The forest and wood products industry in Victoria is a dynamic sector of the economy that uses wood – a renewable, biodegradable, recyclable product, to create materials for new homes, buildings and furniture, paper and fuel for green energy.
Victoria’s natural forests and plantations provide a sustainable resource base for the sector. Australian, State and Territory governments share an objective of an industry based on the sustainable management (of forests) to integrate environmental, commercial and community values and uses.
Jobs, training, self-supporting communities, local manufacturing and exports are all maintained and furthered by a secure local Victorian forest industry. The industry directly employs more than 21,000 people and indirectly supports another 40,000 to 50,000 jobs, providing a sustainable future for suburban, rural and regional communities across Victoria.
Nearly eight million hectares of Crown land is managed to provide environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits to the people of Victoria. The primary tenures of Crown land are Parks and Conservation Reserves or State Forest. Of the 7.8 million hectares of public native forest in Victoria, more than 90% of these forests are unavailable or unsuitable for timber harvesting operations.
This includes 4.74 million hectares of native forest in Victoria which is protected in national parks and conservation reserves. Timber harvesting is permitted within a very small fraction of Victoria’s total native forest area. The area legally available for harvesting is made up of General Management Zones and Special Management Zones. Areas classified as ‘reserved’ are forests within Special Protection Zones and other exclusions such as riparian buffers and slopes.
In total, approximately 494,000 hectares or 6% of the state’s total native forest estate is available to be harvested by VicForests20. In 2013-14 VicForests harvested 2,972 hectares or 0.038% of total native forest area in Victoria.
Plantations and farm forestry present an opportunity to increase Australia’s long-term wood supply while contributing significant social, economic and environmental benefits to regional Australia. In 2013-14 Victoria continued to have the largest total area of plantations of Australian states and territories with 433,000 hectares of commercial hardwood and softwood plantations, up from 383,000 hectares in the ten year period dating back to 2003-04. Hardwood plantations (mostly bluegum) covered 206,000 hectares (47% of plantations) while softwood plantations (mainly radiata pine) covered 226,000 hectares (52%).
Plantations play an important role in supplying timber locally and to export markets. Due to the long term nature of plantation investment the establishment of plantations has often required government assistance and regulatory supports. Plantation trees are either for a ‘short term’ rotation of 8-15 years or a ‘long rotation’ of over 25 years. Short rotation timbers are generally used for woodchips or pulp for paper product. Long rotation timbers are aimed at producing sawlogs for construction or appearance grade applications such as furniture manufacture. Long rotation hardwood plantations are relatively scarce in Victoria and the rate of new plantation establishment has been declining since 2000.