Claire Howell, ABARES - 'Australia's forest resource at a glance'

Uploaded by Abaresoutlook2011 on 27.04.2011


... Now, I might need to just
somewhere there's a presentation in here.
Okay, so the role that I have in this session is
to provide an overview of the Australian forest estate
and I'll be going through the resource base
describing the challenges and opportunities very briefly - I think that will come through
more with some of the other speakers - but importantly I wanted to
close with a very key message about the importance of
current, comprehensive and accurate information to demonstrate
sustainable forest management to domestic and international audiences
and to support competitive and profitable forest industries. In many
ways this helps us to gain the social licence that we need - that is needed for
operating in Australia's forests. So Australia's forests
- they're extensive, geographically and climactically diverse and well loved
by Australians - both those who use them for their range of values and
by those who love the fact that they exist but don't necessarily go anywhere near them.
The management utilisation of forests has been a topic of debate
on and off for many years - but througout all the challenges
the Australian forest industry has remained a vital, resilient
adaptive and successful participant in the Australian economy.
And especially so in regional economies. And underpinning Australia's ability
to demonstrate sustainable forest management both domestically and internationally
is our capacity to report comprehensively across the wide
range of social, bio-physical and economic values of
forests. So much of my presentation is based on the information
provided by governments and industry for national reporting purposes
- including Australia's five yearly Status of Forests Report that we're currently preparing at the moment
for release in 2013.
So, just quickly: we have 147million hectares of forests
... This slide - I just wanted to be able to bring some focus to where a lot of the debate
has been. The open forests that are highlighted here in green
- woodland forests in beige and then red is the much smaller
portion of closed forests. As the
tenure that helps us to understand how Australia's forests are managed - and in
fact 70% of Australia's forests are privately managed, either as
leasehold forests largely used for grazing - although some timber production -
and private tenure - which includes indigenous forest management ...
managed for conservation purposes such as Kakadu. So, privately managed
forest represents the greatest gap in our knowledge about Australia's forests
and especially on the management and harvesting activities taking place.
Of the remaining 30% of publically managed forests, half
of these - 22 million - are managed as nature conservation reserves and a further
nine million hectares are what are referred to as our state forests
- multiple use forests.
The slide that I'm showing here just gives a bit of a breakdown across the main timber producing
states - to give an indication of the proportion of reserves - conservation reserves
- to those forests managed for timber production.
But indeed, of those forests managed for timber production, it's a much
smaller area again that's actually available for utilisation once codes of
practise and suitability are taken into account.
And the figures that we've just seen sit on the back of a history of
decline in the area of multiple use, native forests available for timber
with a corresponding increase in the area of national parks.
So, onto the plantation areas. Data
of the national plantation inventory shows the area of softwood plantations increased
marginally during the past decade, to just over one million hectares.
The next comprehensive spatial update of the national plantation inventory is being finalised
and due for release within the next few weeks. The area of hardwood
plantation increased by nearly five times from 1995-
2009, largely due to increase in private investment through
managed investment schemes. But due to a number of factors
including the lower than expected productivity and return on investment, along
with a drop in market demand, advice from growers participating in the
current update of the national plantation inventory indicates that the total area of
hardwood plantation is likely to decline - and this is to be confirmed
as we go and - continue to produce our report.
In terms of the harvest activities, we'll focus first
on the hardwood pulp from both native and then from hardwood plantation
- The volume of native forest pulp logs harvested has nearly halved
in the past five years and predominantly in the past two years in
favour of hardwood plantation pulpwood, which has seen a steady increase in the volumes
harvested. And indeed, for the first time in Abares' figures, the volume of
pulpwood from hardwood plantations exceeded that from native forests.
The increase in availability of this product type corresponds
to the planting rates of hardwood plantations during the 1990s
and 2000s - with that resource now coming online.
But to put some focus then on the saw log
harvest activities. In line with the overall decline in access to publically managed
native forests, the supply of native saw logs has
steadily declined since the mid-1990s - although the most recent figures
show a slowing in that rate of decline. Less than
10% - somewhere between 5-10% - of plantations are managed
saw log production. The current supply of hardwood plantation saw log
is tiny and will not increase much more for a decade
or more - and if and when it does reach significant levels
most of the wood will suitable for structural grade only. It will not provide a substitute
for appearance grade products from native forests and is unlikely to be available
in sufficient supply to substitute the current native saw log volumes.
And to complete the picture ...
the saw log estate. Australia's softwood plantations are managed
primarily to produce saw and veneer logs on a 30-35 year
rotation, with up to three thinnings that produce pulp, posts and
sawn timber. Over the last ten years Australia's softwood log
harvest has increased from 11 million cubic metres to 14.5
million cubic metres per annum. The increase in production
of softwood log harvest aligns with the increased plantings through the 70s and 80s.
... The most recent forecast
plantation log supply figures from the national plantation inventory - which were prepared back in
2006 - shows a progressive increase in hardwood pulpwood
corresponding with the trend in the establishment of the hardwood plantations, with a small
increase forecast in the volume of hardwood saw logs over the projection period.
The softwood plantation log supply is forecast to increase
very little in the next few decades. Abares' forecast
plantation log supply is a highly valued product used by industry and government alike
for a range of analyses, including consumption and trade.
Industry has a key role in ensuring the forecast supply figures are as
robust and close to accurate as possible. By making
available the best information for the development of the forecast
- the projected figures are very much dependent on the clear direction
and advice provided by industry. So, preparation for the next
set of plantation forecast figures by Abares will begin later
this year, once the spatial update of the national plantation inventory is completed
Different challenges are associated with hardwood and softwood plantation sectors
While the hardwood plantation has a considerable increase in
availability on the horizon, the outlook for wood availability for the softwood sector
is very much couched in a different context, with little expected
increase in wood availability until at least 2025
to 2030. Recent history, however, gives us some
guide to the future - with the gap between softwood timber production and consumption
posing off the back of the previous expansion of plantation resources.
And over the last ten years Australia's softwood sawn timber output
- as the major product produced from that resource - has increased from
2.3 million cubic metres ten years ago - from a log harvest of around
11 million cubic metres - to an average of 4 million cubic metres per annum
from a log harvest of 14.5 million cubic metres per annum.
And the average recovery of sawn timber per cubic metre of harvested logs
over this period has therefore increased from around 21% to
28%, indicating important efficiency gains in the
growing and processing of softwood logs - plus an expansion of market opportunities
over this period ...
Over this period the softwood sawn timber trade picture has been changing. Imports have been
trending downwards with a strong growth in Australia's export volumes - and the
increase in Australian exports provides an important avenue for selling the
lower grades of sawn wood timber products; noting an average price for
Australia's softwwod sawn timber exports of around
$245 per cubic metres - compared to the average price for
imports of $515 per cubic metres in 2009/10.
So, given this context, further direction is needed for industry on how they
expect to respond to limited growth in wood availability over the next
twenty years, whether the recovery rates will continue to rise and
how they expect Australia's import and export trends to change, given the Asia-Pacific
industry outlook provided by Dr David Cunnigham earlier.
... I'll just
briefly outline the challenges and the opportunities. The challenges include
rersource access both to public and private native forests and to
productive land for plantations - changes to productivity resulting from climate change
and competing products from outside the sector.
Opportunities for consideration include: increasing domestic demand for structural product
- innovation, sylva-cultural adjustments
- including reduced rotation lengths - and that again builds on the
presentation that Michael gave us this morning to. And a question
remains about the private native resource. Is this an opportunity for industry?
... So, to wrap up, the area of
publically managed native forest available for timber production is finite and recent
trends suggest a continuing decline in access to that resource -
notwithstanding the higher proportion of publically managed conservation reserves.
The softwood plantation resource has largely plateaued, with limited opportunity for
expansion of it current land base. The substantial
expansion in hardwood plantations over the past 15 years is expected
to ease, with industry advice indicating a likely decline in the
next few years in planting rates. The current hardwood plantation
resource is managed predominantly for pulpwood, with an export market
focus at the moment - with less than 10% produced as saw logs.
So, in closing, I want to reiterate my key message about the importance of
current, comprehensive and accurate information from all sectors of the
forest management and forest industry community - including future directions
- is fundamental for our reporting obligations. But importantly,
to be able to demonstrate sustainable forest management to our
stakeholders and to support the ongoing development and maintainence of
competitive and profitable industries in Australia. Thank you.