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

“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.”

Western Australia's forest products

The forest industry injects $1 billion into the WA community annually.

View of a renovated kitchen
Softwood

  • Sawn timber
  • Engineered timber
  • Particle board

In 2016-17, 919,989 tonnes of log products were produced

 

View of an exterior of a house featuring polished wooden floors
Native hardwood

  • Furniture and joinery timber
  • Flooring
  • Decking
  • Cladding
  • Residue for silicon production

In 2016-17, 582,148 tonnes of log products were harvest

 

Picture of sandalwood essence and incense
Sandalwood

  • Oil for perfume
  • Logs for carving and jewellery
  • Powder for incense and cream

In 2016-17, 1,790 tonnes of sandalwood was produced

 

 

Softwood plantations

The softwood plantation sector represents a significant component of Western Australia’s forestry industry, providing jobs for the community across a number of regions.

Activities within the sector involve plantation establishment, harvesting, timber haulage and processing.

Softwood plantations supply log and chip products to domestic and international markets. Western Australia’s major local softwood processing industries provide sawn timber, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and particleboard largely for use in the domestic housing and construction industries.

In recent years, Western Australia’s softwood estate has decreased in size as a result of the strategic exit of plantations in the Gnangara area, as well as losses due to drought and fire, and competing land uses. We developed a policy to address this decline.

The Softwood Industry Strategy for Western Australia was released in September 2016.

It was developed in collaboration with industry and key stakeholders and it provides a platform to expand the softwood estate and ensure the long-term future of the industry.

Our initial $21 million investment in the strategy started in 2016 and 1,400 hectares of new plantation areas are now available.

The plantation establishment program resulted in the planting of approximately 3.5 million seedlings, including second rotation establishment and new plantings in the Wellington catchment. The plantings in the catchment are aimed at increasing the softwood estate and improving the quality and quantity of water in the Wellington reservoir.

Sandalwood plantations

Production line of Sandalwood incenceOur Western Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) plantation estate is approximately 6,000 hectares and extends from Geraldton, through the Wheatbelt regions and down to Esperance.  

Over the past two years, each property has been assessed for tree health, stocking rates, host-to-sandalwood ratios and growth rates. This information is currently being used to manage the plantations and also to estimate yields over the next 20 years.  

Collaborative work with the Western Australian sandalwood industry has resulted in information sharing regarding regional variation, oil yields, inventory, growth rates, wood grades and plantation management.

We also continue to have an extension role providing the public with information on sandalwood plantation establishment and maintenance. We maintain a working relationship with universities and the sandalwood industry to better understand the processes related to oil development within sandalwood plantations.

We continue to support the sandalwood industry to develop more efficient seed harvesting methods and identify more commercial uses for the seeds. Sandalwood seeds have the potential to deliver supplementary income while trees reach harvestable size.

China is a significant consumer of Western Australian sandalwood, mainly for the manufacture of incense and joss sticks. Last year, our General Manager Stuart West  pitted his skills against students in a joss stick competition at a trade event.

Wild Western Australian sandalwood

Rural bush scrubWestern Australian sandalwood has been harvested for more than 170 years, and continues to be an economic driver in the State.

In 2016-2017, we increased Aboriginal participation in the industry and expanded the regeneration of sandalwood in the Rangelands to ensure the long-term future of the industry.

We launched the Native Sandalwood Industry Strategy in Kalgoorlie in January 2017. It was developed in consultation with the community, industry and key State government stakeholders including DBCA and the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH). 

The theft of wild sandalwood remains a significant threat to the sustainability of the wild Western Australian sandalwood industry. In 2016, the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 replaced outdated legislation. 

The legislative overhaul will see an increase in penalties for individuals stealing sandalwood to $200,000, with corporations liable for fines of up to $1 million. The new laws support the implementation of a legality verification process that will allow sandalwood to be traced from point of harvest to the marketplace. 

In response to the new laws, we have funded an additional compliance position based within DBCA to further protect sandalwood from theft. 

DBCA’s Sandalwood Order (No.2) took effect on 1 July 2016. The order provides for an annual quota at 2,250 tonnes available to the FPC (comprising of 1,125 tonnes of green and 1,125 tonnes of deadwood). The new sustainable volumes are a reduction on the previous Order, but are sufficient to service our markets, fund the restoration program over the next 10 years, and support the ongoing sustainability of the industry.

A restructure of the sandalwood industry has secured more than $245 million worth of contracts spanning the supply chain from harvesting to marketing. The new arrangements have secured 26 new contracts, providing long-term security for the industry.

Native forest

The native forests of South Western AustraliaThe native forest industry requires ongoing investment in new processing capacity and technology.

To achieve this, we:

  • Provided support to Auswest’s relocation transition to the Greenbushes site during the year. We worked with our contractors to supply a specific diameter range to suit their processing capacity;   
  • Continued to investigate opportunities to integrate native timber residue into energy systems that generate heat and power. This use of sustainable forest residue can displace non-renewable fossil fuels for energy production; 
  • In cooperation with Simcoa, we investigated and developed alternative production methods for the supply of jarrah from integrated operations; and 
  • Supported the use of native timbers in the manufacture of laminated veneer and engineered timber products. 

The Australian Forest Operations Research Alliance (AFORA) was also engaged to investigate opportunities to improve the operational efficiency of native forest harvesting.

Further harvesting took place for fire damaged karri forest, allowing for the recovery of areas impacted by the Northcliffe fire. Without management intervention, the burnt karri forest in this area would struggle to recover.

During the year, we started a study into the feasibility of an integrated log merchandising yard. It is looking at methods to reduce costs and increase the use of lower-grade timber, and may have the potential to allow for greater utilisation of forest resources. 

Improvements in production techniques and the expansion of native forest markets have contributed to a significant increase in forest utilisation on previous years. 

Community and stakeholder engagement

Competitive mountain bike riding through the forests of South Western AustraliaWe continue to work with our stakeholders, maintaining a strong focus on engaging with the community, industry, Aboriginal groups and their representative organisations.  

Our stakeholders include forest users, industry, community organisations, local government and other government agencies. 

Engagement with these stakeholders is an integral part of our business operations and inherent to our core values. We ensure that their views are considered in our planning and operational activities.

During the year, a new Stakeholder Management System was established and is being implemented throughout the FPC to improve internal communication.

Examples of engagement activities undertaken by us in 2016-2017 include:

  • ongoing communication with stakeholders on the Karri forest management plan;
  • liaison with forest advocates and environmental groups on topics such as old-growth forest identification and operational practices in forestry; 
  • seeking community advice and liaison on planned and current timber harvesting activities, including several field inspections with specific stakeholders;
  • engaging with shires, industry and WA forest community representatives on principles of wood encouragement, and with timber marketers, architects and builders on the changing face of timber use in built structures; and     
  • extensive consultation undertaken with community and industry stakeholders in the development of the softwood and native sandalwood strategies.

We engaged with the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and the surrounding community, including mountain bike user groups and recreational organisations, regarding pine plantation harvesting, scheduling, fire risk management and site access at a high profile site located on the border of Margaret River town centre. Photo: A ‘Break the Boundary’ handcyclist participating in the 2016 Cape to Cape MTB Credit: Travis Deane.

Engagement with Aboriginal groups

Close up of bush tucker nuts held in a handWe form part of a whole of government approach to provide advice and support to implement Noongar Standard Heritage Agreements and associated processes in the South West. 

During the year, we worked with specialists and traditional owners on the identification and protection of heritage sites in or near planned harvest coupes. 

We launched Sandalwood Dreaming. It is an initiative we designed to expand the sandalwood regeneration program. Aboriginal rangers are engaged to collect and plant seed as part of our sustainable harvesting operations. 

As part of the new arrangements for marketing and sale of wild Western Australian sandalwood, we entered into a new contract with Dutjahn Sandalwood Oils (DSO). 

Dutjahn Custodians, an indigenous group from the desert regions of the Goldfields, is a 50 per cent shareholder in DSO. The company plans to build a sandalwood distillation plant in the Goldfields region and use the arrangement with us as a foundation to further develop sandalwood-based industries in the region.

Our staff have also participated in specific activities such as forest field consultation tours into recent and planned harvesting coupes with traditional owners, and a forest harvesting presentation to a Native Title Claim Area Working Party meeting with South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council.

As part of Reconciliation Week, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs conducts a street banner project. These banners are sponsored by organisations and displayed throughout the Perth CBD. We sponsored a banner located in the Hay Street Mall. The banner displayed our logo alongside this year’s reconciliation message; ‘Let’s take the next step’.