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Resources – Value of Plantation Compared to Native Hardwood

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Tags: Native Forest Logging

Ms O'CONNOR - The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, ABAREs, from 2018 19 show that the value of hardwood plantation products in Tasmania massively outstrips the value of hardwood native products at $229 million to $66 million. This has been the case since you came to government.

Mr BARNETT - Sorry, 229 to what?

Ms O'CONNOR - $229 million for plantations, $66 million for native forests, which as we know is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. This has been the case ever since you came to government and every year since 2015-16, the value of native hardwood to our economy has declined and we have confirmed that forestry Tasmania cannot meet its minimum legislated saw log quota. Why do you constantly crow about the value of native forestry to Tasmania but you never discuss plantations? You never make a distinction ever though the growth is in the plantations sector; the future is in the plantations sector and the markets favour plantation products.

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for the question. In fact, there were many questions there, Mr Chair. I would like the opportunity to respond -

Ms O'CONNOR - No, there was one question.

Mr BARNETT - No, there were a number of questions and I would like the opportunity to respond to those questions and the false allegations for which we disagree. Firstly -

CHAIR - Please give the Minister a chance to answer.

Mr BARNETT - The first allegation is that there is a massive subsidy for the forest industry through STT. To make it very clear the industry has been operating on a sustainable and profitable basis for four years, thanks to the reforms taken under our government.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes. Since you made them sell their plantations. Made them sell their assets.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor. There are constituents and stakeholders who I am sure would like to know the answer to your question. If you do not give the Minister a chance to respond, they will not. It is also disorderly and difficult for Hansard to record the proceedings today. Please allow the Minister to respond.

Mr BARNETT - Secondly, there is allegation with respect to saw log quotas and the Government's disposition. I have made it clear in many answers to Dr Broad the position of the Government. Having said that, I appreciate the advice. In terms of the ABARE statistics and I am not denying those statistics, I want to make it clear that we support the sustainable forest industry. I have made it clear in the past that we support both the native forest industry and the plantation sector. We are doing what we can to do more value-adding downstream processing, including in the plantation sector. I have made an example of using eucalyptus nicens, either Hermal Group or Cusp on the north-west coast. The engineered wood, cross laminated timber that they are using is using plantation timber. To suggest that I am not making any reference to that is absurd. We support the plantation forest industry and native forestry. We support it on public land, we support it on private land. I want to acknowledge and thank the Australian Government for their $100 million commitment to the forestry hub in Launceston which will be a national hub, based in Launceston together with the $100 million commitment from the industry as well. What that says, it is a vote of confidence in the Tasmanian forestry industry, plantation, native forestry, public land, private land. I am so grateful for that support, it was cross-party support and I want to acknowledge that today.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, are you able to provide an update on the respective values of native hardwood and plantation hardwood, since the latest available ABARE statistics in 2018-19?

Mr BARNETT - When you say values?

Ms O'CONNOR - The respective values, as per the statistics I gave you earlier. That data, $229 million from the plantation sector, $66 million from subsidised native forest logging. I am looking for up to date information on the respective values of the two sectors. I am happy to put it on notice.

Mr BARNETT - I will see if I can provide at least part of that answer and I will see if the department can assist with the other part. Certainly, in terms of native forestry it delivers a range of economic benefits to the state, directly generating approximately $290 million per annum through sales and processing. That is based on 2015-16 figures and more than 110 direct jobs up to the point of primary processing. In other words, this does not include saw milling jobs. When wood is harvested from our native forests it is regrown as native forest. It maintains our native forest estate in perpetuity. I will check if the department can assist the member further with other parts you can add to that answer.

Mr JACOBI - Thank you for the question, Ms O'Connor. I would prefer that Mr Alistair Morton, director of forest policy to answer the question.

Mr MORTON - Thank you and through you, Minister. I do not have significantly more to add. The last time we did a very detailed study of timber values was through the (inaudible) report which was released in 2017. That came up with some high-level figures that the direct value of the forest industry was $712 million per year, with flow-on benefits valued at $1.2 billion a year. That had some quite detailed breakdowns around native and plantation and went into some detail around the economic benefits that both derived. As the minister's already pointed out there are some good reasons plantations now make up the majority of our total volume - it's almost 75 per cent. There are some products that only come from native forests at the moment. As has been articulated there are good reasons for doing both at some level.

Ms O'CONNOR - I have a final question. I take it that there's no up-to-date data that reflects the ABARE statistics. I accept that there has been a report done; I dispute some of the findings of that.

Minister, is it still your policy to secure forest stewardship certification for Forestry Tasmania, given that the entity has failed twice so far due to your Government's policies?

Mr BARNETT - I reject the allegations that are made by the member.

Ms O'CONNOR - Which one?

Mr BARNETT - You've made a number of false allegations so I reject all of them.

Ms O'CONNOR - Which ones?

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, this will be your last question.

Mr BARNETT - I will try to answer the question in terms of Forest Stewardship Council. That's a matter for Sustainable Timber Tasmania; however, the Government supported Sustainable Timber Tasmania in its objectives to achieve FFC. The efforts are ongoing. They've made that very clear at various GBE hearings in the past. They've made it clear in their annual reports and publicly. We've supported the board. I've made that clear in the past and I'm happy to add to that but I hope that assists the member.