South Australia, the birthplace of the Australian softwood plantation industry and a leader in forestry innovation, has today been further strengthened with the launch of a new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation hub in Mount Gambier.
The Institute, which will be hosted at the University of South Australia’s Mount Gambier campus, is backed by $4 million funding from the Australian and South Australian Governments, and will be supported by industry contributions.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said the new hub would play an important role in building knowledge on Australia’s plantation forests and revolutionising the way they are used.
"It’s about maximising the value from every cubic metre harvested from our plantations. It’s about moving our wood products up the value chain,” Minister Ruston said.
“The end result is better returns to business, more investment, more jobs and greater economic prosperity and wealth in the South East community.
“Importantly, the research done in Mount Gambier will have national implications – it can be applied to other softwood plantation regions across Australia. The innovation hub will work closely with industry to maximise the economic returns from every dollar spent.
“The hub will strengthen ties between our research institutions and the sector’s strategic needs.
“Forestry is truly a sunrise industry – there is great potential in the new frontiers such as bio-materials and bio-plastics.
“Australia’s plantation forestry sector is a real success story. Now in its third consecutive year of growth, Australia’s plantation industry increased the volume of logs harvested to a record 26 million cubic metres in 2015-16.
Member for Barker Tony Pasin said South Australia has a long history in plantation forestry dating back to the establishment of some of Australia’s first forest plantation trials in the 1870s.
"By building on South Australia’s long tradition of plantation forests, and by making the most of local knowledge and research and innovation capacity, we can increase the plantation sector’s contribution to both Mount Gambier and the broader South Australian economy," Mr Pasin said.
“In South Australia there were 178 800 hectares of plantation forests in 2015-16 with logs produced to a value of $321 million. The innovation hub will enable the local industry to advance even further.”
An industry led committee has been established to determine priority research projects for the forest and wood products industry in the Mount Gambier region.
Industry members of the committee are Dr Charlma Phillips, Tammy Auld, Phillip Dohnt, Glen Rivers and David Oliver. The committee will also include Professor Christopher Saint from the University of South Australia, and representatives of the Australian and South Australian Governments.
Over 13 000 South Australians are employed in the forestry sector.