Wood is a basic resource for our furnishing industries. Whether its manufactured boards for kitchens, or solid wood for free-standing timber furniture; this resource is vital to the industry that employs 94,000 people and generates eight billion dollars in income. Trees also store carbon, and this is a political issue.

Australia’s forests are a vital natural resource for our furnishing and construction industries. Australia now has 134 million hectares of forest, a net increase of 3.9 million ha between 2011 and 2016. Native forest makes up 132 million ha (98%), commercial plantations 1.95 million ha (1.5%) and ‘Other forest’ 0.47 million ha (0.4%).

The chief executive of the Australian Forest Products Association, Ross Hampton, said the IPCC (4th assessment) was clear. It stated: “A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustainable yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained (carbon) mitigation benefit.” Mark Poynter, an author and professional forester with more than 40 years’ experience, said the IPCC report also noted that closing native forest harvesting meant other energy-intensive materials would replace wood products.

It’s great news then that the Western Australian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) has been extended for another 20 years with an annual sustainable yield of at least 191,000 cubic metres of high-quality jarrah and karri saw logs. The landmark RFA agreement for $1.4 billion was signed on April 5th by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Premier Mark McGowan. Brian Easton is past chairman of Forest Management Plan 2014-2023. He said, “Achieving a balance between the environment and forest industries for 10 years has been challenging.”

Meanwhile in Victoria in a proposal pushed by the state’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio; native forest industry would be closed to generate carbon credits under the Victorian Regional Forest Agreements. Mr Poynter said, “In Australia’s fire-prone landscapes the concept of permanently storing ever increasing amounts of carbon in forests is fraught.” Recent fires in Victoria and Tasmania where tens of thousands of hectares have been burnt are stark examples of where leaving forests as carbon repositories with no forestry activity, has had an adverse impact.

The Shadow Assistant Minister for Forestry, Gary Blackwood said, “Instead of waiting for the outcome of the scientific and factual review, as part of the RFA process, the Minister has been lobbying the Federal Minister to implement carbon initiatives that would end native forest harvesting in Victoria.” Mark Adams and Peter Attiwill in the CSIRO publication, ‘Burning Issues’ reported “No matter how vehemently some people might try to portray native forests as eternal sinks, the laws of biology and chemistry still apply. Forests are NOT continuously increasing sinks for carbon.”