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Koala park threatens North Coast jobs – plantations cannot replace native forestry – science not fantasy must drive forest policy.
20 February 2023: An Ernst + Young Report shows that the hardwood timber industry is critically important to the NSW economy. Plans for a Koala Park and ‘transitioning’ native forestry to plantations are unnecessary and unworkable, threatening the livelihood of thousands of timber workers in the state. Science-based forest policies can achieve environmental aims while safeguarding local timber supply and local jobs.
Ernst + Young’s report shows that in North East NSW the hardwood timber industry contributes $1.8billion in revenue each year, adding $700million to NSW GDP and employing 5,700 people (see Table 1). Amid rising demand for nation-building timber supplies, the region provides two thirds of NSW’s hardwood timber.
Commissioned by the Commonwealth-funded North East NSW and South East NSW Regional Forestry Hubs, the Report tracks the hardwood timber industry’s economic impact beyond the direct harvesting activities seen primarily in rural areas to the supply and servicing of downstream sectors including construction, transport and manufacturing. Hardwood timber generates wholesaling and processing jobs and supports tradesmen in regional centres and the Greater Sydney region.
The NSW timber industry undertakes highly selective native forestry, certified to the highest forest management standard. Hardwood timber is a renewable, sustainable and essential input into the construction, agriculture, mining and energy sectors and this strong demand for hardwood timber is driving its increasing value.
Timber NSW CEO, Maree McCaskill said: “The hardwood timber industry is a growing part of the State’s economy, yet opponents of native forestry want to place an additional 175,000 hectares of State Forest in North East NSW into a Koala Park and replace native forestry with plantations. Both these plans are misguided and unfeasible. Ninety percent of publicly owned forests on the north coast of NSW are already protected. Only 10% is available for timber harvesting and it is replanted once harvested.
“The Great Koala National Park is unnecessary and unworkable, both environmentally and economically. Extensive scientific research shows that koala populations in North East NSW State Forests are stable and are not being impacted by timber harvesting.
“Likewise, plans to ‘transition’ timber supplies from native forests to plantation timber are a fantasy. While NE NSW Forestry Hub modelling identified cleared land in the North East that could support the growth of hardwood plantations, only a small fraction of this land is likely to be available. It cannot hope to replace supply from the 782,000 hectares of native State Forests in the region. Even given available land, any transition would take 40-60 years and be financially unfeasible.
“All forests require active management and some harvesting is critical to forest health and minimising bushfire risk. Given this, NSW State Forests can and should be managed for their critical economic contribution, in harmony with their contribution to our communities, environment and biodiversity. All current State Forest land must remain available for timber production.
“In a context of rising demand for nation-building timber supplies, how can NSW policymakers plan to shift hundreds of thousands of hectares of State Forest into a Koala Park? This will do nothing except decimate jobs in the NSW timber industry and hike timber imports from less regulated neighbouring countries. One job loss in a rural area has the impact of 100 job losses in the cities, impacting schools, local services and small businesses. We must safeguard local timber supplies and keep these jobs and skills in NSW.”
Ernst + Young was engaged by the Commonwealth-funded North East & South East New South Wales Forestry Hubs to conduct an economic impact assessment of direct and indirect effects of the hardwood timber industry for 2021-2022 on four different NSW regions: the North East, Southern, Western and Greater Sydney (see Table 1 below).
Regional Forestry Hubs
To help deliver upon its National Forest Industries Plan: Growing a Better Australia – A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth, the Australian Government established eleven Regional Forestry Hubs across Australia under a Commonwealth Government Grant Agreement.
Each Hub is responsible for undertaking a strategic assessment of the factors impacting on their region’s forest growing and processing sectors and for identifying key themes for investigation, in consultation with industry, community and government stakeholders.
Details of all the hubs can be found at www.agriculture.gov.au/agriculture-land/forestry/regional-forestry-hubs. The North East New South Wales Forestry Hub was established in April 2019. For further background on the North East NSW Forestry Hub see www.nenswforestryhub.com.au.
 Transition support for the NSW native forest sector, WWF August 2022
 Recently published by the NSW Natural Resources Commission.