14 Jan 2009
The Australian Government has adopted some of the main elements of a forest industry development initiative that has been successfully operating in New Zealand for the last three years.
The Rudd administration announced yesterday that it is committing A$9 million to the Forest Industries Development Fund (FIDF), a new grants programme designed to boost the international competitiveness and value of Australia’s forest products.
Doug Ducker, chairman of Woodco – the umbrella organisation for New Zealand’s forest growing and processing industries – says there is a need for industries on both sides of the Tasman to become more cost-efficient, develop new income streams and move their products up the value chain.
“New Zealand’s Forest Industry Development Agenda (FIDA) has been a great success, driving innovation at all levels of the industry, from environmental standards and regional roading through to the development and promotion of environmentally-friendly wood construction,” he says.
“Having the Australians stepping up to the plate is great news. There is a lot of technical collaboration between the two industries and much of what we are doing here can be applied in Australia, which also has a large radiata plantation industry.
“We tend to leverage off each other and by working together, we have the potential to raise the status and value of radiata lumber and wood products in world markets.”
Like New Zealand’s FIDA, the Australian initiative favours projects that are co-funded by industry. This ensures industry buy-in to the projects and reflects the fact that many of the benefits of forestry – such as the soil and water conservation, and carbon storage – benefit society as a whole.
The Australian Government has committed A$9 million to its fund to be spread over the next three financial years. In addition it is providing $8 million to address forest industry knowledge gaps relating to climate change, $1 million to develop a database of skill and labour requirements, $1 million to establish an industry skills council and $1 million to restrict imports of illegally logged forest products.
In the three years ending June 2009, FIDA will have benefited from a total of NZ$18.2 million in government funding, plus $3.8 million and large ‘in kind’ contributions from industry. In addition, the NZ Government has been investing $25 million a year in roading development in Tairawhiti and Northland – major new forest harvesting areas.
Woodco is in discussion with the new National-led Government about refocusing the FIDA investment at comparable levels beyond July 2009.
On both sides of the Tasman, the forest growing and wood processing sectors also benefit from public-good research funding, much of which is co-funded by the industries themselves.
Forest products made up 7.5% of New Zealand’s merchandise trade last year, generating $2.9 billion in overseas earnings. Growing forests also soaked up enough carbon to offset the emissions of the country’s entire transport sector.
For more information, please contact Doug Ducker, tel 021 474 708