Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, in a letter to the Softwoods Working Group (SWG) dated December 6 last year, offered strong support for the Group’s submission for establishing the South West Slopes forestry hub as part of the Federal Government’s ‘Billion Trees’ program.
“I have read the group’s submission to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and believe it mounts a compelling case for the establishment of a hub as outlined in the submission,” he wrote.
“As stated in the submission, there are some 125,000 hectares of plantation in the region, making it the largest socio-economic presence of any softwood region in Australia, supporting 5,375 direct and indirect jobs and generating a gross economic contribution of more than $2 billion a year.
“However, I am told the region’s plantation establishment rates are declining and about 30 per cent of its current industrial wood needs are being met from outside the area. The working group believes being part of the ‘Billion Trees’ program can help reverse this trend.”
SWG chair Peter Crowe said the Deputy Prime Minister’s letter of support was included in the SWG’s application to be a designed regional forestry hub, which was sent to Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Mr Crowe said the designation of a forestry hub would allow the SWG to go to work immediately and collaboratively.
“The Group, which has been operating for more than 30 years, is a national leader in road infrastructure planning, plantation expansion advocacy, policy and strategy and represents the interests of growers, processors, councils and other stakeholders,” he said.
“SWG’s submission indicates the region needs between 40,000 and 50,000 hectares (gross) of new plantations to be established during the next 10 years to meet forecast demand. This represents the planting of up to 40 million new trees.
“SWG is calling on the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources for Forestry, Senator Colbeck, to immediately confirm pilot-hub status for the South West Slopes of NSW along with funding of $250,000 per annum for four years to enable the implementation of the National Forest Industries Plan to proceed in this vitally important region without further delay.”