Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Forestry Industry

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:07): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister update the council on the state government's commitment to forest industries in South Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:07): I thank the member for his ongoing interest in forest industries and in the South-East in particular. It gives me great pleasure to be able to update the council today on our government's plan for forest industries in South Australia. In fact, it is an exciting time for forest industries in South Australia, and that is the message I have been very pleased to have been receiving—very loud and clear—from industry. They were excited about the significant investment this government has committed to this critically important industry.

We know that over the last four years forestry hardly caught the attention of the previous government. I think someone said they could count on one hand the amount of times the previous Premier visited the South-East during his time as Premier, despite the region crying out for significant investment. In the lead-up to the recent state election we saw no direct policies announced by the former government relating to forestry.

The opposition does not even have a specific forestry portfolio in its opposition shadow ministry. If they did have a shadow minister for forest industries perhaps some of the interjections from across the chamber might have a little more relevance—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Objections are out of order, as are interjections.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —but they don't think it's important enough to even have a shadow minister for forestry or forest industries.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. K.J. Maher: You sold the trains while you still had a transport minister.

The PRESIDENT: The Leader of the Government!

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Minister, please continue.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: As members of the council should be aware, but those opposite clearly frequently forget, the state's forest and wood products industry is an important economic contributor for the state, particularly in regional areas. According to the South Australian Forest Products Association, more than 18,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the sector, with the industry contributing to a large amount of employment in the South-East region in particular. That's why in the lead-up to the state election Labor proposed significant policies that will assist the industry to grow.

We are in the process of delivering a new centre for excellence to create a long-term forestry research and development capability in Mount Gambier. I was very pleased to meet recently with key stakeholders about this commitment in Mount Gambier, and work is already underway to ensure delivery of this key promise. This is a project that will see $15 million over 10 years for a new centre of excellence to create a long-term forestry research and development capability in Mount Gambier, which will incorporate the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation and other forestry funding schemes.

It will provide long-term certainty for the industry, and this is something that the industry believes is key for continued growth. For those who have been involved in research programs around a product that takes 30-odd years to grow, they would be aware that that long-term certainty is absolutely crucial. This commitment will enable forestry researchers in South Australia to plan and recruit in a way that delivers long-term capability. This means additional research programs may be able to be delivered, and sustained improvements to the productivity of our forest and wood products industries will eventuate.

Another election commitment we are delivering on is providing $2 million to replace fire towers with new technologies. This commitment is to replace fire towers with new technologies such as camera technology to provide a landscape-level fire detection program. This investment will lead to improved speed and accuracy of fire detection, enabling early suppression to reduce the impacts of fire upon communities. This initiative will assist the industry in protecting key assets from fire outbreaks that have the potential to cause significant damage. Of course, there is then a flow-on effect to protecting local community assets as well.

Also on our agenda is our commitment to provide $2 million over three years to develop a forest products domestic manufacturing and infrastructure masterplan, which will include a focus on future skills needs. This is something that the industry has been asking for and I am delighted that we listened to their concerns and acted accordingly. I am very pleased that our Malinauskas Labor government is investing in the regions and providing certainty to this critical industry—an industry that was sadly ignored during the previous four years of government.