Forest industry socio-economic trends: research

The forest industry contributed $7.3 billion to the Victorian economy and almost $1.3 billion to that of Tasmania, according to new socio-economic research funded by the FWPA.

The research was conducted by the University of Canberra in conjunction with consultancy EconSearch, a division of the BDO advisory.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer said the findings were particularly encouraging for the Tasmanian forest industry, which is back on an even keel after several challenging years. 

“Employment and spending have stabilised after a period of decline, and are growing in some parts of the industry,” she said.

“Rapid decline in employment from 2008 has stopped, with job numbers stabilising post-2013. The decline in native forest dependent jobs during this period has been offset by growth in jobs in harvesting and wood-chipping of hardwood plantations.

“The forest industry remains important to many Tasmanian communities and it’s positive to see it recovering. However, growth will only continue for the longer term if there is investment in more downstream processing.”

In terms of Victorian jobs, the forestry industry (excluding the Green Triangle Region) generated 14,475 jobs overall, including almost 5,115 in primary processing and over 9,360 in secondary processing, while the Tasmanian forest industry generated 5,727 jobs overall (3,076 direct jobs and another 2,651 jobs in other industries as a result of demand generated from the forest industry).

In Victoria, softwood plantations generate the highest employment, at 47.7%, followed by native forests at 32% and hardwood plantations at 8.9%, with the remaining 11.4% dependent on native forests and plantations grown in other regions.

On the other hand, in Tasmania, 41% of jobs depend on native forest, 33% on softwood plantations and 26% on the growing hardwood plantation sector.

Businesses in both states were relatively optimistic about future demand for forest products. In Victoria, about half surveyed (51%) felt demand would remain the same, about one-third (31%) felt that demand would grow and a few (18%) that demand would reduce. 

Tasmanian results were better, with 55% of forest industry businesses believing demand for their goods or services would grow in the next 12 months, and the remainder (45%) predicting it would remain about the same. None of businesses surveyed felt demand would reduce.

You can read the Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry – Victoria, Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry – Tasmania and the Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry – Green Triangle* reports in full, on the FWPA website. 

*Benefits from the Green Triangle that could not be attributed to either Victoria or South Australia in isolation have not been included.