The Victorian Association of Forest Industries Inc. (VAFI) is the peak body for the Victorian timber and forestry industry. It is a vital industry for regional Victoria:
- Directly employing approximately 20,000 workers;
- Indirectly supporting another 40,000 to 50,000 jobs;
- Contributing $7.3 billion in sales and service income to the economy annually; and
- Providing a sustainable future for suburban, rural and regional communities across Victoria.
The State of the Industry
The timber and forest industry is the lifeblood of many rural and regional towns. If we want to ensure our regional towns have a future, we need to support industries that provide local jobs. The timber and forest industry also has a strong construction and manufacturing presence, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne.
The industry is a critical part of local communities, local jobs, cost of living, housing affordability and the Victorian economy with an impact throughout our everyday lives and throughout our state:
- In our high-quality furniture, flooring, staircases and window frames – the effort involved and appreciation of good design and practicality
- In residential and commercial construction – when people move into their new house
- In the paper we write on and the packaging that gets products to market
- In the new wood-derived products that can replace environmentally harmful plastics
- When we’re celebrating happy times around the dinner table – residue from the timber processing, e.g. sawdust has played a role in the egg and chicken meat industry as well as often the table itself
Victorian timber is harvested under regulations that are some of the toughest in the world. The industry acknowledges the importance of appropriate regulations to ensuring the industry is sustainable and views its environmental responsibility as integral to its ongoing viability. The industry is modern and efficient, actively seeking ways to use every bit of the timber it harvests and engaging in best practice.
Commercial timber production in Victoria is highly regulated, well managed and restricted to less than 6% of the entire forest estate. In any one year, less than 0.04% of the forest is harvested. Sustainable forestry and good management is essential for the health of the industry. Indeed, it is a requirement that all areas harvested are regrown.
VAFI works to ensure security of supply for members in terms of land management and resource regulations, for the benefit of the economy and community in a sustainable way.
VAFI is committed to the sustainability and biodiversity of Victorian forests. The Victorian timber and forest industry takes the protection of the environment as a given: we take measures to protect the environment because it is our industry. We know it’s the right thing to do but we also know protecting the environment makes our industry possible now and in the future.
Future Industry Opportunities
Victorian timber products are renewable, recyclable, and store carbon. They represent an essential, economical, low-carbon component for new housing, paper production and technological innovation. Applications range across: traditional construction and paper manufacture, engineered wood products; high-value bio-products derived from wood; and bio-energy. Our industry needs:
People that are:
- Skilled – Trained in the latest management, harvesting and manufacturing technologies;
- Safe– Continuously improving OH&S practices; and
- Committed – Working in an industry of choice with long-term career security and progression.
Resource supply that is:
- Secure – Long-term supply that is guaranteed and consistent;
- Diverse– Drawn from of the full range of regions, species and fibre types; and
- Efficiently used– The whole tree is used for multiple products.
Markets that are:
- Growing– Victoria can meet the growing demand for timber products;
- Accessible– Victorian manufacturers are competitive nationally and internationally; and
- Varied– Multiple markets for a wide range of products: construction, paper, bio-products.
To achieve progress toward these aims, for the 2018 Victorian Election VAFI advocates for bipartisan support for the following commitments.
Priority: Jobs and Economic Contribution
The jobs sustainable timber creates are all around us: from the person who cuts down the tree, to the truck driver who moves the timber, to the maker of our bedside table, to the carpenter who works on our house. There is also huge potential for new jobs in the industry, as new technologies develop to use timber as a feedstock for manufacturing low-carbon, biodegradable alternatives to traditional plastics.
The timber and forest industry is also the lifeblood of many rural and regional towns like Benalla, Heyfield, Maryvale, Mansfield and Colac. If we want to ensure our regional towns have a future, we need to support industries that provide local jobs.
These jobs must be supported by a growing resource base, which needs to include:
- A total plantation target area of 500,000 hectares (currently c. 420,000 ha) in Victoria of agreed scale, species and location within 10 years.
- $110 million Western Victoria Plantation Project: following the announcement of the Latrobe Valley Plantation Project, create a Western Victoria Plantation Project to enhance timber supply, create regional jobs and create renewable resources.
- Ongoing funding for co-investment in plantation development as an extension to Latrobe Valley Plantation Project.
- The development of a strategic plan for the timber and forest industry with a particular focus on industry reliant on state forests.
Priority: Existing State Forest Resource Certainty
Victoria’s current plantation estate is generally not the right mix of species and has not been managed to produce products for construction, flooring or joinery. If we want affordable housing, and certainty for home development, sensitive management of state forests is necessary. To achieve this, we will need:
- To maintain processing capacity and associated jobs, industry seeks certainty of resource availability, supported by a stable RFA framework renewed for the next 20 years, and secure rolling contracts for processors and harvesting operators
- Commitment to timber supply as provided for in VicForests 2017 Resource Outlook to 2030;
- Growth in resource capacity through a commitment to improved resource use efficiency and forest management outcomes, including:
- developing opportunities to utilise wood from state-wide thinning operations; and
- developing opportunities for additional wood harvesting in currently under-utilised state forest resource.
Priority: Wood Encouragement Policy
A strong demand for a diverse range of timber products will allow Victoria to build on its existing competitive advantage and employ more people to make a diverse range of high quality wood-products.
The Victorian Government can lead by example when it comes to timber. Its purchasing power is significant, and the purchasing by the public and private sectors has effects well beyond the metropolitan area on local towns and transport. This can be supported by:
- A state-wide Wood Encouragement Policy for Victorian Government in purchasing, procurement and construction/fit-out projects.
- Preference Australian-made paper, wherever practical, in all government departments after July 1, 2019.
- $25 million Wood Processing Development Fundto improve resource use efficiency through matching industry investment in new equipment, upgrading, retooling, and product diversification.
Priority: Timber and Forestry Skills for the Future
It is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the industry that it has skilled workers right across the supply chain.
The Victorian timber and forest industry is modern and efficient, actively seeking ways to use every bit of the timber it harvests and engage in international best practice. Our aim is continuous improvement in terms of skills for our workers and innovation in how we use timber to minimise negative impacts on the environment. To guarantee skills development, we need:
- $15 million for an Industry Skills Fund, to invest in research and development to grow the timber and forest industry through engineered wood products, bio-manufacturing, climate change mitigation, timber product education, making a diverse range of products and operating in a re-tooled environment.
- $1.5 million to fund two regional co-ordinators for five years to engage industry with local government to better target transport infrastructure, and to seek opportunities with farming communities.
- Updating the State Forest Resource Inventory (SFRI).
- Reinstating the Country Roads and Bridges program or equivalent, with a doubling of the funds available to $2 million per year per Local Government Area (LGA), including repairing locally important bridges.
- Recommitment to the $25 millionLocal Roads to Marketprogram with a minimum 20% of the funding prioritised for key local timber routes and key council connector roads.
- New research into size and distribution of native wildlife populations that impact plantation operations in south-west Victoria.
- A new Victorian Plantations Act, which consolidates regulations and policies regarding plantation forestry, with state-wide oversight by a dedicated office, increasing investment activity and opportunities in Victoria.
- Amending Victorian Renewable Energy Target to include energy from wood residues.
- Developing residue utilisation projects to secure energy supply and other bioproducts and chemical feed stocks.
- Work with the Commonwealth Government on Developing a commercially viable carbon valuing mechanism for new plantation projects that acknowledges the carbon storage occurring during plantation growth and retained in harvested wood products.
- The $200 million Future Industries Fund and its application to the timber and forest industry.
- Appropriate funding for regional development and growth in Victoria.
- Appropriate funding for bushfire management and funding for the Country Fire Authority and timber industry businesses making available machinery to assist with bushfire prevention and creating fire breaks across Victoria.