Goal 2: Facilitate a vibrant forestry industry to deliver social and economic benefits, particularly in regional Western Australia

“We contribute to vibrant and economically diverse regions; the forestry industry has plans for the future of a sustainable industry at national, State and regional levels.”

Softwood plantations

Maintaining supply to our key softwood customers was an important focus during the financial year, particularly during 2020 and COVID-19.

In 2019-2020, we purchased 950 hectares of suitable land for softwood plantation expansion. We also continued to work with industry to encourage broader investment in expanding the softwood estate.

The FPC met supply targets for our State Agreement partners.

Our Farm Forestry Assist program supported private investment in the softwood estate by identifying three properties with approximately 52 hectares of land to receive assistance to establish commercial plantations through the program. These plantations are expected to be established in 2020.

Salvage and reestablishment of our pine plantations following the Balingup-Nannup wildfire continued. In 2019 an area of 146 hectares was re-established to contribute to the State’s future softwood resource.

We continued to increase the growth performance of plantations through our genetic tree improvement program. To increase the proportion of genetically improved seedlings available for plantation establishment a program of cuttings has been initiated.

More than 258,000 seedlings were grown from cuttings and planted in winter 2019. A further 989,000 cuttings were grown and planted this winter.

We have actively reduced the backlog of overdue thinning in order to promote growth on existing plantations.

Sandalwood plantations

We manage approximately 6,000 hectares of these plantations across the Wheatbelt and Mid West.

Plantation sandalwood is harvested around 30 years of age.

Due to delays in establishing a commercial contract, over the last financial year no sandalwood plantations received a non-commercial thinning treatment to improve host health.

We agreed to sponsor a workshop to be held by the Australian Sandalwood Network in the next financial year for new and prospective sandalwood growers. The workshop will include experts talks, demonstrations and networking opportunities for new and potential growers, and will aim to grow the industry.

Wild Western Australian sandalwood

In the last year, we expanded our Sandalwood Dreaming program and awarded six sandalwood harvesting contracts to Aboriginal owned businesses.

We are committed to working with local Aboriginal people on country. Sandalwood Dreaming provides opportunities for local Aboriginal people to become involved in the sandalwood industry in the Rangelands and can generate up to $1.3 million of payments to small regionally based businesses.

We continued to support regionally based contractors through restorative works in the Rangelands. These contractors are undertaking critical works in restoring sandalwood ecology, including fencing to protect from overgrazing, feral animal control, and re-seeding sandalwood nuts to ensure the sandalwood industry is maintained into the future.

Photo caption: We work with Aboriginal businesses to engage them across the sandalwood supply chain, continuing the Western Australian sandalwood story.

Native forest

The strength of Western Australia’s native forest industry was highlighted this financial year by Parkside Timber’s decision to enter the market.

Parkside Timber, a Queensland based timber producer, expanded into Western Australia with the acquisition of native forest sawmills in Greenbushes and Nannup. These mills now directly employ over 100 people in these small communities, supporting these regional economies.

The demand for high-grade native timbers has progressively improved during the year despite the significant impact of COVID-19 across many industries.

Thinning on Alcoa mine sites to advance the rehabilitation of jarrah forest began on an operational scale in 2020.

We spent more than $5 million over the last year on a range of forest contractors that are involved throughout the whole lifecycle of our native forests. Our contractors are dispersed in regional communities throughout the South West.

Due to COVID-19 our Public Specialty Timber Auctions were transitioned to an online only format. This gave more people the opportunity to bid on the timber, and resulted in a particularly successful auction, selling 699 tonnes of specialty wood to artisans, wood workers and the general public.

Photo caption: Parkside Timber’s decision to enter the WA market highlighted the strength of our native forest sector and resource.

Community and stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder engagement continues to be a crucial part of our business. Listening to our stakeholders and seeking opportunities to work together is a vital element of our operations.

This year we’ve developed several key stakeholder engagement plans which focus on building relationships through gaining a better understanding of stakeholder needs. For example, as a part of our Local Government Engagement Plan, we invited local governments to tell us how they would like to be engaged. The feedback we received will inform future engagement activities and ensure we are reaching and benefiting the communities in which we operate.

We continued to promote multiple use forests and regional tourism through establishing and continuing to support several events across the South West, including SEVEN, Pemby Trail Fest and Pemby G83, through our Sponsorship Program.

Opportunities to engage with stakeholders in a face to face setting were limited in the previous year, including planned educational forest tours for interested stakeholders and schools. Going forward, we will continue to pursue opportunities for staff to engage with stakeholders including forest tours and at events such as small farm field days and regional shows.

Our Community Support Program has continued to deliver for community groups across the South West, with $40,000 worth of grants being awarded in the last year. Since the program’s inception we have now awarded grants to 56 community groups for a total of $90,000.

We address common questions and concerns of neighbours through a range of targeted leaflets that are distributed prior to operations.

Photo caption: We are committed to meaningful engagement with stakeholders to ensure we understand their views, needs and expectations.

Engagement with Aboriginal groups

The FPC’s 2019 Respect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) laid the foundation for us to build relationships, respect and opportunities with Aboriginal people. We implemented an Aboriginal Engagement Policy and established a Reconciliation Working Group with Aboriginal representation from FPC staff and the wider community.

A key value of the RAP is for the FPC, as the WA Government’s lead forestry agency, to create meaningful economic opportunities for Aboriginal people in the forest industry. In 2019-2020, we increased our Aboriginal employment and continued the Aboriginal trainee program.

To engage industry, we implemented practices to support and encourage established and aspiring Aboriginal businesses in all procurement and sale processes.

In 2019-2020, 12.8 per cent of our contracts were awarded to Aboriginal businesses, exceeding the WA State Government target of two per cent.

We increased staff awareness of reconciliation, native title and heritage. We acknowledged traditional owners by creating office welcome signage and participating in; and organising National Reconciliation and NAIDOC week events.

We are a signatory to the Noongar Standard Heritage Agreement and we seek to build relationships with traditional owners throughout the lands on which we operate. Protecting Aboriginal heritage and cultural sites is foremost in planning and completing FPC works.

The FPC’s 2020 to 2022 Innovate RAP will further develop Aboriginal business engagement in recognition of the traditional ownership of the lands on which forestry is reliant.

Photo caption: The FPC is committed to continuing to support Aboriginal employment and engagement in the forest industry across Western Australia.