FACTS & INFO
Since 1985, records of Victoria’s land cover have been kept by the Victorian Government. This has occurred for seven different five year periods across twenty-eight bioregions in Victoria. These records demonstrate that the net native tree cover in Victoria has actually increased by 80,000 hectares over the last 35 years. In addition, during that time, over 200,000 hectares of extra timber plantations have been established.
These documented records clearly show that forest land has not been cleared for agriculture in the last 35 years and all trees that are harvested are replanted. The bottom line is that Victoria has more than 450,000 hectares of forests now (both native and plantation) than it did 35 years ago.
No ancient forests are harvested in Victoria. The State Government has banned the harvesting of old-growth forest. It is illegal to harvest any old-growth forest and to do so is punishable by law.
Timber is indeed the building material of the 21st century! Timber has by far the lowest embodied energy when compared to any other building material. It stores the carbon trees remove from the atmosphere, helping reduce the affects of global warming. It is a renewable resource which can be managed sustainably. It’s carbon footprint compared to steel, concrete masonry and aluminium are magnitudes lower than any other product the construction industry uses.
The Victorian timber industry is not the reason for the loss of biodiversity and decline of vulnerable species.
Over the last 30 years, the main drivers for biodiversity loss in Victoria have been climate change, mega-fires, invasive weeds, and pests like foxes and wild cats. The later kill millions of native animals each year. It is misleading to blame biodiversity loss on the small areas of native forests that are harvested each year, when these other problems are not being adequately addressed.
Where will Victoria’s future timber needs come from?
Architects, designers, builders, and homeowners need to be made aware that once the Victorian native timber industry is shut down by Andrews Government in 2030, Victorian-grown and produced hardwood will no longer be available. Once the industry is gone it is likely to be gone forever due to loss of skills and infrastructure.
This decision has not been based on history, science or risk and it has not been made in consultation with the Timber Industry. The ramifications of this decision are enormous.
Post-2030 only imported hardwoods will be available to Victorians. These hardwood timbers are often from questionable origins, with unknown management standards and regularly include environmentally-sensitive rainforest species. The only other alternative is that timber, a natural product, be substituted for less sustainable man made building products with large carbon footprints. Is this what our society wants?
We can reshape the Victorian Timber to make our Forests more resilient and provide solutions to global problems.
The Victorian Timber industry operates under independent forest standards to ensure best practice and they are independently audited each year. Two schemes are utilized in Australia, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification(PEFC) scheme and the Forest Stewardship Council(FSC). Both the PEFC and FSC are internationally recognized forest certification networks that provide for the mutual recognition of regional and national standards that meet their criteria for sustainable forest management.
Victoria is the only state to have a dedicated forest monitoring program to access and report on forest health throughout all state and national parks and across other remnant forest cover.
Hardwood timber harvested from Victoria’s public forests is undertaken in a sustainable and responsible way and is independently audited. All coupes are checked and important flora and fauna and measures are put in place to protect them where they exist. Therefore, Victorian hardwood can be considered “good wood” and can be used and specified by anyone in the building industry with a clear conscience.
Do we need the Victorian Timber Industry?
Now more than ever Victoria needs to be self-sufficient. We can’t go on importing valuable resources like timber, especially from overseas. This would leave Victoria vulnerable if borders are closed or supplies are suddenly difficult to obtain. Victoria should strive to be self-sufficient, developing its own sustainable timber resources and keeping skills and jobs locally. To be responsible we need to think globally but act locally. We shouldn’t seek timber from neighbouring countries when we cannot be assured of the environmental management of those resources. By doing so we could be encouraging deforestation in delicate ecosystems with poor controls.
This could be possible if a serious commitment was made to convert more degraded farmland and failed blue gum plantations to long term saw log plantations. This strategy would also require significant financial investment and long term planning. The main concern is that we are not in that position right now. The 9 years left before the Victorian government locks down all of our native forests is nowhere near long enough to transition to a 100% plantation resource. Trees that can produce good quality hardwood sawlogs take time to grow and mature, which can be 80 years or more in native forests. In mixed-species plantations, the same size tree can be grown in half the time. Ash species in plantations would take considerably longer. High-value sawlog plantations can thrive on poorly eroded soils that have been created on unviable farmland. In Victoria, there are about 2000 hectares of hardwood sawlog plantations already established mainly in Gippsland aged between 1-20 years. For a viable industry that could replace a significant proportion of native forest, we would need at least 10,000 hectares on a 40-year rotation
We need to start planting more trees now.
Victoria has 7.54 million hectares of forests. Over 44% of this locked up in national parks and conservation reserves and can never be harvested for timber. Of the balance, only 0.1% or 3,000 hectares each year is sustainably harvested and replanted/regenerated under strict guidelines. This is equivalent to 1 tree in every 1,000.
Actively growing forests absorb high levels of CO2storing the carbon in the wood and releasing the oxygen that we all breathe. If a tree is harvested, the timber products produced, store (lock-up) this carbon. If the product is construction or furniture timber, the carbon is locked up for decades and can be reused or recycled many times. If the product is paper or firewood, then the carbon may only be locked up for a few years. While the carbon from the harvested trees is stored in the timber products a new forest can be regrown (replanted or regenerated), storing even more carbon. Forestry and timber production, therefore, has the potential to store an increasing amount of carbon. This is about as sustainable and good for the planet as you can get.
Timber production in our forests helps to prevent and minimise the impact of bush fires. The forestry industry has a collective level of important skills, expertise, knowledge, and equipment that is often the first response to bushfire events. In addition, timber extraction roads create firebreaks and enable access for important control burning and suppression activities. Thinning operations reduce fuel loads, which in turn reduces the severity of bushfires.
Forest management plays an important role in bushfire mitigation. Simply locking up our forests is not the answer.
International researchers recognize that a sustainable forest management system that allows timber production helps combat climate change.
We need to use more timber in construction not less. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recognized that a sustainable forest management strategy will generate the largest sustained climate change mitigation benefit. This will be achieved by increasing or maintaining forest carbon stocks while producing annual sustained yields of timber from the forest. This can include sustainably-managed Victorian native forests as well as plantations.