The Australian continent covers a land area of 7.54 million km2. A large portion of the country, however, particularly the interior, is arid or desert land. Australia's forest resources are mainly located in a broad coastal band extending the length of the eastern seaboard. It has 418 000 km2 of forests which, while covering only 5 percent of the land area, give Australia the largest forest resource in the South Pacific. An additional 1 057 000 km2 is classified as woodlands.
The vast majority of the Australian forest resource is natural forest. This comprises 407 000 km2 or 97.5 percent of the forest resource. The greater part of this forest is dominated by eucalypts, with the balance being a made up of cypress pine (Callitris spp.), paperbarks (Melaleuca spp.), and tropical rainforest. Around 70 000 km2 (17 percent) is reserved for conservation purposes in National parks and reserves. The remainder is in very roughly even portions of state forests (30 percent), private forests (28 percent) and other Government lands (26 percent). The state forest resource is generally of considerably higher quality than the private resource and around 60 percent of the state resource is available and accessible for harvest within a multiple use framework.
Australia presently has about 11 000 km2 of plantations. Of this, 87 percent is softwood (mainly radiata pine) and 13 percent is native hardwoods. Plantations are being established at a current rate of around 25 000 hectares per year. The bulk of the plantation estate is less than 25 years old. Consequently, plantation woodflows are unlikely to peak until some time after 2005. In the meantime Australia's plantation harvest potential is accelerating toward a point where it will become a net exporter of forestry products.
Australia and New Zealand are the only developed nations in the South Pacific. They are also the only countries with fully integrated downstream forestry processing facilities. Australia presently produces a full range of forestry products including 3.7 million m3 of sawn timber, 1.5 million m3 of panel products and 2.2 million tonnes of paper and paperboard. Australia is also the world's largest exporter of woodchips. Despite this, Australia runs a forest products trade deficit, largely because its production is mainly consumed domestically, its exports are dominated by less processed products (more than half the value of exports are woodchips) while its imports are mainly more processed products.
The future for the Australian forestry industry is promising, particularly in comparison with most other countries in the South Pacific. Australia's major problems are similar to those of many developed countries and on a different plane to the less developed countries reviewed in this study. Australia's major challenges are in accessing investment capital to maintain competitiveness, resolving industry-environmental tensions and restructuring the government-industry interface particularly as it relates to wood supplies. Australia will become a net exporter of forestry products some time during the next 15 years with the majority of production swinging toward plantation grown wood.
Papua New Guinea is the second largest country of the South Pacific behind Australia. Its land area of 452 000 km2 is comprised of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the Bismarck archipelago and a cluster of small island groups. Most of the country is mountainous with the highest point, Mt Wilhelm, an impressive 4500 metres. There are also, however, extensive lowland plains in basins of the major river systems.
The total area of natural forest in Papua New Guinea is estimated (PNG Forest Authority: 1995) to be 360 000 km2 (78 percent of the total land area). However, similarly to the Solomon Islands, the potentially operable estate is considerably smaller at around 126 000 km2, and the presently commercially viable forest area is estimated at 88 000 km2. The World Bank (1990) quoted an estimated annual sustained yield for the PNG forests at between 3.6 (with a 50 year cutting cycle) and 6 million cubic metres. The latest PNG Forest Authority estimate is 4.9 million cubic metres with a 35 year cutting cycle.
At present official statistics indicate the PNG forest products industry is operating in the vicinity of sustainable yield management. Log exports in 1994 totalled 3.1 million cubic metres accounting for almost 99 percent of PNG's forest products export revenues. No clear figure exists for additional harvest but the World Bank (1990) quotes a projection of domestic sawn timber and plywood consumption for 1993 at 500 000 cubic metres. This projection appears significantly beyond PNG's processing potential and even if it were achieved, at a conversion rate of 35 percent, the harvest remains below the PNG Forest Authority best estimate for sustainable yield. The major questions regarding sustainability are as to the accuracy of this best estimate and the extent of illegal or unrecorded logging in PNG.
Plantation establishment in PNG has been sporadic, dependent on availability of funds, supervisory personnel and land. However, by 1992 PNG's plantation estate totalled around 43 000 hectares with the Forest Authority managing around 18 000 hectares, provincial departments a further 10 000 hectares, and the private sector making up the remaining 15 000 hectares. Eucalyptus and Pine species together make up roughly half of the estate with Araucaria spp. and Tectonis grandis the other major species. The major difficulty in continuing plantation expansion is land availability particularly since almost all the available Government land has been planted. Presently 4 000 hectares of plantations are targeted for establishment each year.
The forestry industry in PNG has significant potential for further processing development. Log exports completely dominate forestry exports (PNG is the world's second largest exporter of tropical logs). Despite a number of discussions with multi-national forestry companies the Independent newspaper (12.4.96) reported no off-shore processing investment has come to fruition. The most recent available description of Papua New Guinea's existing processing capacity dates to 1992 when the PNG Forest Authority reported 49 fixed sawmills with a total capacity of 207 000 m3 and an output of around 160 000 m3. As well as a number of mobile sawmills (estimated 600) there was also one plywood/veneer mill utilising plantation grown Araucaria, one woodchip mill and almost 30 furniture factories.
Papua New Guinea's forestry future is likely to remain controversial. The Government is caught between the country's cashflow needs and its stated desire to manage and protect the forest resource. For example, PNG Forest Authority (1995):
The economic circumstances also resulted in some pressures on the Forest Authority to return to the era of granting logging permits irrespective of whether projects were sustainable.
While PNG's topography guarantees it will retain a high proportion of forest cover, it, like the Solomons, is not reaping a substantial portion of the value of its resource. Insufficient resources are being reinvested to ensure ongoing sustainability and, particularly, the development of processing facilities. While a major decline in the forestry sector is presently less imminent than in the Solomons, PNG needs to look very closely at its development strategies and ensure it maximises returns from resource liquidation. In the present regional wood supply climate it is, however, questionable whether Papua New Guinea can profitably develop a substantive wood processing industry.
The Solomon Islands is an archipelago comprising seven major islands and a host of smaller ones. The total land area is 27 990 km2. Much like the topography of Vanuatu, the islands generally comprise a narrow coastal strip rising to steep mountainous country. Most of the Solomon Islands experiences high rainfall (3 000 mm per annum) and is vulnerable to periodic cyclone damage. The population of the Solomons is presently in excess of 350 000 and with one of the fastest growth rates in the world is projected to continue to grow rapidly. Agricultural pressures associated with population expansion are likely to place further pressure on both existing forests and reforestation efforts on agriculturally viable land. Agricultural pressures associated with population expansion are already placing pressure on existing forests, less so on reforestation efforts. This is particularly apparent no the island of Malaita, especially in north Malaita where population pressures are already high The Solomon Islands' population is dominated by the native Melanesians who comprise 94 percent of inhabitants.
The Solomon Islands is extensively forested with 88 percent of the country under forest cover. More than 80 percent of the country is under high rainforest with the remaining 8 percent mainly swamp forest, including mangroves, and upland forests. The rainforest has generally fewer species than surrounding countries, with around 60 which reach large sizes. The major species harvested are Pometia pinnata, Calophyllum spp., and a mixture of whitewoods. Despite the extensive forest cover, a very large proportion of the forests are presently non-commercial given the steepness and inaccessibility of location. Almost 22 000 km2 of forest can effectively be designated as primarily protection forest but this is in no way its legal status. Oliver (1992) identifies a commercially exploitable natural forest area of only 2 540 km2 of which 1 300 km2 had been logged by 1990. The more recent Solomon Islands National Forest Resource Inventory (1995) (SINFRA) is more optimistic. It estimates 5 985 km2 of potentially merchantable forest (defined as below 400 metres and on slope of less than 300) though this estimate is reduced to 2 782 km2 after deducting areas of ecological significance for environmental protection, etc. The area of degraded forest is estimated at 2 560 km2.
The Solomon Islands has operated a plantation establishment programme for almost 30 years. Annual plantation establishment has averaged around 1000 hectares per annum with the current plantation estate standing at around 29 000 hectares. Most of the older plantings are in indigenous species, particularly Campnosperma brevitola, while the more recent plantings have been dominated by exotic species particularly mahogany and eucalypt species. The initial plantings were planned to supply the domestic market, more recently the focus has turned toward the export market. In 1989 a joint venture plantation establishment project between the Solomon Islands Government and the Commonwealth Development Corporation began planting a planned 13 500 hectare estate for pulpwood and sawlog production on Kolombara island. The major problem in forestry in the Solomon Islands is land ownership. The 30 000 hectares of land that is now under plantation was all planted on Government owned land for this reason. Some of it, including the Commonwealth Development Corporation project has now been given back to local communities.
The Solomon Islands processing industry is not well developed. The sawmilling sector has significant potential for development. Presently, around 30 000 m3 of sawn timber is exported annually, while log exports totalled 592 000 m3 in 1994 (FAO). The Solomon Island's report to the 1996 Heads of Forestry meeting reports a 1995 harvest in excess of 700,000 cubic metres and a 1996 harvest on target to comfortably exceed 800 000 cubic metres. The report suggests a sustainable harvest level of 325 000 cubic metres with an average per hectare harvest volume of 50 m3. Earlier estimates of harvest volumes in the Solomon Islands suggested yields were closer to 30 cubic metres per hectare. Taking a mid-point with the natural forests yielding 40 m3 per hectare this suggests an area in excess of 200 km2 (approaching one-tenth of SINFRA's recommended harvestable area estimate) is being cut over annually. The Solomon Islands is the world's sixth largest exporter of tropical hardwood logs (though exporting less than one-thirtieth of Malaysia's total in 1993). In 1988 there were 34 fixed site sawmills licensed by the Solomon Islands Government though there are some 700 sawmills operating in the Solomon Islands if all the portable chainsaw mills are included. Probably only half these are working at any one time due to lack of spare parts, no maintenance. No panel products have been produced since a veneer mill closed in the early 1980's.
The future for the Solomon Islands forestry industry seems patchy at best. Although the non-commercial upland areas will ensure the Islands retain a good proportion of forest cover, literature from the early 1990's made a general prediction most of the commercial natural forest would likely be logged out by the turn of the century. While, at current estimates of resource, this prediction seems a little premature there appears to be little doubt that harvest levels will need to curtail quite sharply from recent levels to avoid this logged-out scenario during the first decade or so of the 21st century. A mini-boom in plantation establishment in the late 1970's means there will be several years around the turn of the century when plantation forests will be able to maintain similar wood output to the present. However, from very early next century the forest industry will, of necessity, begin to decline in the face of dwindling log supplies. From an industry point of view this decline may be mitigated somewhat if a global or regional supply shortage forces log prices sufficiently high to make harvesting less accessible sites economic. Nonetheless, the basic story at present appears to be that of a resource being harvested too quickly and unsustainably with few of the benefits being re-invested to ensure the long term viability of the forest industry. Given this situation there is unlikely to be significant investment in upgrading processing capacity so log exports can be expected to continue at their current level unless Government intervenes directly.
Fiji is comprised of around 300 islands with a land area of 18 270 km2. The two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, make up 87 percent of the total land area. These islands are volcanic in origin with steep mountain ranges dividing each island and encouraging orographic precipitation patterns. The whole country is subject to cyclones. The eastern sides of the islands, with an annual rainfall in excess of 2500 mm support tropical rainforest while the western portions receive 1000-1700 mm annually and support a higher proportion of grass and savannah lands. About 51 percent or 9 350 km2 of Fiji is forested.
The Fijian population totals around 800 000 inhabitants with 90 percent of these living on the two main islands. Fiji is characterised by racial diversity and, under the current government regime, some racial tension. In 1994 54 percent of the population was estimated to be ethnic Fijians, while 44 percent was comprised of ethnic Indians. Fiji, compared with the other island countries, is more urbanised and industrialised, with the French territories being probably the only more advanced economies.
The production forest estate comprises 2 670 km2 of indigenous forest and 1 450 km2 of plantation forest (although this figure includes 400 km2 of coconut). Around 650 km2 of the indigenous production forest had been logged to 1990. Another 6 300 km2 of forest is protected and other non-commercial forest. Since 1967 an estimated 1 200 km2 of forest have been converted to non-forest landuses. This has resulted in a marked change in the distribution of forest types. The drier lowland forests of the main islands have borne the brunt of this deforestation.
Fiji has had the most aggressive plantation establishment policy of any of the Pacific Islands. The main softwood plantation species grown is Caribbean pine (Pinus Caribaea) mainly under the management of the Fiji Pine Commission. The main hardwood species are mahogany and teak managed by the Fiji Forestry Department. Most of the commercial forests, including the plantations, are located in the dry western ends of the main islands.
Fiji is a producer and exporter of woodchips, sawn timber and plywood/veneer. Total roundwood production in Fiji is presently approaching 550 000 m3. Roundwood production more than doubled between 1986 and 1989 with pulpwood and sawn timber production the most important components. As with most other aspects of its forest industry, Fiji's processing industries are more sophisticated than other Pacific Islands. Presently, Fiji's production of sawn timber is estimated at around 150 000 m3, with around half of this exported. Almost two-thirds of the production is sourced from the natural forests. Plywood/veneer production is a smaller, but still significant industry. Sandalwood remains a viable production option.
The forestry future for Fiji is promising. The country has invested strongly and early in plantation reforestation which will provide for an expanding harvest over the coming twenty years. The World Bank (1990) quotes a study by Cameron et al which forecasts Fiji's total log production to reach 1 148 000 m3 by 2010 and 1 800 000 m3 by 2020. This will be a significant expansion on current production and given Fiji's determination to process domestically, a significant source of foreign exchange revenue.
Vanuatu is comprised of around 80 islands of which 12 are of significant size. The total land area of Vanuatu is 12 190 km2, with the largest islands being Espiritu Santo, Malekula, and Erromango. The islands generally consist of a narrow coastal plain rising through broken foothills to a steep mountainous interior. Much of the interior country is forested. Around 5 500 km2 of land is considered to be potentially arable. The population of Vanuatu is presently around 160 000 inhabitants. The average rainfall of Vanuatu is 2 300 mm with the northern islands receiving the heaviest rains (in excess of 3 000 mm per annum).
Almost 75 percent of Vanuatu is covered by natural vegetation. However, the quality of natural forests, in terms of commercial forestry, is poor. Much of the natural forest is on steep inaccessible sites and even accessible sites contain few species of commercial use. Oliver (1992) estimates the timber yield from the best 50 000 hectares of natural forest to be only 15-20 m3 per hectare. The World Bank (1990) describes the composition of Vanuatu's natural forests as dominated by species "with low density, little figure,...., little durability and low strength." In the mountainous island interiors much of the natural forest has primarily a protective role. However, even these forests have been degraded by conversion to grazing and in places burning. In some areas erosion and soil degradation are significant problems.
A National Forest Inventory and related reports in 1994 estimates total merchantable volume of timber on Vanuatu at 12 883 000 m3. If the minimum economic yield per hectare is 10 cubic metres of timber then a sustainable annual timber yield for Vanuatu is estimated at 51 700 m3. There is, however, difficulty in relating these assessments to commercially accessible timber areas.
Vanuatu's Department of Forestry has operated two plantation forestry schemes over the past 20 years. The success of these has been limited. Local Supply Plantations (LSP's) were planted between 1975 and 1986 to meet future wood needs at village level. These plantations were established in recognition that the natural forests, because of their quality, composition and distribution will not indefinitely meet wood needs. The LSP's were planned to make Vanuatu self-sufficient in wood supply. However, funding problems, inappropriate species selection and disease have conspired to significantly limit the effectiveness of the LSP scheme. In all, around 1000 hectares (almost entirely in Cordia alliodora) was planted to 1986 when the scheme was put into a maintenance status awaiting review and redesign. It appears LSP's will fall far short of meeting domestic supply requirements.
A second plantation scheme, Industrial Forestry Plantations (IFP's) began in 1982 and was designed to establish larger areas of forest plantations for processing and export supply. Once again establishment targets have not been met and locations of the plantations which have been established are not favourable to transportation. It is likely these plantations will also be eventually utilised for domestic supply. In 1991 IFP's totalled 1 200 hectares of mainly Pinus caribaea. More recently a project to plant 525 hectares of plantation forest on Espiritu Santo has been funded by European Union ODA. Around 325 hectares have been planted on a 5 500 hectare site. Opn completion of the planned planting the large remaining area is planned to be leased for private forestry projects.
The wood processing industry on Vanuatu is not well developed. The sawmilling industry comprises three significant fixed site mills and several smaller mills plus around 50 portable sawmills which operate sporadically and produce relatively low quality timber. The fixed site mills generally have some form of pressure treatment facilities. There is one plant producing low grade veneer, and a small furniture manufacturing industry producing for the domestic market. The Government of Vanuatu has intermittently operated a log export ban to assist in developing a domestic processing industry. A notable Vanuatuan forestry export is sandalwood. This has been Vanuatu's most famous forestry export for upwards of a century. Tonga and New Caledonia also have sandalwood although Tonga's is virtually non-existent.
It is evident that Vanuatu has the potential to be self sufficient in solidwood products and to develop a modest export industry. However, it is equally evident that achieving this goal requires better organisation and management of forestry programmes than occurred in the earlier LSP and ISP programmes. The future will probably see Vanuatu continuing to supply the majority of its sawn timber needs but importing panels, paper and speciality sawn timber.
New Caledonia is a French territory comprising one large island, Grande Terre, and an archipelago of smaller islands. The total land area of New Caledonia is 19 103 square kilometres, with Grande Terre covering almost 17 000 km2. A rugged mountain range extends the length of Grand Terre precipitating a higher rainfall on the north-east coast (3 000mm per annum) compared with the south-west (1 000 mm per annum). This diversity of precipitation and a diverse pattern of soils gives New Caledonia a greater array of vegetation than most of the other Pacific islands. Rainforest is found on the eastern side of the mountains. The western side is covered by 5000 km2 of Melaleuca sp. savannah. New Caledonia's population is around 170 000 people of whom half live in the capital, Noumea. New Caledonia's population comprises 45 percent Melanesian and 33 percent European. New Caledonia has, probably, the most advanced economy of the Pacific Islands (excluding Australia and New Zealand).
New Caledonia's natural forests cover around 3700 km2 with 1560 km2 considered to be production forest, though a large proportion of this is relatively inaccessible. The focus for production is on the mid-altitude forests since as well as being most numerous and accessible, they are also richest in high-value timbers. Currently roundwood removals from New Caledonia's forests total around 5000 m3 per annum, producing around 3000 m3 of sawn timber. Agathis spp are predominant. Domestic production of sawn timber meets only 10-15 percent of New Caledonia's needs, the remainder is imported.
New Caledonia began plantation establishment around 1965 and has presently a Territorial inventory of approximately 8000 hectares of pinus caribaea and pinus elliottii plus an additional 2000 hectares of private woodlots. It is envisaged these plantations will eventually provide construction materials and some transmission poles. Thinnings are presently producing posts and some joinery timber.
In terms of conservation, New Caledonia has made greater strides than most of its Pacific neighbours. An Absolute Protection Reserve (5 080 hectares), four Provincial Parks (11 311 hectares), four Fauna Reserves (22 520 hectares), four Flora and Fauna Reserves (1 117 hectares) and seven Botanical Reserves (totalling 15 192 hectares) have been established. There are also extensive water catchments where logging is prohibited so the total are where logging is protected against totals 170 000 hectares. The major environmental problems relate to opencast nickel mining with mine spoils covering more than 3000 hectares. (Grand Terre contains one-third of the world's nickel reserves). Forests may play a role in rehabilitating some of this land.
The future for New Caledonian forestry activities is promising. While it is unlikely to actually become self-sufficient in timber it appears to have this capacity. Its natural forests have been comparatively well managed and as the plantation estate matures it should supply around 40 percent of New Caledonia's wood requirements. Estimates are that an annual planting programme of 400-500 hectares would be required for New Caledonia to become self sufficient. Present planting rates are around 150 hectares per annum.
French Polynesia is comprised of five archipelagos (Society, Austral, Tuamotu, Gambier and Marquesas) containing 130 islands with a total land area of 3 660 km2. Two-thirds of the 200 000 inhabitants live on Tahiti in the Society Islands.
French Polynesia's economy, while having significant diversity, is distorted by the presence of the Centre d'Experimentation du Pacifique (CEP) and the Commission d'Energie Atomique (CEA) which, along with a substantial French military presence, contribute significantly to the territory's high GDP. The CEP alone contributed 22 percent of GDP in 1993. Tourism is the other major contributor. Coconuts are the main cash crop and provide the major potential source of timber. There is no significant domestic forest industry and sectoral needs are met from imports, around 35 000 cubic metres of sawn timber and 5 000 tonnes of paper and paperboard per annum.
Western Samoa is comprised of eight islands with a total land area of 2830 km2. However, two islands, Upolu (1820 km2) and Savai'i (1100 km2), are by far the most important. The population of Western Samoa is around 170 000 people, the majority of whom live on the coastal plains of Upolu. The climate is tropical oceanic with the main islands having annual average rainfalls ranging from 2500-7000 mm from their windward to leeward sides. Western Samoa is in the tropical cyclone belt and in recent years has suffered extensive damage at the hands of tropical cyclones Ofa and Val.
Western Samoa's forest area comprises around 37 percent (1056 km2) of the total land area. This can be further divided into 31 percent non-merchantable indigenous forest, 5 percent merchantable-indigenous, and 1 percent plantation. Deforestation is a serious problem in Western Samoa. Heavy exploitation of the indigenous forests did not really begin until 1974. However, in a 15 year period from 1978 it is estimated that 50 percent of the merchantable forest and 30 percent of the non-merchantable forest has been cleared. Much of the remaining merchantable forest has suffered from severe cyclone damage. Annual forest clearance is presently estimated at around 4000 hectares per annum. This is primarily clearance for agriculture. Commercial logging has been halted on Upolu since 1989 since less than 800 hectares of merchantable forest remain. At present extraction rates Savai'i's forests will also be logged out shortly after the turn of the century. The 1993 Forestry Review Team noted:
On a global scale this is a dramatic rate of rainforest clearance. Proportionately a far greater loss for Samoa than is rainforest clearance in Indonesia. For Western Samoa this loss of indigenous forest is a tragedy, representing the loss not only of natural ecosystems, plants and animals that are found nowhere else, but also a dramatic loss of water catchment areas, forests that maintain soil stability and long term sources of food, cultural materials and timber products from the forest ecosystems.
Effective plantation establishment in Western Samoa began only in 1974 with the planting of Mahogany and Australian Red Cedar. In November 1991 the total plantation area managed by the Western Samoan Forestry division was 3 522 hectares after significant losses to cyclone Ofa. More than 90 percent of the remainder was damaged by tropical cyclone Val with 45 percent written off initially and a further 45 percent later abandoned. Mahogany is the predominant species particularly given its superior resilience to wind damage. Teak and Eucalypt species are also important.
It seems likely that Western Samoa will continue to be at least partially dependent on imports of timber for the foreseeable future. If strategies alter, to manage the remaining indigenous forest sustainably, then Samoa will continue to supply a good proportion of its own timber needs. If harvesting continues at the present rate then by 2010 most of Samoa's timber needs will, of necessity, be imported.
Tonga consists of an archipelago of 171 islands with a total land area of 730 km2 . Six islands comprise 75 percent of the land area and contain 90 percent of the population. The largest island is Tongatapu with an area of 260 km2. Tonga's population is close to 100 000 people.
Most of the islands are uplifted limestone formations covered with a veneer of volcanic ash. Most of the agriculturally important soils are of recent volcanic origin and have good nutrient properties making them capable of supporting a wide variety of crops. Tonga has a tropical maritime climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. Rainfall is, however, unreliable and prolonged droughts are common. Tropical cyclones are a frequent occurrence and often cause widespread damage to trees and woodlots.
Limited indigenous forest remains in Tonga. Logging exhausted nearly all of the available and accessible forest some years ago. About 4000 hectares of the natural hardwood forest remains, mainly on uninhabited islands, in very steep or inaccessible areas, in coastal littoral areas and swamps, and in mangrove areas. Most of the remaining forest is on Eua Island in an area that has been proposed as a national park.
Tonga's major timber resource is currently coconut palms. A 1982 survey estimated Tonga's coconut population at almost 5 million trees of which 12 percent were senile. Production of coconut timber presently totals around 1500 m3 per annum. This is 80 percent of Tonga's sawn timber production. Most of the production comes from the Government-owned Mataliku Sawmilling Centre. The remainder is produced by small portable sawmills.
Tonga is moving to establish a commercially viable and sustainable plantation estate. Currently Tonga's objective is to establish 1500-2000 hectares of plantation forest. Large scale planting began in 1984 and by 1992, 579 hectares had been planted. Most of the plantings are Caribbean Pine (Pinus Caribaea). Presently the target is to plant 80 hectares per year. Projections show this would be adequate to sustainably meet 80 percent of Tonga's sawn timber needs. Tonga will continue to import its requirements for other wood and paper products.
Agroforestry remains an important landuse with Government particularly keen to promote planting of species for timber and fuelwood, planting improved varieties of fruit trees and nitrogen-fixing trees, coconut rehabilitation and replanting, and commercial intercropping. Eucalyptus saligna has been the most popular agroforestry species in recent years.
Kiribati is comprised of 33 islands in three distinct groups; the Gilbert Islands in the west, the Phoenix Islands in the centre, and the Line Islands in the east. Consequently, while Kiribati's total land area is only 690 km2, its sea area covers more than 3.5 million km2. The 17 islands of the Gilberts comprise 39 percent of the land area of Kiribati but are home to 93 percent of the population. The 8 atolls of the Phoenix Islands are largely uninhabited with most of the remaining population resident on Christmas Island in the Line Group. Christmas Island comprises more than 50 percent of Kiribati's land area. Kiribati is home to around 80 000 people.
Kiribati lies in the dry equatorial oceanic climate zone. Rainfall is variable across the islands with drought years on the driest islands sometimes yielding as little as 200mm of rain in a year. The annual averages across the islands of Kiribati ranges from 700mm to 4000mm. Consequently rainfall, or the lack of it, is a major determinant of forest viability in Kiribati. Almost none of the islands have surface fresh-water. Kiribati's atoll soils, derived from coral limestones, are shallow, alkaline, coarse textured and lacking in nutrients. Thaman and Whistler (1995) describe them as being amongst the poorest in the world.
Despite these limitations Kiribati has developed a quite sophisticated and intensive agro-forestry system based on coconut, breadfruit, bananas pandanus and native figs. The system tends to represent a natural forest rather than plantation since the trees occur spontaneously, in a variety of different patterns and ages. Coconut is by far the dominant species. There is virtually no formal forestry activity although a number of species have been trialled for windbreaks, coastal protection and fuelwood or timber production. Kiribati unsuccessfully trialled a milling scheme for senile coconut palms in the mid-1980's. Costs of maintenance made the scheme uneconomic.
Nauru, with a land area of 21 km2 and a population of around 10 000 people, is one of the wealthiest Pacific Islands (and on a per capita basis one of the more wealthy countries in the world) due to mining of its extensive phosphate resources. The island effectively comprises a fertile band several hundred metres wide encircling an ancient coral reef which rises as a 60 metres cliff inland to form a plateau in the centre of the island. This plateau contains the phosphate deposits. The Government-owned Nauru Phosphate Corporation has operated the phosphate mining since 1970. Around three-quarters of the phosphate revenues have been invested in a trust fund for future development of Nauru once the phosphate reserves are exhausted. This time is not far distant.
Only 250 hectares of land is presently available for cultivation with coconuts being the main crop. Soils are poor and highly porous, rainfall is generally variable. The known flora of Nauru consists of almost 200 species, of which 30 are indigenous, and covering around 17 percent of the land area.. The major tree species are Coconut, Tomanu and Banyan. There appears to be little scope for the development of any sort of commercial forestry (beyond coconut groves). The major roles for trees are likely to be as shelterbelts, for amenity purposes and to assist in soil improvement programmes. When the phosphate mines are eventually played out there may be areas of the central plateau that could be made suitable for afforestation. The small scale of such afforestation would mean, necessarily, tree planting would be mainly for amenity purposes, though other values might also be incorporated into such development.
In the foreseeable future Nauru will meet all its forest products needs through imports. Presently, virtually everything, including forest products and fresh water, must be imported into Nauru. When the phosphate mining eventually ends, the permanent population of Nauru will decline and presumably demand for forest products will correspondingly decline. The extent to which Nauru is able to develop viable domestic industries to replace mining will determine whether there is potential for expanding demand for forest products.
Niue, with a land area of 260 km2, is a single upthrust coral atoll rising to a height of 60 metres. A substantial portion of Niue is covered with scrub or bush type vegetation and several thousand hectares of dense indigenous forest. A 1981 forest survey showed roughly 70 percent of Niue to be forested, though only 32 km2 was considered merchantable, the remainder being scattered or coastal forest. However, in the fifteen years prior to 1981 20 percent of Niue's forest cover was lost. This trend has reportedly continued though without a detailed inventory this cannot be confirmed. The primary cause of deforestation is clearing for subsistence gardening. A 1990 survey of Niue's forests reported a total merchantable volume of 245 000 m3 compared with a volume of 535 700 m3 calculated in 1966. Nonetheless, the Niuean Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (1993) reported wood was used only for traditional purposes such as house and canoe building, and handicrafts. Niue's conservation estate is limited to 160 hectares of mature forest placed under a traditional "Tapu" (a restricted or sacred area).
In the late-1980's the Niuean Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries embarked on a project to establish a high quality hardwood plantation forest. The aim is to achieve a plantation estate of 4000 hectares over a 40 year period established at a rate of 100 hectares per annum. The majority of plantings are mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) or Toona australis, both of which demonstrate superior resistance to cyclone damage. Eventually, the plantation estate is expected to yield a sustainable supply of unprocessed logs for export. Project results in the formative years show this is an ambitious target. In June 1993 Nuie's plantation estate was 120 hectares. Nonetheless, New Zealand Government aid funding has been agreed through to 1997 with the project's future presently due for review. A major obstacle may be continuing to access lease land for the project.
The future for Niue's forestry sector appears positive in that concerted effort to provide for the future is being made. The success of the plantation project will determine whether the forestry industry makes a future contribution to Niue's economy. However, the non-merchantable forests should ensure Nuie will retain good forest cover into the future.
The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands divided into two groups, the Northern and Southern Cook Islands. These groups are distinct from one another in that the Southern Cook Islands are volcanic in origin and generally much larger, while the Northern Cooks are coral atolls. The total land area of the Cook Islands is 240 km2. The Southern Group comprises 211 km2 with Rarotonga, the largest island, covering 67 km2. Rarotonga is also home to 45 percent of the population which totals around 18 000 people.
The climate is generally tropical maritime. Annual rainfall in Rarotonga averages 2000mm and, although the Cooks lie in the hurricane belt, major storms are infrequent.
Natural forests in the Cook Islands occur only in the Southern Group. The area under forest has not been formally assessed or inventoried but it contains a wide variety (estimated at 650) of species. Vegetative cover is both lush and extensive on the Southern Group although anecdotal observation suggests a shortage of accessible, millable timber. The main purposes of the natural forests are presently for conservation and watershed protection. Sawn lumber is produced, however, from trees felled in site clearing for agricultural purposes. The Northern Group has a similar geography to neighbouring Tokelau and similarly its wood resources are mainly limited to coconut palms although some other species are present and are utilised for construction.
Turner (1990) lists 8 sawmills in the Cook Islands. Five were Government owned and three were privately owned. All were portable mills and none were operating on a full-time basis. Several of the mills were not in an operational condition. Regardless, these mills are able to supply only a small fraction of the Cook Islands' timber needs.
The Cook Islands began systematic plantation development in 1985. To date, the majority of plantings have been on Mangaia, Rarotonga and Atui islands and comprise Pinus caribaea (90 percent), Acacia spp., and Causarina equisetifolia. The plantation resource is presently approximately 660 hectares in size. Soil conservation and fernland protection is the primary purpose of plantation establishment with timber production a secondary objective. A Forestry Division annual planting target of 125 hectares appears to have been discontinued with the downsizing of general Government activities.
The islands of Tokelau, with a land area totalling only 12 km2 and a population of around 2000 people, are an overseas territory of New Zealand. The islands comprise 3 coral atolls ranging in size from 3.5-4.7km2. Tokelau, as with most of the other atoll countries does not have "forest" as such, but a limited variety of trees. Coconut is the primary species, with Pandus spp., Cordia subcordata and Pisona grandis the other major species.
Wood products are used mainly for handicrafts. Wood is also occasionally used for canoe and house-building materials. Occasionally wood is used for fuel. Tokelau has no commercial forest industry.
Tokelau lacks the land resource to develop a viable forest industry. For the future trees and forests will play a role in soil protection, continue to provide a fuel source and to meet minor wood and fibre demands, and provide a backdrop to any tourism development.
The nine islands of Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands) have a total land area of 26 km2. However, Tuvalu's population exceeds 10 000 people and, consequently, these islands have a considerably higher population density than similarly small Tokelau. All the islands are low coral, atoll or reef, formations with none rising above 4 metres. Soils are very infertile comprising mainly rock or coral sand. Vegetation is poor and there is little commercially useful timber with the most important tree, and Tuvalu's only cash crop, being the coconut. Coconuts occupy 77 percent of the land area.
A number of exotic tree species have been trialled over the years in Tuvalu with the most successful being casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia). This was planted to serve as a windbreak for coconuts, and as a firewood and timber resource. In the future it may also provide an important source of timber for domestic purposes. A variety of fruit trees, nitrogen fixing trees and other multi-purpose indigenous species have also been planted. Tuvalu does not presently have timber processing facilities though consideration is being given to obtaining a portable mill for sawing senile coconut palms. Chainsaws are used to produce rough timbers for livestock pens and suchlike. House-building, canoe construction and handicrafts are other wood uses on Tuvalu. Tuvalu will continue to be dependent on imports of more processed wood and paper products.
Norfolk Island is an Australian-administered territory with a land area of 36 km2 and a population of around 2000 inhabitants. Uninhabited prior to European colonisation, it was used as a British penal colony and also to repatriate Pitcairn Islanders. Norfolk Island rises in a series of precipitous cliffs to a highpoint of 319 metres. It has fertile volcanic soils, however, these are easily erodible once vegetation has been cleared. Rainfall is around 1300 mm per annum. Much of the land has been cleared for arable farming, however, the once dominant Norfolk Pine trees (Araucaria Excelsa or A. Heterophylla) remain notable features of the landscape. There is a reforestation programme underway using native Norfolk pines and seed from the pines remains an export item. Tourism is now the Island's largest industry.
Pitcairn Island is a territory administered by Great Britain. Pitcairn, with a population of less than 100 and a land area of only 35 km2 actually comprises 4 islands of which Pitcairn Island itself is the only one inhabited. The largest island, however, is Henderson Island which was placed on the World Heritage List in 1989 as a means of protecting its unique birdlife.
Pitcairn Island was initially settled by the famous Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian consorts. In 1856 the Islanders were removed to Norfolk Island due to overpopulation pressures, however, some of the Islanders later returned. Most of Pitcairn Island is cleared of trees though a reforestation scheme was begun in 1963 growing native miro trees as a future source of rosewood used in making carved curios for sale. Presently miro-wood is sourced from Henderson Island. Most Islanders live a subsistence lifestyle, fishing and growing gardens and crops. Major problems for Pitcairn include landowner absenteeism and overpopulation.
The Wallis and Futuna Islands are a French territory comprising two main islands and several smaller ones with a total land area of 170 km2. The islands have a combined population of around 14 000, mainly Polynesian, inhabitants. The Islands' natural forests have been almost completely removed with the exception of the small island of Alofi which has some residual rainforest. Agricultural encroachment onto forested land has been the significant deforestation factor. There have been limited plantation trials on Wallis Island with around 200 hectares of Pinus Caribaea planted in the north of the Island. Presently, the Islands' wood needs are imported.
Subsistence farming is the main economic activity and French aid funding is the major source of territorial revenue.