in state forests.
Minister Furner is responsible for developing the Native Timber Action Plan charting the future of Queensland’s hardwood industry – a vital part of the State’s $3.8 billion timber industry.
It follows feedback from the Native Timber Advisory Panel, which provided “views on a sustainable future for the industry that also ensures conservation outcomes.”
In July, Wood Central revealed that the plan was a secret with a release imminent.
The next step, according to Queensland Forestry Department Director-General Chris Sarra, “is the release of a directions paper on the government’s proposed future policy direction for native forestry in Queensland for public consultation.”
Wood Central reports that the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has commissioned work to capture the employment and gross economic contribution of the native hardwood industry.
A similar exercise was undertaken in February this year by the NSW North-East Regional Forestry Hub through Ernst & Young, which conducted an economic impact assessment of the hardwood forest industry in over four different NSW regions.
The hardwood industry has been subject to uncertainty, with the 1999 South East Queensland Forests Agreement (SEQFA) leading to the “end of long-term sales permits” on December 31 2024.
Under the SEQFA, the hardwood plantation program was intended to provide a supply of resources.
However, the State Government now acknowledges the hardwood program has failed with “the industry facing new and unexpected challenges.”
According to Dr Sarra’s deputy, Graeme Bolton, the department acknowledged that the programme had failed in 2019. Dr Sarra reported that the department is working with stakeholders to pave a new approach.
“What I can report,” Dr Sarra told the Estimates Committee, “is that we are in continuing dialogue with those in the timber industry about contemplating the best ways forward, recognising the challenges that lie ahead.”
“We accept that public servants do not have all the answers within the department.”
“It would be nonsensical for us to imagine that the answers exist within the department and that we can embrace or traverse those challenges,” Dr Sarra said.
Regarding future timber supply, “without being in a sturdy, respectful and robust dialogue with those stakeholders because their interests are our interests.”
“We are prepared to try as much as possible to get on the same page as them to embrace those challenges together.”
Nationally the ALP is divided over native forestry, with the ‘hastened’ decision by the Victorian Government to accelerate its closure led to criticism by federal Labor counterparts.
Last month, Wood Central reported on former WA premier Mark McGowan’s stance on forest management. McGowan was ‘snookered into’ the 2021 WA forest ban by the left wing of the Labor Party.
In NSW, the new Labor Government is ‘hedging its bets’ – supporting native forest harvesting while promising to create a koala national park.
Whilst in Tasmania, the Labor opposition has accused the Liberal State Government of not doing enough to support the industry.
The ALP conference is the first to be held in over a decade whilst the party has the Federal Government and will be the first where the left factions have power on the voting floor.
Native forestry is a hot-button issue following protests in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and WA over the weekend.
The call has the support of more than 300 Labor branches with a push to exit out of native forestry led by the party’s Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN).
A protest will be held in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park, a short walk from the ALP National Conference, to coincide with the conference’s final day.