Australia is the seventh most forested country in the world and Australians have more forest per person than most other countries except Canada and Russia according to the Australian Institute of Foresters. However according to Rob de Fégely, our trade deficit is an issue and we can do more.
Wood is good, it is a carbon-positive, renewable resource and it is almost impossible to live a day without using wood products in some form. However, most of Australia’s 125 million hectares of forest are either privately owned or on leasehold land. The bulk of the production from natural forests comes from public multiple use forests. In addition, most of Australia’s planted forest estate was either established by public forest agencies or with some form of government assistance.
Rob de Fégely has over 30 years of experience in the Australian forest industry and sits on the board of the Australian Institute of Foresters. He has said “Private forest owners and Indigenous Australians, particularly in natural forests are conspicuous by their absence in the long-term supply of wood products. We can change this if we have the community support and political will to do so!”
“Indigenous Australians possess, manage or have an interest in around 30% of Australia’s forests and many want greater autonomy in the management of their land and forests. Effectively managing forests for environmental outcomes is also not the pretty picture we are often led to believe. Australia has considerable areas of conservation forests which have no effective monitoring making it challenging to make informed decisions about forest management particularly in a landscape context. Are these forests achieving what we think they are?” Rob de Fégely said.
Australia has a significant trade deficit in forest products of more than $2 billion each year. This is not an economic argument but a moral and social one. We have the space, skills, wealth and knowledge to do more. Mr de Fégely added “We need to investigate whether there is market failure in the domestic forest products market and whether incentives are needed to continue to develop new forest resources. Although I am often reminded that one of the best incentives is a simple one called profit. Australia has a proud history of forest management and has the ability to improve conservation outcomes from its forests while meeting demand for renewable resources like wood.”
Since 1935, the Institute of Foresters of Australia is a professional body with over 1100 members engaged in all branches of forest management and conservation in Australia. The Institute is strongly committed to the principles of sustainable forest management and the processes and practices which translate these principles into outcomes. Our photo shows plantation redwoods near Taggerty in Victoria.