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The opportunity

Western Australians love the south-west forests and want to see them managed for conservation, climate change mitigation and resilience, and complimentary sustainable industries.

Western Australia now has the second-highest rate of primary deforestation in the country, and research compiled by CCWA shows that over 1.1 million hectares of forest was cleared in WA between 1990 and 2017.

Logging in Western Australia’s old-growth and high conservation forests continues. As much as 90% of the wood from karri and jarrah forests is turned into low-value products like woodchips, firewood, charcoal and mill waste.

While Clean State acknowledges there was a 12-month hold put on logging of Tier 2 forests in May 2020, this needs to be continued while we explore plantation options for native timber.

Clearfelling of South West forests  (Image: Kim Redman)

Our current forestry practices are uneconomic, and the native forest timber industry is operating at a financial loss to the state. Between 2013 and 2016 approximately 2 million tonnes of native forest logs were sold for an accumulated post-tax loss of $34 million.

The native forest timber industry is a small employer. The industry employs just 170 - 330 people in falling and hauling, and another 130 in sawmills processing FPC native timber. Most (82%) employment in the timber industry is in fact in plantations and sandalwood.

The native forestry industry is not only in structural decline, but it is also operating in a way that undermines or harms other industries in the South West, including forest-based tourism, which already supports thousands of local jobs in WA.

Lewin Karri forest clearfelling  (Image: WA Forest Alliance)

WA’s regrowth forests are now worth more standing thanks to WAs growing nature-based tourism industry. In 2016-17 South West tourism accounted for one in five (19.5%) of people employed in the region and contributed $1.88 billion to the economy.

WA also has the healthiest bee populations and the healthiest honey in the world. Beekeeping is integral to WA’s agricultural industry. Pollination that bees provide is estimated to be worth $800m-$1.4bn a year to the agricultural sector.

Many existing sustainable and profitable forest-based enterprises, including honey production and nature-based tourism operators, are now calling for forests to be conserved to secure their productivity and allow these enterprises to grow.

Monastery Landing on the Frankland River near Nornalup. (Image: Gary Muir)

Native forest logging is a significant driver of climate change, but protected forests are a critical ally in our efforts to avert dangerous climate change. Protecting WA’s native forests from logging has the potential to prevent 40-60 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted over 10-years.

Plantation development has been in decline nationally and in WA since 2007/8. There have been no new softwood plantings over the last decade, and in some areas, mature plantations have been clear-felled with no subsequent replanting. Expanding our plantation resource through farm forestry is one of the best prospects for large scale employment and carbon drawdown.

The proposal

Clean State strongly endorses the implementation of the Forests For Life proposal, including:

1. Establishing a World Class Timber industry through Farm Forestry and Landcare, growing 40,000 hectares of high value, fast growing trees for saw logs within existing farming land.

2. Building two new processing facilities for engineered wood products and prefabricated structural applications in the Great Southern and South West.

3. Supporting local industries in nature-based tourism and honey production.

4. Protecting High Conservation Value forests by securing them as National Parks for water, wildlife, climate and cultural benefits.

In addition, Clean State proposes the following supporting measures to unlock the potential job creation opportunities associated with a shift to sustainable forest management.

5. Develop a management plan for WA’s native forest estate with a focus around supporting sustainable employment opportunities in carbon credits, sustainable tourism, indigenous fire management, honey production and other sustainable industries.

6. Change the purpose and scope of the Forest Products Commission to focus on supporting sustainable ‘forest product’ industries such as those mentioned above, rather than a sole focus on the extraction of timber and fibre products.

7. Establish a forest carbon certification method for Southwest native forests and seek certification under the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) certification scheme.

8. Establish a forest carbon research centre in Manjimup in partnership with a leading university.

9. Partner with the Forest Products Commission to establish a sustainable timber building materials production, research, training and innovation hub in Collie focussed on production and utilisation of sustainable plantation timber resources and farm forestry products.

10. Provide free retraining for existing native forest timber industry workers in sustainable plantation management and forest carbon management.

11. Invest in joint management of High Conservation Value forests in the Southwest with Traditional Owners.

How many jobs would it create?

This plan is expected to deliver at least 3490 jobs including 920 in farm forestry timber production and land care; 1000 supporting nature based tourism; 600 in honey production; 900 in managing native forest for carbon credits, 50 in engineered wood products/ sustainable plantation building materials hubs and 20 in forest carbon research centre.

Jess Beckerling, Convener, Western Australian Forest Alliance

The Forests For Life plan is for 40,000 hectares of high value timber trees to be strategically grown in association with farming and would create 860 - 940 jobs and deliver a number of co-benefits for climate, water quality, farm productivity and income diversification among other things. 

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What would it cost?

This plan has the potential to save the state Government millions of dollars, due to the current financial loss to the state the native timber industry is making. Forest Products commission annual reports show a combined loss of $34 million between 2013-2016.

The Plan would generate millions of dollars in additional product and tax revenue, through the creation of a new timber industry and an expanded honey and tourism industry supported by a healthy forest system.

An indicative estimate of $35.5m including:

  • $15m as initial start-up funding for 40,000 hectares of new farm forestry
  • $3.5m to establish a certified carbon credit methodology for native forests
  • $5m to establish a forest carbon research centre.
  • $10m to establish a sustainable timber building materials production and innovation hub
  • $2m to develop a forest management plan

Carbon Savings

WA’s forests, especially our wet eucalypts store more carbon than the Amazon or Congo.

Research by the Australian National University has found that ending logging and managing existing native forests for carbon sequestration in the state’s Southwest has the potential to generate 5 million tonnes per year of sequestration, or 60 million carbon credits over ten years. This has the potential to earn up to $438 million per annum in carbon credits.

Protecting High Conservation Value forests in the South-West, investing in joint management of these areas with Traditional Owners, and developing a new a management plan for WA’s native forest estate that unlocks employment opportunities around carbon credits, sustainable tourism, indigenous fire management, honey production and other sustainable industries is recommended.

Forests for Life and Forests for Jobs

The ground-breaking Forests for Life plan provides a detailed and costed transition plan for the forestry sector and for timber workers in our South West and shows how a world-class Farm Forestry timber industry and Landcare initiative can underpin the next century of prosperity for the South West and Great Southern. This includes growing 20,000ha of high value, fast growing trees in the South West zone centring on Greenbushes and 20,000ha in the Great Southern zone centring on Albany. Each year 3,000 – 4,000 hectares would be planted, yielding an estimated 450,000 – 600,000 cubic metres of high-value timber per year once mature and providing a viable quantity of logs to a future processing centre.

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