Softwood forest industry business needs into the future


This report is part of a larger project examining the social and economic contribution of the softwood forest industry within the Murray Region Forestry Hub area (Mylek et al. 2023). It examines the challenges experienced by softwood forest businesses in recent years, lessons learnt from these experiences, business innovations, business needs moving forward and how businesses can be supported to achieve these needs.

Project background

The Murray Region Forestry Hub (MRFH) extends from the NSW South West Slopes region around Gundagai/Tumut, to Mt Buller in Victoria. The region has significant competitive advantages in forestry, including large areas of plantation, integrated transport and processing infrastructure (Schirmer et al. 2018).
The MRFH region was severely impacted by large-scale bushfires during the summer of 2019-2020, with significant impacts on the standing plantation resource, communities, businesses and entire industries. Approximately 44,000 hectares (ha) of softwood plantation in NSW and 6,000 ha in NE Victoria was burnt, around 30% of the log resource in the region (Mylek et al. 2023).
In response to these bushfires, a number of State and Federal Government grants were made available to assist in the additional costs associated with storage and processing of burnt timber to allow for longer processing times, repairing infrastructure such as roads, long-distance haulage of burnt logs to processing facilities or storage sites further away, innovation and diversification for processing facilities, and expansion of nurseries to facilitate the rapid re-planting needs (State Government of Victoria 2020, DAFF 2022, NSW Government 2023). These grants assisted in a successful salvage operation that spanned almost two years and resulted in approximately 42% of the burnt area being successfully salvaged.

During the salvage period and through the second COVID-19 lockdown (financial year 2021/22) the softwood forest industry in the Murray Region Forestry Hub area was a significant contributor to the region’s economy and workforce. The industry directly employed 2,189 people dependent on the region and generated a total of $3,823 million of gross value of output for the region (Mylek et al. 2023).
However, four years after the fires, many businesses have new perspectives on their future business needs, with the immediate needs of salvage logging and replanting shifting to planning for the broader future. This report examines industry needs moving forward, based on interviews with a range of softwood forestry businesses operating in the region.

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