Opportunities abound in DPI report on private native forests

New study: A department of primary industry study into private native forests has highlighted potential business opportunities and jobs creation.
New study: A department of primary industry study into private native forests has highlighted potential business opportunities and jobs creation.

NSW department of primary industry says just-released research on private native forest opportunities highlights the potential to increase incomes and create jobs.

The study focused on the extent and status of privately owned forests on the North Coast.

The report found a large number of properties could be more actively managed for forestry and other environmental and social values.

DPI leader forests research Dr Christine Stone said the $750,000 project surveyed more than 600 landholders, wood processors and contractors, and mapped more than five million hectares of North Coast forests.

“We have produced a range of practical resources for landholders to assess their own land – a level of data that the North Coast has not had access to before,” she said.

Industry stakeholder, Timber NSW's Marie McCaskill, said she was 'quite interested in the outcome' of the research.

"Primarily because no one had previously been able to quantify what options were there, what the resource was like, how much resource was there and any impediments to taking up native forest stands," she said.

"It is a quite wide ranging discussion and highlights that there are some good opportunities there."

Ms McCaskill said her only reservations were landholder concerns about the regulatory environment they would have to function within and the quality of the resource.

She also said that there could be an expectation of a quick return on investment.

"However, the rotations (of native forest stands) is much longer and the return is also longer term," she added.

Ms McCaskill said there were also benefits to the longer term health of native forest stands.

Aerial photography was used to assess one million hectares of timber resources, with the information consolidated into forest growth status and site productivity maps.

Dr Christine Stone

The DPI research included using satellite imagery to map the region's forests into timber yield association groups, Dr Stone said.

“Aerial photography was used to assess one million hectares of timber resources, with the information consolidated into forest growth status and site productivity maps.

“These mapping products allow landholders to consider their property from a forestry value perspective.”

The project team developed a model that rates larger blocks of forested land according to their forestry importance. The model takes account of forest size, type and productivity, terrain roughness and distance to wood processing facilities.

While three quarters of the PNF on the North Coast are commercial forest types that can be sustainably managed for timber, Dr Stone said forest productivity is well below what it could be.

“Data on stand condition suggests there is great potential to improve the health and productive capacity of these forests through more active management,” she said.

“There’s a great opportunity to engage with landholders more to increase their awareness and education of silvicultural practices, which can deliver major returns in the medium to long-term.”

Dr Stone said with the right care, this could turn currently underutilised resources into an industry that has the potential to create a new job for every additional 533m3 that is processed.

“Research found that many landholders currently use their forests for multiple purposes, providing environmental, social and economic services simultaneously,” she said.

“It was promising to learn that most landholders see timber production and conservation as something that should go hand-in-hand – not separate.”

Private native forests span more than 2.9 million hectares of North Coast land – making up more than half of the forests in the region.

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