The future of Queensland’s native timber industry is “being planned”, and a top-level report “remains secret”, according to Queensland Agricultural and Industry Development Minister Mark Funner.
Mr Furner was answering a parliamentary Question on Notice from Gympie MP Tony Perrett last week, who had sought the outcomes of a report from the state government’s Native Timber Advisory Panel.
The Gympie Times reports that Mr Perrett said a communique from the panel last October had been with Mr Furner for several months but had yet to be released.
Mr Furner said the Government’s Native Timber Action Plan was committed to “bringing stakeholders together through a Native Timber Advisory Panel to provide views on a sustainable future for the industry that also ensures conservation outcomes.”
Queensland’s native timber advisory panel met for the first time in June 2021 as part of a long-term plan for the state’s $3.8 billion timber industry.
Alan Feely, former Deputy Director-General of the Queensland Department of Nature Resources and Mines, chaired the panel.
It comprised stakeholders including First Nations people, representatives from the conservation sector, unions and the native timber industry.
The meetings focused on the Government’s plan for native forestry on land under state and private ownership, conservation outcomes, economic impacts, and opportunities for Queensland’s regional communities.
“At the meeting held in September 2022, the Panel chair presented several potential futures for native forestry in Queensland to generate discussion and obtain views on key issues.
“The views were documented after a healthy discussion.”
“The next step is to release a paper for public discussion, outlining the Government’s proposed future policy direction for native forestry in Queensland.
“The Panel chair’s report is an important consideration in developing this paper, with many of the complex issues it addresses still under active consideration by the Government.
“As such, it is not appropriate to release the chair’s report at this time,” he said.
The Queensland hardwood industry has participated on the panel and provided direct feedback to Government via the peak state body.
Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens said the native hardwood industry has a very positive future if provided with the right policy settings.
“There are significant state-owned and private native forest resources that can provide hardwood timber to meet our growing demand while at the same time as delivering regional jobs and low carbon outcomes.”
“However, with the expiry of current crown sales contracts at the end of 2024 the industry needs certainty now to be able to invest and grow the sector.”
“We are urging the Government to finalise its native forestry policy as soon as possible that secures the long-term benefits from a vibrant and sustainable hardwood industry,” he said.
Last week, Wood Central exclusively revealed that the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has commissioned work to capture the full employment and gross economic contribution of the native hardwood industry, including both upstream (primary and secondary processing, wholesale and retail and furniture) and downstream (growing, harvest and haulage) activities for both public and private native forestry operations across the state.
Wood Central contacted the DAF, who confirmed that the work would provide important direction for the state’s future hardwood policy.
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.
Premier Anna Palaszczuk announced the Native Timber Action Plan in Maryborough on November 4, 2019.
“The government is taking decisive action to support regional Queensland timber industry jobs, locking in hardwood supplies in the Wide-Bay Burnett region up to 2026,” she said.
The Premier said this announcement was another example of her Government’s commitment to listening and delivering on jobs for regional Queensland.
“My Government has a laser-sharp focus on supporting new jobs and economic development in regional Queensland. The announcement is also a ‘win’ for hundreds more people and businesses who indirectly rely on the timber industry.
“This is a responsible decision that balances my government’s commitment to both jobs and the environment.”
Anna Palaszczuk added: “I want Queensland to have an internationally competitive and sustainable industry. This process will refresh the Southeast Queensland Regional Forests Agreement for a new generation.
“This is a monumental achievement entered into in good faith by government, industry and conservation groups, but it needs to be updated to recognise new, unexpected challenges facing the industry.”
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, a hardwood plantation program was established to provide an alternative to native hardwood.
However, the Government acknowledges that “the industry faces new and unexpected challenges, including that the hardwood plantation program has not delivered an alternative resource.”