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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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FORESTRY

Australia's native and plantation forests are an important natural resource providing a wide range of products and valuable services to the community.

Australia is one of the most mega-diverse countries and the forests of south-western Australia are one of the world's 25 biodiversity hotspots. Forests provide protection for soil and water resources, and are increasingly being recognised for their potential as carbon sinks through their ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. They are also the foundation for a broad range of cultural and spiritual experiences for diverse groups of people and a major tourist attraction for Australian and overseas visitors, providing for a vast array of recreational and educational activities.

Australia's native and plantation forests provide the vast majority of the timber and paper products used by Australians. Employment and wealth flow directly from the wood products derived from the forests, such as sawn timber, fibreboard, plywood and paper. These forests and plantations also support a variety of other products and services, such as honey, wildflowers, natural oils, firewood and craft wood.

The Australian Government together with state and territory governments have developed a National Forest Policy Statement that outlines agreed objectives for the management of Australia’s forests. The policy sets out a vision of ecologically sustainable management of the forest estate that integrates environmental, commercial and community values and uses. These values are embodied in regional forest agreements negotiated for New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

As a member of the international forest initiative - the Montreal Process - Australia has contributed to the development of the seven national criteria and 44 national indicators for the sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests. Australia has adopted the internationally agreed criteria and indicators, and revised them and added others to reflect its own unique forests, providing a consistent framework for monitoring and reporting on the status of its forests. Information is collected covering the themes of biological diversity, productive capacity, forest health, soil and water values, carbon, socioeconomic and legal and institutional frameworks. This is compiled every five years, by the National Forest Inventory (NFI) within the Bureau of Rural Sciences, to produce Australia’s State of the Forests Report.

Forest estate

Native forest

A forest is defined by the NFI as an area incorporating all living and non-living components, dominated by trees having usually a single stem and a mature or potentially mature stand height exceeding two metres, and with an existing or potential crown cover of over-storey strata about equal to or greater than 20%. This definition includes Australia’s diverse native forests, regardless of age. It is also sufficiently broad to encompass areas of trees that are sometimes described as woodlands.

Based on this definition, the total area of native forest (parts of which are considered 'old growth') reported in the latest Australia's State of the Forests Report is estimated at 162.7 million hectares (mill. ha), which is about 21% of Australia’s land area (table 17.1).

Some 121.6 mill. ha (75%) of native forest were on public land, and 38.9 mill. ha (24%) were on private land with the remaining 1% on land of unresolved tenure. The 121.6 mill. ha of forests growing on public land, consisted of 75.6 mill. ha (62%) on leasehold tenure, 21.5 mill. ha (18%) in Nature Conservation Reserves, 13.1 mill. ha (11%) on other Crown land, and 11.4 mill. ha (9%) managed by state forest authorities for multiple uses including wood production, recreation and informal reserves. Including forested leasehold land and private freehold forest, some 114.5 mill. ha, or 70% of Australia’s native forests, were privately managed.

17.1 NATIVE FOREST AREAS - December 2002

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha

Dominant Canopy Species

Eucalypt
Tall
3 820
2 465
1 189
1
170
1 130
-
28
8 801
Medium
18 190
3 407
36 022
596
12 399
1 281
11 268
81
83 246
Low
186
519
1 373
1 208
2 646
65
16 643
7
22 648
Mallee
22
1 171
122
6 044
4 969
-
-
-
12 329
Total
22 218
7 562
38 706
7 849
20 184
2 476
27 911
116
127 024
Acacia
1 251
63
6 984
1 939
4 563
74
1 613
-
16 488
Melaleuca
44
96
5 301
1
-
19
1 593
-
7 056
Rainforest
486
16
2 885
-
5
598
224
-
4 214
Casuarina
1 000
4
216
763
40
1
14
-
2 039
Mangrove
3
2
196
19
173
-
355
-
749
Callitris
1 240
56
387
261
-
1
386
-
2 330
Other
415
135
1 059
34
398
-
738
-
2 780
Total
26 658
7 936
55 734
10 866
25 365
3 169
32 836
117
162 680

Tenure

Public
Multiple use forest(a)
2 496
3 312
2 925
-
1 600
1 062
-
-
11 395
Nature Conservation Reserve(b)
4 471
3 050
5 000
3 943
3 805
1 105
12
106
21 491
Other Crown land(c)
1 055
207
1 131
392
9 387
80
890
-
13 143
Leasehold(d)
9 470
46
35 581
5 255
8 920
-
16 313
11
75 596
Total
17 492
6 615
44 637
9 590
23 712
2 247
17 215
117
121 625
Private(e)
8 523
1 298
10 213
822
1 639
922
15 511
-
38 928
Unresolved tenure
643
23
883
454
14
-
110
-
2 127
Total
26 658
7 936
55 734
10 866
25 365
3 169
32 836
117
162 680

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Publicly-owned land (including State Forests) managed for multiple use including wood production.
(b) Public land formally reserved for environmental, conservation and recreation purpose; including national parks, state parks and Crown lands reserved for water catchment purposes.
(c) Reserved areas of educational, scientific and other public institutional land, including easements, Defence land, and other minor tenure classifications.
(d) Crown land leased for private use, such as for grazing or mining where the right to harvest or clear land must be approved by state/territory governments. Often known as pastoral leases.
(e) Land held under freehold title and private ownership; includes land held by designated Indigenous communities under freehold title with special conditions attached.
Source: National Forest Inventory, 2003 Australia's State of the Forests Report'

Plantations

Australia’s plantation estate continued to expand in 2006. The total recorded area of plantation established reached 1.8 mill. ha to December 2006 (table 17.2). This was an increase of 78,000 ha (4.5%) over 2005. The proportion of hardwood species has increased to 44% of the total with softwood species making up just over half (56%) of the total area (graph 17.3). About 95% of the softwood plantations are Pinus radiata and other introduced pines. Nearly all of the hardwood plantations are native eucalypts, including Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), shining gum (E. nitens) and flooded gum (E. grandis).

A diverse range of ownership arrangements exists in the Australian plantation industry, including a variety of joint venture and annuity schemes between public and private parties. For several years, most investment in new plantations has been by the private sector through managed investment schemes, which funded 86% of all new plantations in 2006 and now own 26% of the total plantation area (graph 17.4). The proportions of public and private plantations were equal at 46% in 1999. Privately-owned plantations now represent 59%, far exceeding public plantations at 36%. This difference is especially pronounced for hardwood plantations, about 86% of which are privately owned compared with 36% of softwood plantations.

17.2 PLANTATION AREAS - December 2006

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Total
Species type
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha

Hardwood
63
175
43
48
281
174
23
-
807
Softwood
280
219
188
124
105
74
2
10
1 001
Other (mixed or unknown)
3
1
2
-
2
-
-
-
9
Total
345
396
233
172
389
248
26
10
1 818

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
Source: Parsons, M & Gavran, M, 'Australia's plantations 2007 - Inventory update', National Plantation Inventory 2007.


17.3 Plantation area(a), by species group
Graph: 17.3 Plantation area(a), by species group


17.4 Plantation ownership - 2006
Graph: 17.4 Plantation ownership—2006

Farm forestry

Farm forestry generally refers to the incorporation of commercial tree growing into farming systems. This may take the form of small plantations, timber belts, wind breaks, alleys and wide-spaced trees, and may also include management of native forest for commercial returns.

Farm forestry has been adopted by relatively few Australian farmers, although a large proportion of them plant trees for land protection and amenity purposes.

Managing private native forests is a potentially important component of farm forestry given 24% of Australia’s total native forest area was on privately-owned land.


Wood and paper products

Australia's wood and paper products industries are important components of Australia's primary and secondary industry sectors. They are particularly important in providing economic development and employment in many regions of rural Australia. The industries include hardwood and softwood sawmilling, plywood and panels manufacturing, woodchip production and export, and the pulp and paper industries.

In 2005-06 total roundwood removed from forests declined by 1% to 26.7 mill. cubic metres (mill. m3). The removal of broad-leaved wood (primarily from native forests) declined 3% in 2005-06 to 12.3 mill. m3, while 1% more coniferous wood (mainly from plantations) was removed.

The value of exports of forest products in 2005-06 totalled $2.1 billion (b), of which 40% were woodchips and 28% paper and paperboard products. The value of imports of forest products in 2005-06 was $4.0b, of which 53% were paper and paperboard products and 10% sawnwood. This indicates a trade deficit in forest products of $1.9b in 2005-06. Australia produced 93% of its sawn timber needs in 2005-06, of which 70% came from softwood plantations while the remainder came from native forests. Imported sawn timber is mostly Radiata pine from New Zealand and Douglas fir (also known as Oregon) from North America.The hardwood and softwood sawmilling industries comprise mills of various sizes which process wood into sawn timber and other products such as veneers, mouldings and floorings. The hardwood mills are generally small scale and scattered. The softwood mills are generally larger and more highly integrated with other wood-processing facilities. Australia's production of sawn timber in 2005-06 increased by 2% to 4.8 mill. m3 (table 17.5).

17.5 PRODUCTION OF WOOD AND SELECTED WOOD PRODUCTS

2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05
2005-06

Sawn Australian-grown timber
Coniferous ’000 m3
2 877
3 088
3 415
3 456
3 596
Broadleaved ’000 m3
1 338
1 323
1 253
1 231
1 188
Total ’000 m3
4 215
4 411
4 668
4 687
4 784
Plywood ’000 m3
192
219
146
156
145
Particle board ’000 m3
965
1 025
1 048
944
1 002
Medium-density fibreboard ’000 m3
732
786
795
794
798
Paper and paperboard
Newsprint ’000 t
395
412
422
443
415
Printing and writing ’000 t
624
564
585
659
663
Household and sanitary ’000 t
198
194
200
197
217
Packaging and industrial ’000 t
1 679
1 892
1 956
1 945
1 926

Source: Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 'Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics' September and December quarters 2006.


Other value-added timber products include plywood, wood-based panels and reconstituted wood products. Australian wood-based panels include particleboard, medium-density fibreboard, and hardboard made from softwood or hardwood pulp logs, sawmill residues or thinnings.

Pulp and paper mills use roundwood thinnings, low-quality logs, harvesting residues and sawmill waste, recycled paper and paperboard to produce a broad range of pulp and paper products. Over the past five years there has been almost a four fold increase in the volume of wood for paper and paperboard sourced from eucalypt plantations as they have come into production. In 2005-06, production stood at 3.6 mill. m3, a 35% increase over the previous year. Wood for paper and paperboard sourced from native eucalypts has been in steady decline in recent years with 2005-06 production of 5.2 mill. m3 down 19% on the previous year. Similarly, use of coniferous wood for paper and paperboard is in decline.

Some 42% of the paper and paper products consumed domestically in 2005-06 were imported, with 87% of printing and writing paper coming from overseas. The majority of paper products produced domestically were packaging and industrial paper (60%) along with printing and writing papers, newsprint and tissue paper. Recycled paper now contributes about half of the fibre used in the production of all paper and paperboard.

Woodchips are mainly used in the production of Australia's paper and paper products. The woodchip export industry uses sawmill residues and timber which is unsuitable for sawmilling and not required by the pulp, paper and reconstituted wood-products industries. Before the advent of the woodchip export industry, much of this material was left in the forest after logging. Considerable quantities of sawmill waste material, which would otherwise be burnt, are also chipped for local pulpwood-using industries and for export. Up until 1990-91 at least 95% of woodchips exported from Australia had been eucalypt, but since then greater quantities of softwood woodchips have become available from pine plantations.




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