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Forestry Facts: An Overview


Old Growth Forests



Australia's changing forests

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Forestry Facts: An Overview

Australia's forest industry, its employees, and the dependent communities want the public to know the facts about forests and forest products.

The industry is open and visible, and has been under very close scrutiny for many years. Recently, such examination has included the most comprehensive independent study-ever the Resource Assessment Commission (RAC) "Forest and Timber Inquiry" (1992). Governments have also examined forests and forest industries in the Ecological Sustainable Development Forest Report (1991), and the National Plantation Advisory Committee Report (1991).

The National Forest Policy Statement signed in 1992 is the joint response of the federal government and the state and territory governments to the three major reports on forest issues. The Commonwealth Government and State Governments in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland have entered into a number of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) between 1997 and 2001 that provide a framework for forest management and the implementation of the National Forest Policy Statement.

RFAs apply for up to 20 years and have three main objectives:

  • to protect environmental values in a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) Reserve System based on nationally agreed criteria;

  • to encourage job creation and growth in forest-based industries; and

  • manage all native forests in an ecologically sustainable way.

  • Members of forest industries accept they have an important responsibility to the community - to provide scientifically based, factual information which enables people to make balanced judgements.

    These pages have been produced by the National Association of Forest Industries. They contain information and scientific evidence, much of it sourced from the reports mentioned above. They deal with such issues as:

  • the need for a balance between preserved forests and managed forests

  • the way modern forest management conserves natural bio-diversity; and

  • Australia has 155 million hectares of native forests, including 43.8 million hectares of closed forest and open forest. Some 22.3 million hectares of closed and open forest is either privately owned or leasehold while the balance is multiple use forest (11.0 million hectares), conservation reserves (8.4 million hectares) or other categories of public ownership (2.1 million hectares) (BRS 1998).

    The multiple use forests are managed* for wood production and less than 1% of these forests are harvested in any one year. This small proportion is regenerated following harvesting so that a perpetual supply of native hardwood and softwood is available. The foests in conservation reserves are permanently reserved from logging.

    The supply of timber from Australia's 1.3 million hectares of plantations is expected to rapidly increase over the next decade, making Australia one of perhaps four or five countries in the Pacific Rim region that has the potential to increase sustained harvest levels in the future. Emerging shortfalls in the world supply of timber are expected to provide Australian producers with attractive import replacement and export opportunities.

    It is widely recognised that the community needs timber, paper, tissue, cardboard, furniture and many other products derived from wood. Major Australian industries have developed to grow and process timber to supply these goods.

    The Federal Government's wood and paper industry strategy (Forest Taskforce 1995) includes an estimate that around 82,500 people work in forest, logging and forest products industries. The forest products industries as a group are Australia's second largest manufacturing industry and a major regional employer.

    The nature of Australia's climate, terrain and forests means that harvesting and regeneration of forests have a lower environmental impact in Australia than in many other countries. Most Australian states limit harvesting to sustainable levels and, while existing forest management practices can be refined, Australian practices are setting international benchmarks in excellence.

    Today, governments and industry manage the harvesting cycle as closely to the forest's natural disturbance patterns as possible. Modern forestry practices have evolved by continually learning from science and experience. This is called adaptive management. Logging is supervised by government forest management agencies to control short term damage and to protect a wide range of forest values which include water catchments, flora and fauna, soil and landscape.

    Australia's managed forests provide increasing wealth for the community - not just in terms of wood products, but by reducing the trade deficit. A secure supply of wood from native forests, complemented with plantation supplies can achieve this goal.

    Australia imports about one-third of its forest products - $3.8 billion worth in 2000/01 (ABARE, 2001). The forest industries are working to reduce this figure by adding value to our wood and making high quality pulp and paper in Australia.

    The forest industries can meet their obligations to the community and to the environment by adhering to the principles of ecologically sustainable development. The compelling evidence from all recent government inquiries shows that it would be irresponsible to prevent disturbance in all native forests. Wood harvesting can be part of a managed disturbance process. What is required is a balance of properly managed commerical forests and preserved areas.

    * Managed for wood production on a sustained yield basis and to conserve biological values.


    ABARE 2001, Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics, Canberra, March and June Quarters.

    Forest Taskforce 1995, Wood and Paper Industry Strategy, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

    National Plantations Advisory Committee 1991, Integrating Forestry and Farming: Commercial Wood Production on Cleared Agricultural Land, Department of the Primary Industry and Energy, Canberra.

    Resource Assessment Commission 1992, Forest and Timber Inquiry Final Report, vol. 1, AGPS Canberra.

    BRS 1998, Bureau of Resource Sciences at
    Stewart, Justice D.J. 1992, 'The Resource Assessment Commission report - Implications for Government, Industry and Environment', Special Address - 'Australia's Timber and Forest Industry. A Strategy for the Future', Sydney, May.

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