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2. Australia

Country data

Total land area 1999 (million ha) *


Total forest area 1997 (thousand ha)/% of total land area **


Natural forest 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual change %

not available

Population total 1998 (million)


Rural population 1998 ***

2.8 (or 15%)

GDP per person total 1998 in AS$ ***


Source of data: * FAO - State of the World’s Forest, 1999

** National Forest Inventory (1997)

***Australian Bureau of Statistics figures

General information

Australia, as a Federation, has a division of power between the Commonwealth Government, State and Territory governments (“State Governments”), and Local governments. State governments have control over most land in Australia and, together with Local governments, regulate land use.

The Australian economy increased by 4.4% in 1998-1999, but this rate is expected to come down to 4% in 1999-2000. Australia remains a net importer of forest products in value terms. In 1998-99, Australia imported forest products valued at $A3.26 billion, accounting for 3% of total merchandise imports. Imports for sawn timber, paper and paperboard accounted for 67% of the total value of forest product imports (54% paper and paperboard products and 13% sawn timber, mostly coniferous). Most sawn timber imported into Australia comes from New Zealand, Canada, and the United States of America, with radiata pine, Douglas fir and western red cedar forming the bulk of sawn wood imports. Malaysia is the main source of imported hardwood sawn timber.

After three years of rises, the value of exports of forest products from Australia fell by 2% to $A1.3 billion in 1998-99. This represents 1.5% of Australia’s total merchandise exports. The main reasons for the drop were a fall in wood chip exports to Japan from the record level of exports in 1997-98 and in the volume of paper and paperboard exports to Asia. Partly offsetting these losses, exports of other forest products to several Asian countries increased significantly in 1998-99 to levels above export volumes prior to the downturn in these markets in the first half of 1998.

Forest resources

Most of Australia, particularly the interior, is arid; however, there is still a large forest area (about 20% of the continent). Areas suitable for forest growth are largely confined to the tropical north of Australia, the East Coast (including Tasmania), South Australia and south western Western Australia. The vast majority of the Australian forest resource is natural forest dominated by eucalypts (Eucalyptus spp) mixed with acacia (Acacia spp), cypress pine (Callitris spp), and paper bark (Melaleuca spp).

The total forest area of close to 157 million ha is made up of almost 156 million ha of native forests. The native forests can be divided into three classes by the density of crown cover namely woodlands (72% of the total forest area), open forests (25%) and closed forests (3%).

Approximately 27% of native forests are privately owned and 72% are publicly owned (1% unclear due to a shortcoming in the databases). However, about 42% of the native forest estate are on public land held under lease by the private sector, predominantly the pastoral industry. Taking private and leasehold native forests together, almost 70% are on land managed by the private sector. The remaining 30% are public forests, as defined in the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS), and are fairly equally divided across the three tenure types of conservation reserves (11%), multiple-use forest (9%) and other crown land (10%).

Criteria and indicators

Australia, as one of the twelve member countries of the Montreal Process, is making progress with the implementation of criteria and indicators (C&I) for the conservation and sustainable management of forests.

At the international level, Australia continues to contribute to the work of the Montreal Process Working Group and its Technical Advisory Committee as well as to other international C&I initiatives. At the domestic level, Australia has developed a framework of regional (sub-national) level criteria and indicators. This framework is Australia’s first attempt at national agreement on a range of indicators that applies to all forests. The internationally agreed upon Montreal Process national level C&I have been used as a starting point in developing the framework. The framework is intended to provide a basis for identification of indicators for monitoring progress towards sustainable forest management at the regional (sub-national) level. The framework provides Australia with a co-ordinated approach to collection of data for forests, which ensures consistent reporting and avoids duplication.

The framework will also allow the aggregation of data from the regional level to State and national levels in a transparent and credible way in both RFA and non-RFA regions. A number of research and development priorities have been identified and the Commonwealth Government is funding several projects to support the further development and implementation of the regional indicators.

There has been agreement in Australia that it is not possible, practical or cost effective, to fully implement and monitor all indicators in the regional framework at this point in time. A first report will be produced in late 2000 on those indicators that can be measured immediately for most forests. To date all signed RFAs have included references to identification of sustainability indicators based on the regional framework.

Several key challenges exist for Australia, including collection of data from non-commercial forests on public land and from the large majority of privately managed forests. Despite these challenges, Australia considers that significant progress has been made in recent years, particularly, there is better co-ordination across activities at both the State/Territory and national levels and recognition that duplication needs to be avoided.

Policy, legislative and institutional

The principal national policy documents establishing priority actions for the management and use of Australian forests are:

· the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS) (1992);

· the Wood and Paper Industry Strategy (WAPIS) (1995);

· the Vision 2020 Strategy document (Vision 2020) (1998);

· the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;.

· the Nationally Agreed Criteria for the Establishment of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System for Forests in Australia (known as the JANIS Criteria 1997); and

· an Action Agenda for the Forest and Wood Products Industry is being developed by the industry and governments, with a view to implementation in second half of 2000.

In addition, there are a range of policies and programmes at State and Commonwealth Government levels aimed at sustainably managing Australia’s forest resources. These also include programmes promoting farm forestry and revegetation and the removal of government impediments to further investment in growing and processing forest products. There are numerous State and Territory Acts (legislation) covering conservation issues that have implications for forestry, including land use planning, and flora and fauna protection. There are also Acts or legislation that cover the establishment and administration of National Parks, and regulate water rights and use.

The new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is scheduled to come into force in July 2000. This Act represents the most fundamental reform of Australia’s environmental law in 25 years and focuses Commonwealth involvement in development assessment and approval in six key areas of national environmental significance. They are the Commonwealth marine environment, World Heritage properties, Ramsar wetlands of international importance, national threatened species and ecological communities, migratory species and nuclear actions.

Forest operations in regions subject to Regional Forest Agreements are excluded from the operation of the above Act as the RFAs themselves contain agreement on ecologically sustainable forest management prescriptions and they have been fully assessed under existing environment legislation.

From the institutional point of view, five broad forms of land tenure exist, as follows:

· Conservation reserves: publicly owned forests reserved for conservation, including national parks and flora reserves;

· Multiple-use forests: publicly owned forests set aside for timber production, including State forests and timber reserves;

· Leasehold land: publicly owned forests on land leased from the crown;

· Other crown land: forest of crown land not covered by the previous three categories; and

· Private forests, includes native forests and plantations owned privately.

These broad forms of land tenure provide the basis for assigning the respective forest and departmental tasks, responsibilities and institutional models of the managing agencies in each State and Territory.

Policy statement

In 1992, the Commonwealth and State Governments developed a common policy position on forests, known as the National Forest Policy Statement (NFPS). The NFPS is the primary means by which the objectives of the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biodiversity will be accomplished in forest ecosystems. The NFPS sets out objectives concerning conservation, wood production and timber industries development, use of private native forests, development of plantations, water supply and catchment area management, tourism development, employment, workforce education, public awareness and involvement, research and development, and the further development of intergovernmental arrangements and the decision making process.

Under the National Forest Policy, the Government has agreed to maintain an extensive and permanent native forest estate, and to manage that estate in an ecologically sustainable manner so as to conserve the full range of values that forests can provide for current and future generations. Within the framework of the NFPS, specific policies have been developed in relation to nature conservation and wilderness reserves, ecologically sustainable management and codes of practice, data collection and analysis, and the protection of forest from diseases, weeds, pests, pathogens, and wildfires.

Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs)

The key national goal in the NFPS is to ensure the community obtains a balanced return from all forest uses. This objective is being pursued through the development of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) following comprehensive assessments of forests for their conservation, heritage, economic and social values in a region.

The RFA process aims to provide certainty for forest-based industries, conservation and the community through the following:

· the establishment of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) reserve system under nationally agreed criteria;

· ecologically sustainable forest management (ESFM) across the whole of the forest estate; and

· an internationally-competitive forest industry.

Once agreements are signed, they are in place for 20 years, subject to five-yearly reviews. A Forest Industry Structural Adjustment Package (FISAP), to assist native forest industry businesses and workers to adjust to variations in access to native forest resources and facilitate increased value-adding operations and downstream processing, was established to assist in retraining and relocating workers and to assist businesses exiting the industry.

The implementation of nationally agreed reserve criteria under this process will ensure the establishment of a world class reserve system. Broadly, these are as follows:

· 15% of the pre-European forest types (increasing further for rare, vulnerable and endangered ecosystems);

· 60% of existing old growth forests (increasing for rare old growth); and

· 90% of high quality wilderness forests.

Since our last update i.e. NFP UPDATE 33, six further Regional Forest Agreements have been completed bringing the number of RFAs in place to nine. The six new RFAs include that for Western Australia, the Eden region, the Upper North-east & Lower North-east regions of New South Wales and the North-East region, West and Gippsland of Victoria. The RFAs have delivered major gains for the environment and provided increased certainty for native forest industry and regional economies.

The Western Australia RFA increased the region’s formal reserves by 151,000 ha to bring the total area of reserves to 1.04 million ha. This includes 67% of all remaining old-growth forests, with old-growth karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) reserved by 71% and old-growth jarrah (E. marginata) by 70%.

The RFAs completed so far in New South Wales have established a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) Reserve System of about 2.4 million hectares, more than 60% of the total public land for these RFAs, with the one for the Southern region still to be completed. The completion of the five RFAs in the State of Victoria have seen the following outcomes:

· established a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) Reserve System of about 2.86 million ha, more than 50% of the total public land in the five regions;

· increased reserves by 36.5%;

· identified 1.08 million ha of old-growth forest in the first comprehensive old-growth assessment;

· protected 68% of the regions’ old-growth forest;

· ensured protection either in reserves or through recovery plans and action statements of all Victoria’s endangered fauna species, including Leadbeater’s possum, the Baw Baw frog, the Powerful and Sooty Owls, the Spot-tailed Quoll and Long-footed Potoroo and Spotted Tree Frog;

· provided an additional $A20 million to fund industry development initiatives in regional Victoria; and

· involved the first social assessment of how the people and communities of Victoria use and value their forests, with in-depth consultation in 30 regional communities.

Australian forestry standard

Australia is developing an Australian Forestry Standard for the certification of forest management activities as part of a move to certification and labelling of Australian timber produced from sustainably managed forests. There is some concern about the proliferation of Certification and Labelling Schemes in the international arena because of the potential to lead to consumer confusion and market failure. The Australian Government is keen to explore the views of Governments on the way forward, particularly in the context of the role of Governments in pursuing a credible, international framework for comparability between schemes.

Wood and paper industry strategy (WAPIS)

In December 1995, the Commonwealth launched a four-year Wood and Paper Industry Strategy (WAPIS), aimed at developing the wood and paper industries, while protecting forests for future generations. Its focus is on industrial development, value adding, and new investment. WAPIS activities promote greater investment, research and downstream processing in Australian forest industries, expansion of farm forestry and the plantation sector, a skilled and flexible workforce and improved regional job opportunities. Improved information on plantation areas and wood flows was one of the key achievements of this Strategy, a major contribution to which was the National Plantation Inventory, completed in 1997.

Plantations 2020 vision

The Plantations 2020 Vision is a framework of actions designed to achieve an internationally competitive plantation growing and processing industry which is commercially focused, market driven and market oriented. The target of the Plantations 2020 Vision is to treble the effective area of Australia’s plantation estate, from 1 million hectares to 3 million hectares, between 1996 and 2020. Recent trends indicate that the current expansion in plantations is on track to meet this target. The focus is on boosting the availability of suitable land, getting the commercial incentives right, establishing a commercial plantations culture and improving information flows.

In September 1999 Australia had 1.33 million ha of plantations. 71% of these are softwood plantations (mainly radiata pine) and the remaining 29% are made up of native hardwood species.

Aside from building an internationally competitive and environmentally sustainable plantation sector, other expected benefits of the Plantations 2020 Vision include reductions in Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions, a turnaround in the trade deficit for wood and wood products, rural development (including creation of up to 40 000 jobs), and improved land management outcomes.

In line with the increasing production of softwood, the hardwood saw millers have begun diversifying their mills into kiln-dried timber for furniture, flooring, mouldings, and other value-added products. As a result of increased domestic production, sawn timber imports are expected to decline, and may see a surplus in the next five years. A similar trend is projected for wood panel products, including particleboard and plywood.

Farm forestry programme

The aim of the Farm Forestry Programme is to encourage the incorporation of commercial tree growing and management into farming systems for the purpose of wood and non-wood production, increasing agricultural productivity and sustainable natural resource management. The program has four objectives:

· promote farm forestry on cleared agricultural land for a range of benefits, including wood and non-wood products, increased agricultural production and environmental benefits;

· promote commercial wood production on cleared agricultural land as an integral part of profitable wood-based industries;

· promote development of new tree-crop products and industries with an emphasis on native species; and

· promote sustainable management and use of private native forest and woodland.

The main activities supported by the farm forestry program include planning and co-ordination; extension, education and training; research and development; monitoring and evaluation; demonstrations, trials and investigations.

Forest tourism

Australian Governments have invested considerable resources in tourism activity in forests. State and Commonwealth Governments have provided tourist facilities in forests with the aim of making tourist experiences in forested areas more interesting and educational, while minimising impacts on the environment.

Australia’s flora, fauna, and landscapes are a major attraction for international visitors to Australia, 50% of whom visit National/State Parks/reserves/caves. Overseas tourists represent approximately 7% of the visitors to National Parks.

IPF/IFF proposals for action

A preliminary assessment in 1998 and a recent assessment in 1999 indicated that Australia has made good progress with the implementation of the proposals for action emanating from the completion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) process.

In some cases the actions will be ongoing for a number of years (such as Regional Forest Agreements) and in a few cases some further consideration may need to be given to ensure Australia’s programs fully meet the intent of the IPF proposals.

Support towards sustainable forest management

Australia has considerable expertise in sustainable forest management techniques, and well regarded private consultancy firms working in forestry as well as good research and genetic improvement programs in the public and private spheres. Australia has Forestry schools in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, which provide undergraduate and postgraduate training to Australian and international students. Well qualified Australian foresters, with tertiary qualifications and experience in forestry, supervise forest management and harvesting in Australia. All harvesting on public lands and some private lands is covered by comprehensive codes of forest practice.

The Australian aid program’s support to the forestry sector provided by AusAID totalled around $A14 million in 1998/99. Most of this amount (about $A10million) comprised expenditure on bilateral projects, with another $A3 million being expended on forest-related research through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

The program also covers the provision of seed funding for projects of Regional significance in the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), as well as the provision of one-off funding for initiatives such as the development of the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific, and more recently drafting the Strategy for the Implementation of this Code.

Research, extension and training

As a key initiative under the National Forest Policy Statement, the Federal Government established the Forest and Wood Products Re-search and Development Corporation (FWPRDC) in partnership with industry with the purpose of promoting effective research and development, which advances an internationally competitive, sustainable and environmentally responsible forest and wood products industry in Australia.

The Corporation invests in research for the forest and wood products industry and facilitates the dissemination, adoption and commercialisation of the results of research and development activities in which the Corporation invests. The Corporation achieves these goals through the following:

· Integration of forestry activities in farming operations as a way of achieving land rehabilitation and enhancing forest industries, regional development, and increasing farming incomes;

· Encouraging tree planting for environmental and development purposes through community programmes;

· Continuing to work toward greater efficiency and sustainability of the agriculture and forestry sectors, and to develop a more productive relationship between these two sectors;

· Increasing work on criteria and indicators for SFM in regions within Australia; and

· Integration of data at the national level to allow for meaningful analysis and interpretation given.

· the great diversity in forest ecosystems, the extensive nature of the forest estate and different data sets used by varying government agencies.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is an Australian Government authority that operates within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It was established in June 1982 to assist and encourage Australia’s agricultural scientists to use their skills for the benefit of developing countries, and at the same time, work to resolve Australia’s own agricultural problems. ACIAR’s Forestry Program has four components:

· domestication of trees and shrubs;

· development of low-cost technologies to improve establishment and productivity of selected trees;

· strengthening of institutional capability; and

· development and improvement of a forestry information network.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was formed in 1949. Its Forestry and Forest Products Division has a lead role in Research and Development at the federal level.

The global competitive performance of Australia’s Forestry, Wood and Paper Industries Sector over the next 20 years will be underpinned by R & D. It will facilitate resource development and sustainable management, improved wood and fibre performance, increased efficiency and environmental performance of wood and paper processing and increased value adding in wood and paper products.

CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products Division has extensive experience and capability through its expertise with Australian Tree Seed Centre; Entomological Services; Pulp and Paper Testing; Scanning Electron Microscopy, Digital Imaging and Analysis Facility; Soil and Plant Nutrient Analysis; and Wood Identification.

CSIRO Division of Forestry and Forest products current research areas include:

· Forestry operations - their environmental and economic performance;

· Papermaking and paper quality;

· Risk management;

· Sustainable plantation forests;

· Sustainably managed native forests;

· Value enhancement in the forests; and

· Value-added wood products.

FWPRDC, ACIAR, CSIRO are the main research bodies at the federal level. State and Territory Governments also have such organisations working on forestry research issues.

Role of major groups and social aspects

These issues form an integral part of the RFA process, which aims to achieve a balance between conservation, economic and social interests in forests. It also helps to ensure co-ordinated action in a federal system where all levels of government have constitutional powers relevant to the NFPs goals. Community groups, industry organisations, unions, and other stakeholders are actively involved in contributing to forest resource use decision making and management issues in Australia. For example, stakeholder consultation has been a large part of the RFA processes as well as Australia’s activities under the IPF/IFF.

Collaboration with partners and international conventions

Australia works to promote sustainable forest management and conservation through the various international agreements and conventions that impact on the management and use of forests to which it is a party. In particular, Australia endeavours to:

· promote the sustainable use and conservation of the world’s forests through implementation of the agreed upon wide-ranging actions of IPF/IFF;

· foster mutually supportive trade and environment outcomes that do not provide perverse incentives for forest use;

· promote concrete actions to conserve and maintain biodiversity through the work programme of the Convention on Biological Diversity;

· ensure that forest dependent species listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are not commercially traded internationally contrary to the Convention;

· protect and conserve the forested areas in Australia inscribed under the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, namely the Kakadu National Park, the Tasmanian Wilderness Area, the Wet Tropics of Queensland and the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves; and

· prevent forest degradation in Australia’s dryland regions through the ratification and implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification.

The possible contribution of carbon sinks to sustainable forest management and conservation is being widely discussed by the forest community even though the international negotiations on this issue have not yet concluded. In terms of the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, Australia wishes to promote a greater understanding of the potential role that carbon sinks could play in sustainable forest management and conservation. At the same time we also seek to identify needs and opportunities to promote forest reform actions that could contribute to a stable environment for and to operationalise future sinks investment.

Other matter Information concerning government policies and programmes on forests are available on the Internet at:

Australia hosted the 18th session of Asia Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) held in Noosaville, Queensland, 15-19 May 2000. A number of observers from intergovernmental organisations and international Non-governmental organisations, and participants from 25 member nations attended the Session. In 2000, there were 29 members of the Commission, in which United Kingdom is the Observer member.

Focal point
Rob Rawson
O.i.C First Assistant Secretary,
Fisheries and Forestry Industries Division Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia
GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
Phone: 61-2-6272-5931
Fax: 61-2-6272-4875


Everyone has a will to win,
but very few have the will to prepare the win.
(Wince Lombardi)

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