The Softwoods Working Group
The Softwoods Working Group (SWG) was formed in 1987 to represent the plantation-based timber industry of the South West slopes region of NSW, and involve all sectors of the community with an interest in the industry.
The Softwoods Working Group consists of representatives from:
- 4 local government areas (Snowy Valleys, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Greater Hume, and Albury City)
- 2 Regional Development Boards (Murray and Riverina)
- Forestry Corporation of NSW
- All the major private plantation growers
- All the processing operations in this region (Visy, AKD, Hyne)
Relevant NSW Government agencies (such as the Department of Regional NSW, and Transport for NSW) also attend meetings of SWG.
From planning road networks, to advocacy & economic impacts
Planning Road Networks
The SWG was initially formed to plan for the future needs of the road network that forms an essential part of the infrastructure required by the local timber industry. These initial activities were successful in securing funding for the major defined regional arterials that service the needs for both logs and finished products.
More recently, funding has been obtained to support upgrades of local (i.e. Council-owned) roads that allow logs to move from the plantations to the major arterials.
Improvements to these local roads benefit the community as well, as all road users will have safer travelling conditions on better roads.
Advocacy & Economic Impacts
The activities of the SWG have now expanded to include involvement in other forest-industry related issues, such as advocacy for plantation expansion and the provision of sound information on the economic impact of the industry in the region.
SWG works closely with the Hub. The Hub is funded to conduct robust analysis focussed on identifying and mitigating issues which constrain industry growth, with SWG being able to lobby decision-makers and other parties with advocacy programs based on this analysis.
Over the past 30 years, SWG has completed many projects, mostly related to the preparation of engineering studies and business cases to support applications for funding to provide required upgrades to the haulage infrastructure network. For example, SWG developed a robust business case which was successful in gaining $20.35 million in grant funding to allow the local governments of Snowy Valleys, Cootamundra-Gundagai and Greater Hume to upgrade six local (Council owned) roads. These upgrades provide benefits to the local communities and visitors to the area as well as being important links between plantations and processing mills.
Another significant project from SWG was the 2017 study conducted by researchers from Canberra University (working with SWG members) which provided a definitive summary of the socio-economic impact of the plantation-based softwood industry on the SW Slopes region of NSW.