THE UNUSUAL YEAR THAT WAS… AND WHAT
FORESTRY SECTOR MIGHT EXPECT FROM 2021

FWPA: WE WILL FIND OPPORTUNITIES AMONG THESE DEVASTATING SETBACKS

Looking forward… industry willing to go above and beyond.

IT’S safe to say 2020 was not the year any of us were expecting.

The catastrophic bushfire season and the global pandemic that quickly followed … disruption to international trade … a ban on Australian log imports imposed by China … and legal challenges to the native forest sector.

All of the above have dumped piles of uncertainty upon our industry.

Our sector is resilient, which we have proven time and again. The way we have worked together to address these challenges and develop solutions is something we should all be enormously proud of. A special acknowledgement goes to Ross Hampton and his team at AFPA who have worked tirelessly on many fronts.

Despite everything the past 12 months have thrown at us, FWPA has remained steadfast in its mission to grow the market for wood products and improve coordination along the value chain.

Our team’s adaptability and willingness to go above and beyond, to ensure the continued delivery of our programs has been commendable. We will continue to take proactive steps to strengthen and support this process, and find the opportunities among the devastating setbacks.

If the past year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot predict the future. Yet as the uncertainty of the impact of Covid-19 and instability in geopolitics continues, there are themes and trends we can safely acknowledge will play a significant role as we move into 2021 and beyond.

First and foremost, we foresee an increased focus on the health and wellbeing of our people. While so much else remains outside of our control, the welfare of our workers, members and community is something that remains the highest priority. Research and an openness to adopting new ways of working will play a big part in this.

Increased competition from alternative materials such as steel and recycled plastics will persist. For our part, FWPA will continue to create and disseminate compelling information, as well as provide easily-accessible educational opportunities about the many tremendous benefits of wood. The success of our WoodSolutions webinars throughout 2020 has proven the design and build sector has ongoing interest in learning more about wood and its applications. We will keep up this momentum!

The ever-growing shift towards sustainability, especially around the issues of climate change, biodiversity conservation, and animal welfare will rightly continue to gather pace. Our brand The Ultimate Renewable™ has already made major inroads in promoting the sustainable nature of wood and forestry among the general public, boosting community acceptance to an all-time high.

Our belief in the importance of research has been demonstrated through our work with AFPA, in support of its formal consultation process to prepare a case for increasing forest grower levy rates. Major Australian growers and members of the AFPA Growers Chamber Research and Biosecurity Funding Working Group prepared a paper outlining how forest growers can collaborate on an increased program of RD&E, focused on priorities of common interest, as well as a national forest biosecurity surveillance program.

With the many challenges (and opportunities) facing the sector, we must be mindful of our limited resources. We need to work together more collaboratively than ever before to identify and agree our priorities, and this new commitment and approach to grower RD&E and biodiversity is a great example of this.

Alongside this, we have commissioned an Independent Performance Review, to determine what FWPA is doing well and areas for improvement. Direct feedback from stakeholders is being sought, through an independent consultancy. While the review is a requirement of FWPA’s statutory funding agreement (SFA) with the federal government, it will also offer useful insights to help guide our future direction.

Arguably, in such uncertain times, coming together in this way and sharing our thoughts, insights and hopes for the future as we strive to build the most robust sector possible, has never been more important.

The results of the review will be published in February 2021, and will guide the development of our strategic direction for these next five, pivotal years.

RIC SINCLAIR
Managing Director, Forest and Wood Products Australia