Inside this issue!

Quarterly Newsletter, July 2022

Letter From the Chair


With a new federal government in place, and a state reallocation of ministerial portfolios the process of engaging new ministers starts all over again.

While the pre-election advocacy centred on plantation expansion and innovation, and some important developments on the latter, some of the basics are receiving very little attention. Land availability, suitability, location, price, and estimated areas state by state would be a good start. 

The issue of increasing our sovereign plantations resources is very complex, and simple statements of the need to expand this national asset belie this complexity. 

In the southern supply zone (South West Slopes, Southern Monaro, North East Victoria) land above the 700mm isohyet is very limited, especially when class 4 and 5 substantially cleared land is considered. 

Do we need to breed a low rainfall race of pine radiata, or plant pine pinaster. Then what about lower growth rates? 

When it comes to land prices, they have to be dealt with just like other agricultural investments. This is a fact of life. 

On the very positive front, the market for future wood supplies appears very strong. Think about sustainability, carbon sequestration, energy inputs in buildings, and the appearance and ambience of wood. Transport infrastructure is good and getting better. 

Ok, we can all understand the need to grow more wood. But one could reasonably ask why would you want to expand when the existing estate is heavily populated with noxious weeds, which are depressing growth rates and providing highly flammable forest fuels. 
And by the way, how are we going to protect the existing and (proposed) expanded plantations from fire. 

By far the biggest weed problem is blackberry. It invades all types of forest and farm land, impairs access, and assists wildfires to reach tree crowns. An intensive biological control, well funded and staffed research program is needed now! 

On the fire management front, in this region there are many ways we can reduce risk and benefit the entire community. Our region is very diverse with national parks, water catchments and storages, hydropower, switching stations, powerlines, ski fields, vineyards, orchards, plantations, native forests, towns and villages, farming and grazing lands, sawmills and pulp and paper facilities, and major transport routes. 

We need to intensify fire protection by integrating our management across the whole landscape. There is a great opportunity to create an intensive fire management zone to protect these assets. 

A few suggestions: 
  • Reduce fuel along all major roads 
  • New high standard strategic fire access roads 
  • Plan and set up strategic fuel reduction areas in native forests across all tenures
  • New fire trail networks around all towns and villages 
  • RFS assistance with trail work and preparation for HR work on private land 
  • Senior RFS officers to join SWG/MRFH 
  • Growers and processors to join District Committees. 
Fires in plantations are nothing new, but the scale and frequency is increasing. Major losses since WW2 include Bombala (3), Canobolas (1), Mannus (2), Carabost (2), Bondo (1), Bago (1), Green Hills (1) and Maragle (1). In the SW Slopes, more than half the plantation estate has been burnt since 2006.

In the national parks estate since 2003 vast areas of the alpine areas from the Brindabellas, through the Upper Murray and Murrumbidgee catchments and into Gippsland, have been burnt, some even twice. The impacts of regenerating forests on river flows must be enormous, apart from effects on water quality and soil erosion. 

The takeaway messages are: 
  • Continue political and community engagement at all levels 
  • Australia needs to decide if its fair dinkum about increasing plantation wood production. 
  • No matter what happens on the expansion front, we need to vastly improve our whole of landscape fire management systems, particularly around reducing high fuel accumulations which were a major contributor to the 2019/20 holocaust. 

Please feel free to contact us if you would like more information or want to become more involved with any of the Hub’s activities.

You are also welcome to share any of our social media links, website details or email contacts to colleagues and friends that would like to keep up to date with what we are doing in the region.

Peter Crowe OAM,
Chair SWG / MRFH


NSW Agriculture Minister’s Advisory Group (AGMAG)

Diana Gibbs, Economic Advisor to Softwoods Working Group, has been invited to sit on the the NSW Agriculture Minister’s Advisory Group (AGMAG) as representative member of the softwood plantation sector and the community of the SW Slopes region. SWG welcomes the inclusion of the plantation sector as a recognised part of the agricultural sector in NSW.  The native forest sector is also included in AGMAG, via a representative from Timber NSW.

Forestry Australia 2022 Symposium

Registration is NOW OPEN, for both in person and virtual attendance!⁠ The Forestry Australia 2022 Symposium will be held both in person & online from Thursday 20 – Saturday 22 October.⁠
⁠MRFH  are assisting with the co-ordination of the field trips on Saturday 22 October and we look forward to seeing everyone for an informative tour of the area and our local industry.⁠⁠
The theme of the Symposium Leading, adapting and reimagining – the future of forestry, will facilitate conversation and collaboration, focussed on the future of our sector. ⁠We will discuss the challenges and opportunities before us, and explore strategies that address and create a bright and innovative future for forestry in Australia.⁠

MRFH Campaign in Progress

MRFH has contracted Paul Smith from local Albury business Supersupergoat Media to create a video to promote not only MRFH but to also promote the forest industry and its sustainability.

Victor Violante, CEO AFPA NSW meets with MRFH

We were honoured to have Victor Violante, CEO AFPA NSW join us for our quarterly meeting held at Greater Hume Shire Council, Holbrook.⁠

Victor has recently returned from Seoul where he represented AFPA at the World Forestry Congress, organised by the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) hosted by Korea.⁠

Our members were provided with insight on what to expect as a result of the election that may impact our industry.⁠

Call for funding to develop biological control for blackberries 

The Softwoods Working Group (SWG) and The Murray Region Forestry Hub (MRFH) are calling for substantial funding to support research into finding an effective biological control for blackberries not just in the hub’s area, but across eastern Australia where they are a massive problem. 

Executive Officer Phil Clements of SWG and MRFH said a government coordinated, whole-of-landscape approach, across all land tenures, was urgently needed to deal with the serious blackberry problem. 

“We want to reduce the impact not only on the pines, but also on our farming neighbours, and we will work with them to get real action on this as soon as possible,” he said. 


Tour explores opportunities and impediments for forestry

Six officials from the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) were given a first-hand look at the importance of the timber industry on a tour of the Tumut/Tumbarumba region organised by the Murray Region Forestry Hub (MRFH).

Murray Hub’s Executive Officer Phil Clements said DAWE provided funding for the hubs, so it was vital that the department had a good understanding of the role of the MRFH, the importance of the forestry industry in the region, and the challenges it faces.

“The tour was an opportunity for these officials to take a look at the extent and scale of ongoing forestry operations and also the magnitude of the damage caused by the 2019/20 fires, which burnt about 48,000 hectares of pine plantations in the Tumut/Tumbarumba region,” Mr Clements said.
The tour covered plantation establishment, weed control, environmental works, harvesting and haulage, with visits to Blowering Nursery, Hyne’s mill at Tumbarumba and Visy’s mill at Tumut.

Forum highlights forestry opportunities

Opportunities in the forestry industry were highlighted at a North East Victorian stakeholder’s forum held on Wednesday 20 April at Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre.

The forum, convened by HVP’s General Manager Northern Region, Anne Partridge, was held to introduce stakeholders in the region to the Murray Region Forestry Hub (MRFH) and get their input.

Key hub towns in NSW are Tumut, Tumbarumba, Gundagai, while in Victoria the main centres for the industry are Myrtleford, Wangaratta and Benalla.

Ms Partridge said the forum received excellent input from around 20 regional stakeholders including local government, growers, and industry.

“About halfway through the forum, we split into workshops to brainstorm issues. The main challenges and concerns discussed included overcoming workforce shortages, community relations, timber shortage and climate change,” she said.

“Overall, the forum, gave us a good awareness of the role of the hub and the avenues stakeholders have to influence the future of the timber industry and ensure its success in North-East Victoria.”



Does timber harvesting make forests more flammable?

IFA/AFG members Prof. Kevin Tolhurst and Jerry Vanclay have written an OpEd piece titled, Does timber harvesting make forests more flammable?

They note that, “Some ecologists and conservationists, opposed to timber harvesting, are trying to use bushfire disasters as a lever to stop native forest harvesting, but their case is based on opinion, beliefs and selective science.”

Some ecologists and conservationists, opposed to timber harvesting, are trying to use bushfire disasters as a lever to stop native forest harvesting, but their case is based on opinion, beliefs and selective science. A 2016 study of over 1 million hectares burnt by wildfire in the 2003 fires in Victoria, showed that fire severity across the landscape was driven by weather conditions, slope aspect, fuel levels, atmospheric stability, and the scale of the fires. There was no discernible impact of timber harvesting on fire severity at the landscape scale.


Ultimate Renewable launches campaign in support in support of industry

The Ultimate Renewable has announced that Adam Dovile has taken on the role of supporting the Wood. The Ultimate Renewable™ to his notable list of achievements.

Adam has been guiding, advising and showing Australian audiences how a builder gets the best results in any space since 2014. First as the winner of House Rules and then as the Resident Builder on Better Homes and Gardens, Adam shares his creativity and expertise in construction for big and small projects. In 2016 Adam won the Logie for Best New Talent and now he is an established audience favorite.



ForestLearning launches new tools showcasing careers in forestry

ForestLearning have recently launched new resources that allow school students of all ages a glimpse into a virtual day in the life of a different people working in forestry and wood, without leaving the classroom.

ForestLearning’s hugely successful ForestVR technology has expanded with three new engaging, immersive and educational virtual reality (VR) experiences, focussing on careers.

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