Goal 2: Facilitate a vibrant forestry industry to deliver social and economic benefits, particularly in regional Western Australia

The forestry industry injects more than $1.4 billion into the WA economy annually.

“We contribute to vibrant and economically diverse regions; the forestry industry has plans for the future of a sustainable industry at national, State and regional levels.”

Djarlma Plan

The strategic direction for the future of the Western Australian forestry industry has been set out in a plan released by the Minister for Forestry, the Hon. Dave Kelly MLA, in July 2019.

The Djarlma Plan for the Western Australian Forestry Industry was developed under the guidance of an independent panel, and with extensive industry and community consultation.

The Plan is a framework for action from 2019 to 2030 to achieve long-term regional economic security and employment, and to provide social and environmental benefits for Western Australia. 

The name of the Plan was inspired by the Noongar concept of Djarlma that reflects the interconnected relationship of people, forests and woodlands.

It encourages collaboration between government and the private sector, and is supported by the first of a series of implementation plans.

The Djarlma Plan can be downloaded from the Forest Products Commission website.

Photo caption: The forestry industry supports the employment of more than 6,000 people in Western Australia. Photo credit: Brad Barr.

Determine viability of an Integrated Timber Processing Yard to deliver industry and community benefits to regional Western Australia, and commence implementation if feasible

This year, we have continued working towards the transformation of the native forestry industry to a higher-value, sustainable sector by continuing feasibility studies into the establishment of an Integrated Timber Processing Yard (ITPY).  

We have collaborated with industry to investigate suitable sites, infrastructure requirements, funding, and resource availability. 

The purpose of the ITPY is to improve the utilisation of forest resources, and support the transformation of the native forestry industry, through the development of new primary processing industries and more efficient supply chains. 

We have also focused on developing new secondary processing opportunities, such as engineered wood products, to support further value-adding. A Request for Proposals was aimed at attracting new processing industries for log billets produced from lower-grade logs. The Request identified strong interest in the production of veneers and the FPC is working closely with potential investors.

Develop and commence implementation of Wood Encouragement Policy

The Wood Encouragement Policy for Western Australia (WEP) was developed to increase the use of responsibly sourced wood in building and construction in Western Australia.

By encouraging the use of responsibly sourced wood in procurement, the policy aims to achieve multiple employment, community and climate change mitigation objectives.

The policy targets State Government procurement, particularly agencies undertaking construction or infrastructure projects such as office and public transport buildings, housing and schools, but is also available for local governments and private companies to adopt. 

The policy was released by the Minister for Forestry, the Hon. Dave Kelly MLA, in July 2019 and can be downloaded from the Forest Products Commission website.

Photo caption: Choosing wood supports the ongoing harvest and regeneration cycle, allowing for the continued removal of carbon from the atmosphere while providing environmentally-friendly products.

Softwood plantations

Expanding the softwood estate and salvaging fire-damaged resource to ensure supply for industry has remained a focus this year.

In 2018-2019, we achieved the acquisition of 520 hectares of plantable land for softwood plantation expansion. There were difficulties obtaining new land, with competing need for land from both the timber and agricultural industries. We also continued to work with industry to encourage broader investment in expanding the softwood estate. 

Interest was strong in our Farm Forestry Assist grants program, which aims to encourage private investment in Western Australia’s softwood estate. We negotiated agreements with five landowners, representing 180 hectares of new plantation in the South West, which we expect will be established in winter 2019.

The Balingup-Nannup wildfire burnt through 1,765 hectares of pine trees. Our harvesting operations recovered approximately 80,000 tonnes of fire-damaged wood for local industry prior to winter, with the aim to recover a total of 390,000 tonnes over the next few years.

We continued to engage with the softwood industry this year, contributing to a nationwide domestic market strategy for pine sawlog, and participating in a South West softwood industry hub to regularly review production output and customer requirements.

The softwood residue market was expanded through the establishment of a panel of buyers in the South West. This will increase the use of plantation resources, reduce site establishment costs for future harvest rotations, and allow us to undertake commercial thinning for plantation health.

Photo caption: Planters use a tool known as a pottiputki to plant seedlings by hand.

Deliver on private sector investment in softwood plantation expansion

We have worked collaboratively with industry to expand the softwood plantation estate. 

Wespine Industries purchased two properties this year, with a total plantable area of approximately 830 hectares. The FPC will establish plantations on the properties under Timber Sharefarming Agreements in winter 2019.

The FPC Commissioners have formed a sub-committee to oversee the assessment of options for plantation expansion. This sub-committee has initiated a competitive process for the selection of a financial advisor that will identify options for long-term investment.

Establish trials for pine cuttings program for rapid genetic deployment

This year, we began investigating a clonal system to enable rapid deployment of genetically superior softwood seedlings. 

Data collected from the FPC and other Pinus radiata softwood growers across Australia, has been used by the Southern Tree Breeding Association (STBA) to generate breeding values for core traits of growth, stiffness, straightness and branch size.

We will continue to look at using these breeding values to determine and manipulate the relationship between core traits, to identify the best genetics for planting in different regions in Western Australia.

This will help us transition to a cuttings-based system, which will enable us to plant our best genetics faster compared to growing softwood from seed.

Photo caption: The FPC nursery employs rigorous controls at every step of the process to ensure reliable, superior quality seedlings.

Develop farm forestry strategy

We contributed to the development of the Djarlma Plan, guided by an independent reference panel, to set out the strategic direction for the future of the Western Australian forestry industry.

In developing the plan, the independent reference panel investigated the role of farm forestry in the broader timber industry and how private landholders could be encouraged to plant trees to diversify farm income streams, and contribute to the timber supply as well as the regional economy and local employment.

The Djarlma Plan reference panel collaborated with existing and potential farm forestry participants and the timber industry. This consultation supported our Farm Forestry Assist grants program, which makes pine seedlings available free of charge to eligible landowners.

These principles will be further developed in a Farm Forestry Strategy over the next six months.

Photo caption: This year, we negotiated agreements with five landowners through our Farm Forestry Assist grants program. Photo credit: Energy Images.

Sandalwood plantations

We manage about 6,000 hectares of sandalwood plantation throughout the Wheatbelt and Mid West regions, which will complement the demand for wild Western Australian sandalwood in the future. 

Sandalwood requires nutrients from a host plant to grow, but too many sandalwood plants can cause host plants to die.

More than 200 hectares of non-commercial thinning was completed in 2018-2019 as part of a four-year program to improve the ratio between host and sandalwood plants. 

FPC sandalwood plantations from Oakajee to Brookton will continue to be thinned to reduce stress on the host plants and increase the plantations’ chance of survival. 

Wild Western Australian sandalwood

We committed to increasing our engagement with Aboriginal peoples through our first Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan, to create opportunities, investment and participation of Aboriginal peoples, particularly in our sandalwood operations. 

We expanded our Sandalwood Dreaming strategy to bring new Aboriginal-owned businesses and traditional owners into our sustainable harvest and regeneration operations. The program is now in the process of engaging Aboriginal communities and businesses from Carnarvon to Norseman.

New sandalwood harvesting contracts were awarded this year to ensure we have a consistent production capacity to meet our contractual requirements. 

To help spread the knowledge of sandalwood management across our business, staff traditionally undertaking forestry operations in the South West region have been working in Kalgoorlie on a rotating roster.

Photo caption: Sandalwood Dreaming aims to continue the ancient Western Australian sandalwood story by providing economic opportunity today and regenerating the sandalwood resource for generations of traditional owners to come. Photo credit: Rachel Clarke.

Promote collaboration on marketing, research and local processing opportunities in the sandalwood plantation sector

A panel of Western Australian sandalwood buyers was established in 2017-2018. This has enabled the FPC to diversify the domestic market and investigate opportunities for the development of new markets for wild and plantation sandalwood.  

We supported a local company to explore the development of markets for sandalwood seed oil, which can be used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. As part of this project, a mechanised harvesting system is being trialled to determine whether it is a more cost-effective methodology for the collection of seed from sandalwood plantations.

Photo caption: Sandalwood nuts are not only used to regenerate sandalwood but oil from the seed can also be used in pharmaceutical products. Photo credit: Rachel Clarke.

Native forest

We continued to focus on transforming the native forestry industry to encourage innovation, stimulate growth and meet challenges in supply stability.

We collaborated with industry to launch a marketing strategy to reposition jarrah as a high-quality, premium product. The New Jarrah branding will be promoted over the next two years, supported by a financial commitment from the FPC. 

The use and value recovery of forest resources was increased by ensuring contractors have access to advanced harvesting machinery. This machinery uses the processing head of the harvester to optimise the products available in a log at 
the point of harvest.

We continued to develop new markets for residue products (other bole volume). This included the running of a competitive tender process for the purchase of residues from bauxite mine rehabilitation for use in the bioenergy market. We also ran a competitive tender process for the purchase of billets produced from jarrah, karri and marri other bole volume, for use in veneers and engineered wood products.

Harvest operations to remove karri damaged by the Northcliffe fire and jarrah damaged by the Yarloop fire continued, with a total of 43,000 tonnes salvaged for local industry across 300 hectares. 

More than 1,200 tonnes of specialty timber, largely salvaged from road and mine site clearing, was made available to craftspeople and artisans through our Public Specialty Timber Auctions held in Harvey and Manjimup.

Photo caption: The native forest industry contributes $220 million to the West Australian economy, which includes the additional value generated by secondary processing which occurs in Western Australia.

Community and stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder relationships are a crucial part of the FPC’s business and we are working hard to understand stakeholder views, needs and expectations to enable meaningful engagement into the future.

In recognition of the importance of our stakeholders, we developed a whole-of-agency Stakeholder Engagement Strategy and recruited a dedicated Community Engagement Leader to drive our capacity to engage stakeholders and deliver our strategic goals.

Our Stakeholder Engagement Strategy is guided by internationally recognised leaders in community and stakeholder engagement and public participation practice – the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). As part of the strategy, we established a Stakeholder Reference Group, which draws on staff across the agency to provide oversight and support the delivery of effective engagement.

To date, this has led to FPC staff receiving more than 900 hours of IAP2 engagement training, all FPC stakeholders have been mapped, and detailed engagement plans will continue to be developed as they are identified.

Our efforts engaging stakeholders after the Balingup-Nannup fire is testament to our commitment in this area.

Photo caption: The FPC engages with recreational forest users through the FPC Community Support Program and FPC Sponsorship Strategy. Photo credit: Daniela Tommasi

Supporting communities in forestry’s footprint

Forestry has a proud history in regional Western Australia. 

In appreciation of our industry and our place in the community, we deliver the FPC Community Support Program and the FPC Sponsorship Strategy.

Our Community Support Program offers local organisations the opportunity to apply for a $2,000 grant to improve their ability to provide for their communities. 

This year, we shared $30,000 amongst 20 community groups, schools and organisations, including two groups focused on improving accessibility to our forests to people with disabilities.

One grant recipient, Break the Boundary, will use the grant to create a storage facility for adaptive off-road cycles and wheelchairs. People with mobility limitations will be able to use adaptive off-road cycles, off-road wheelchairs and mobility aids to access public trails.  

As part of the FPC Sponsorship Program, we shared $86,000 among 19 groups largely located in regional Western Australia. 

Our focus this year, has been helping regional communities deliver and create events and opportunities to diversify regional economies.

Photo caption: Boyanup Primary School’s tree-planting and sustainability day was funded by an FPC community grant.

Engagement with Aboriginal groups

Our first Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan confirms our commitment to reconciliation and furthering relationships with Aboriginal peoples.

Our Sandalwood Dreaming strategy was expanded to include new Aboriginal-owned businesses and traditional owners. We are now engaging Aboriginal communities and businesses from Carnarvon to Norseman to be involved in sustainable harvest and regeneration activities.

We are working with the Southern Aboriginal Corporation to manage a pine plantation established on a Wandering Aboriginal Lands Trust property for the use and benefit of Aboriginal people. This project will provide a share of crop revenue to the Corporation as well as employment and training opportunities to Aboriginal persons in plantation establishment, maintenance, and the harvesting of timber products.

We awarded 2.6 per cent of our contracts to registered Aboriginal businesses in 2018-2019, exceeding the State government target of one per cent.

The FPC continued to be a member of the Noongar Native Title Settlement working group, which assists government agencies and the South West Land and Sea Council to support the realisation of settlement.

Photo caption: Western Australia’s sandalwood industry is 175 years old. Photo credit: Rachel Clarke.

Promote multiple-use activities associated with FPC forest operations

The FPC is committed to supporting the co-existence of forestry and tourism.

We have been working with local governments and regional event organisers to actively promote multiple-use activities in State forests and pine plantations connected to forestry. This year, we provided the Nannup Shire Council with $15,000 to develop the Nannup Cycling Masterplan, and we are also proud establishment sponsors of two new events in the South West.

This investment recognises that cycle tourism is emerging as a key economic and social driver in regional communities, as its popularity continues to grow in active forestry areas.

The Nannup Cycling Master Plan will provide the shire with a strategic framework to help develop existing trails and create new trails, and route and event development.

Our relationship with RideWA has grown from supporting exciting mountain bike events, such as SEVEN: Australia’s Premier Gravel Event, to partnering with them to create new events.

DIRT is currently being planned and it will provide mountain bike riders with the ultimate off-tarmac adventure and give them another reason to visit the South West.

We have teamed up with Perth Trail Series to create Tree to Tree, a mountain bike adventure in Pemberton, and this follows recent work to support the creation of a three-day trail running event in the same community.