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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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FORESTRY

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

Forests are a reservoir of biological diversity and are functioning ecosystems. They provide protection for soils 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 the foundation for a broad range of cultural and spiritual experiences for diverse groups of people and a major tourist attraction for Australians and overseas visitors, providing for a vast array of recreational and educational activities.

Forests and plantations provide the basis for Australia's forest industries. 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, gums, resins, medicines, firewood and craft wood.

The Australian Government, and state and territory governments share 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 in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Australia is engaged with the global community in measuring, monitoring and reporting indicators for sustainable forest management. As a member of the international forest initiative - the Montreal Process (1994) - Australia has contributed to the development of the seven national criteria and 67 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.

FOREST ESTATE

Native forest

A forest is defined by Australia’s National Forest Inventory 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 'old growth') as at December 2003 is estimated at 162.7 million hectares (ha), which is about 21% of Australia’s land area (table 15.1). Some 121.6 million ha (75%) of native forest were on public land, and 38.9 million ha (24%) were on private land with the remaining 1% on land of unresolved tenure. The 121.6 million ha of forests growing on public land, consisted of 75.6 million ha (62%) on leasehold tenure, 21.5 million ha (18%) in Nature Conservation Reserves, 13.1 million ha (11%) on other Crown land, and 11.4 million ha (9%) managed by state forest authorities for multiple uses including wood production, recreation and informal reserves. Taking forested leasehold land together with private freehold forest, some 114.5 million ha, or 70% of Australia’s native forests, were under private management.

15.1 NATIVE FOREST AREAS - December 2003

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
8,803
Medium
18,190
3,407
36,022
596
12,399
1,281
11,268
81
83,244
Low
186
519
1,373
1,208
2,646
65
16,643
7
22,647
Mallee
22
1,171
122
6,044
4,969
-
-
-
12,328
Total
22,218
7,562
38,706
7,849
20,184
2,476
27,911
116
127,022
Acacia
1,251
63
6,984
1,939
4,563
74
1,613
-
16,487
Melaleuca
44
96
5,301
1
-
19
1,593
-
7,054
Rainforest
486
16
2,885
-
5
598
224
-
4,214
Casuarina
1,000
4
216
763
40
1
14
-
2,038
Mangrove
3
2
196
19
173
-
355
-
748
Callitris
1,240
56
387
261
-
1
386
-
2,330
Other
415
135
1,059
34
398
-
738
-
2,779
Total
26,658
7,936
55,733
10,865
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
21,492
Other Crown land(c)
1,055
207
1,131
392
9,387
80
890
-
13,142
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
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
55,733
10,865
25,365
3,169
32,836
117
162,680

(a) Publicly owned land managed for multiple use including wood production.
(b) Public land on which wood production is excluded (national parks, etc.).
(c) Reserved areas of educational, scientific and other public institutional land, including easements, defence land, and other minor tenure classifications.
(d) Crown land where the right to harvest or clear land must be approved by state/territory governments. Often known as pastoral leases.

Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences, 'National Forest Inventory, 2003'.


Plantations

The combined resource of standing planted forests in Australia was 1.7 million ha planted to December 2004 (table 15.2). Softwood plantations, which are dominated by the exotic species Pinus radiata, represented 58% (1,001,000 ha). Hardwood plantations, which are almost all native eucalyptus species, mainly Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) represented 42% (716,000 ha). The proportion of the estate accounted for by hardwood plantations has increased significantly over the last decade (up from 15% in 1994 and 29% in 1999, to 42% in 2004 (graph 15.3).

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. Private ownership of trees in plantation forests has increased from 46% in 1999, when it was equal to public ownership, to 58% in 2004. Private ownership of land under plantation forests has increased from 42% to 53% over the same period.

15.2 PLANTATION AREAS - December 2004

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
Species type
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha

Hardwood
54
168
35
40
259
151
8
-
716
Softwood
287
215
180
124
110
74
4
5
1,001
Total
341
383
215
164
370
226
12
5
1,716

Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences, 'National Plantation Inventory 2005'.


Graph 15.3: PLANTATION AREA BY SPECIES GROUP(a)


Farm forestry

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

Farm forestry is increasingly becoming adopted as part of farm management planning and integrated into existing land uses, not only to supply wood but also to provide a range of benefits such as environmental protection and increased agricultural production.

To date, plantation farm forestry has mostly occurred in higher rainfall regions (greater than 600 millimetres per year) where good growth rates can be achieved and there is an existing timber processing industry. Many farmers have also entered into farm forestry by leasing their land or forming joint venture agreements with large-scale forest management companies.

The area of plantations owned outright by individuals having total estates less than 1,000 ha (i.e. the small-grower sector) was just on 67,000 ha in 2000, or nearly 5% of Australia’s total plantation estate. In addition, 20% of the larger industrial plantations form an overlap with farm forestry participation through leasehold and joint venture arrangements with farmers.

The management of private native forests is an important component of farm forestry, with 24% of Australia’s total native forest area in private ownership and a further 46% on privately managed leasehold 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 2003-04 total roundwood removed from forests declined by 4% to 25.7 million cubic metres. The removal of broadleaved wood (primarily from native forests) fell 6% in 2003-04 to 11.0 million cubic metres, while 2% less coniferous wood (mainly from plantations) was removed (ABARE 2005b).

The value of exports of forest products in 2003-04 totalled $2.1b, of which 39% were woodchips and 35% paper and paperboard products. The value of imports of forest products in 2003-04 was $3.9b, of which 52% were paper and paperboard products and 13% sawnwood. This indicates a trade deficit in forest products of $1.8b in 2003-04. Australia produced 86% of its sawn timber needs in 2003-04, of which native forests provide 23%, with 77% coming from softwood plantations. 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 2003-04 increased by 8% to 4,037,000 cubic metres (table 15.4).

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 a substantial increase in the volume of wood for paper and paperboard sourced from eucalypt plantations as they have come into production. This production has more than doubled from 443,000 cubic metres in 1998-99 to 1,173,000 cubic metres in 2003-04.

Some 41% of the paper and paper products consumed domestically in 2003-04 were imported, with 70% of printing and writing paper coming from overseas. The majority of paper products produced domestically were packaging and industrial paper (62%) along with newsprint, printing and writing papers, and tissue paper. Recycled paper now contributes 54% 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.

15.4 PRODUCTION OF WOOD AND SELECTED WOOD PRODUCTS

Commodity
Units
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03
2003-04

Sawn Australian grown timber
Coniferous
’000 m3
2,637
2,351
2,529
2,669
3,012
Broadleaved
’000 m3
1,346
1,174
1,108
1,063
1,026
Total
’000 m3
3,983
3,525
3,637
3,732
4,037
Hardwood woodchips(a)
’000 t
6,164
6,401
5,912
7,079
6,892
Railway sleepers
’000 m3
40
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
Plywood
’000 m3
192
157
192
219
239
Unlaminated particle board
’000 m3
978
904
965
1,025
1,048
Medium density fibreboard
’000 m3
621
712
732
786
795
Wood pulp(a)
’000 t
861
895
843
877
869
Paper and paperboard
Newsprint(a)
’000 t
464
465
395
412
422
Printing and writing
’000 t
535
554
624
564
585
Household and sanitary
’000 t
232
204
198
194
200
Packaging and industrial
’000 t
1,605
1,449
1,679
1,892
1,956

(a) Excludes production of small establishments with fewer than four persons employed, and establishments engaged in non-manufacturing activities but which may carry on, in a minor way, some manufacturing.

Source: Manufacturing Production, Australia (8301.0); ABARE 2005b, 'Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics'.


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