The Australian Forest Products Association has welcomed the Federal Government’s inclusion of the forestry sector under the new Australian Agriculture Visa.
The new visa is being established to build on successful existing Pacific worker schemes and will respond to workforce shortages across the agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors. It will be administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“Like many industries across agriculture, forest industries also require the flexibility to onboard international workers in response to workforce shortages, including in activities like planting new production trees,” the association’s CEO, Ross Hampton, said.
Australia has major timber supply constraints
“Australia is currently experiencing major timber supply constraints with peaking demand for new homes and renovations, constraints which will only worsen in the decades ahead if we don’t get more production trees in the ground, under the Government’s Billion Trees Plan. The increasing global demand for timber has also shown we can’t rely on imports to fill the gap.
“The inclusion of the forestry sector under this visa will mean flexibility for the sector in hiring workers to boost the future supply of timber for houses and the array of sustainable fibre products increasingly replacing harmful plastics.”
Hampton said the industry was grateful to agriculture minister, David Littleproud, and Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries, Senator Jonno Duniam, for recognising the increasing importance of forest industries to produce vital and sustainable timber and fibre products. These products were becoming more essential in everyday life for Australians.
Most of native forest is unsuitable for forestry
Around 70% of Australia’s 123-million hectares of native forest is unavailable or unsuitable for native forestry operations. Only 100,000ha of the native forest area in the country is harvested for timber annually (less than 0.06% of the nation’s total native forests).
According to the Forest Products Association, all native forest harvested is sustainably regrown, with the regrowth quickly becoming an abundant food source and habitat for native species.
The association adds that over 90% of Australia’s commercial native forest operations are independently certified to comply with the world’s best sustainable forest management practices. This is compared to the global average of only around 8%.