Forest products industries should remain essential services during Covid-19 restrictions: holistic approach needed from State Government

Australian Forest Products Association SA Branch Manager Leon Rademeyer today urged State Government to retain the SA forest industry as an essential service, should further Covid-19 restrictions be required.

“Our submission is that an holistic approach to our forest industries should be considered by government as a matter of urgency,” Mr Rademeyer said.

“This approach should not only include our road freight sector, but also other essential cross border functions within the Green Triangle like firefighting, tree planting, weed management and the daily movement of staff and essential equipment.”

Mr Rademeyer said it was important that in making their necessary decisions, government understands the scale of essential services and products the forest industries provide, some of which are experiencing record demand as a result of Covid-19. It was also important for government to realise how the continued supply of these vital products is contingent on the continuation of the whole forest products value chain.

“As a primary producer, the state’s forest industries have a long value chain and any disruption to especially the road freight sector could have devastating and far-reaching affects throughout the industry which would impact very negatively on regional and rural communities,” he said.

“In South Australia, regional and rural communities are underpinned by forest industries which employ around 13,000 people directly and indirectly and contribute more than $2 billion to the state economy annually. Importantly South Australia is part of the Green Triangle with cross-border Victoria which is one of Australia’s primary forest production regions and home to one of federal government’s forest industry hubs. The Green Triangle constitutes 17% (or around 330,000ha) of Australia’s plantations and its local and national importance cannot be overstated.”

Mr Rademeyer said it was also important to remember that the forest industries will play a major role in getting rural and local communities back on their feet once the Covid-19 threat has abated since these industries form the backbone of many a community.

“Our industries have been proactive in implementing mitigation measures to minimise the risk of Covid-19 across our supply chains, and we will continue to act in accordance with the latest health advice,” he said.

“Most of our industry is highly automated, making it possible for employees to practice social distancing in accordance with the Government’s health guidelines. Furthermore, our member companies have adopted new best practice sanitation and hygiene measures and where possible, retooled works paces and split and staggered shifts to allow more distance between workers.”

Mr Rademeyer said while the industries acknowledge the potential for further restrictions, it is important for decision makers to understand that Australia’s forest products industries supply essential products and services including:

  • Manufacturing toilet paper, tissues, face masks, sanitary products and other paper products experiencing record demand
  • Cardboard packaging for supermarket and retail deliveries, including pharmaceuticals
  • Food and beverage packaging
  • Wooden pallets for supermarkets and other retailers’ distribution operations
  • Timber for housing and building construction, which could prove even more vital should the urgent construction of new makeshift hospitals and temporary structures be required
  • The provision of kerbside recycling services
  • Manufacturing of newspaper for most of Australia’s metropolitan and regional newspapers, which are an essential source of information for the community, particularly older Australians
  • Supply of wood residues to the agriculture sector, essential for food production.

He said the industries were ready to work constructively with government to ensure they can continue to supply vital products and services to South Australians during these difficult times.

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