Putting a value on our tree-mendous natural resources

In May 16, 2017

It’s going to blow conservationists away – $900,000 has been allocated for a project – to apply Natural Capital Accounting on forestry, cotton and fisheries enterprises.

Natural Capital Accounting is an internationally recognised way of calculating the value of natural assets like soil, air, water and biodiversity, information which can then be incorporated into economic models and accounting systems.

So good so far … but instead of going to independent research the R&D funding goes to – Forest and Wood Products Australia.

Yep that’s right – the timber industry.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and member for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie, made the announcement in Wauchope today (May 15). The duo said the project is funded under Round 3 of the Rural R&D for Profit Programme, which delivers on the government’s election commitment to increase funding for R&D projects that are practical and accessible for farmers, fishers and foresters.

So who benefits?·

“Forestry, cotton and fisheries enterprises stand to reap the benefits of a $900,000 Coalition government R&D investment that will improve competitiveness, increase access to international markets and allow better risk and cost management across the industries,” minister Joyce said.

“This project will give Australian forestry, cotton and fisheries producers the tools they need to incorporate the value of natural assets into their business systems.

“Many financial institutions are increasingly considering natural capital in their credit risk calculations, and offer lower interest rates for businesses that can prove they are managing their land and other natural resources well.

“This project will not only help producers, like forestry businesses here in Wauchope, manage their natural resources well to increase productivity, it could also help them access cheaper finance, by giving them the tools they need to demonstrate best practice management of their natural assets.

“It is one more example our commitment to delivering tangible productivity and profitability growth to primary producers.”

Dr Gillespie said Natural Capital Accounting was an internationally recognised way of calculating the value of natural assets like soil, air, water and biodiversity, information which can then be incorporated into economic models and accounting systems.

“Australia’s forestry, cotton and fisheries industries are among the best managed and most sustainable in the world,” Dr Gillespie said.

“However, public misconceptions about these industries unfortunately mean they often have to deal with challenges to their credentials as good environmental stewards.

“This project will help these industries quantify and clearly demonstrate their environmental sustainability and clean and green credentials, which in turn will build consumer confidence and give them a competitive advantage in premium markets.”

Minister Joyce said the Rural R&D for Profit Programme funded Rural RDCs to partner with researchers, universities, research agencies, funding bodies, businesses, producer groups, or not-for-profit organisations on projects that will deliver real benefits on the farm.

“Through the Rural R&D for Profit Programme we have delivered on our election commitment to increase R&D funding for practical projects to give farmers new tools to help them increase returns at the farmgate and capture opportunities in global markets,” Minister Joyce said.

Understandably, North East Forest Alliance’s Dailan Pugh has a different take on the pollies’ spiel.

“Giving the timber industry company Forest and Wood Products Australia $9,000,000 of taxpayers money so that they can prepare public relations material is public money that would be better spent on independent research to quantify the environmental costs of logging, identifying effective mitigation measures and ensuring independent monitoring and enforcement.

“NEFA supports taking into account the value of natural assets like soil, air, water and biodiversity when considering activities such as the logging of public native forests.

“The reality is that logging causes erosion of soils, logging runoff pollutes streams, converting multi-aged forests to regrowth reduces stream flows, opening canopies and soil disturbance facilitates the spread of weeds and dieback, removing the older trees and churning soils reduces carbon storage, and the loss of older trees reduces the availability of nectar, seeds, tree hollows that a plethora of native species rely on.

“When the multi-millions of taxpayers funds spent on subsidies and grants to prop up a declining industry are added to the environmental negatives it is clear that logging public native forests is not in the community’s environmental or financial interests. No amount of PR spin will fix the underlying problems.”

Fast facts

The Rural R&D for Profit Programme funds projects that address the government’s rural RD&E priorities: advanced technology, biosecurity, managing natural resources, as well as promoting industry and on-farm adoption of R&D.
The first two rounds of the Rural R&D for Profit Programme delivered grant funding of almost $79 million for 29 projects, matched by more than $109 million in cash and in-kind contributions from successful grantees and their partners.

Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA) is a not-for-profit company that provides national, integrated research and development services to the Australian forest and wood products industry.

The group says: “We are committed to helping the forest and wood products industry to be collaborative, innovative, sustainable and competitive against other industries and products available in the marketplace.

“We support research and development that promotes internationally competitive and environmentally sustainable practices. We promote activities that enhance employment opportunities and contribute to growing Australia’s reputation as an innovative producer of high-quality forest and wood products.

“Our mandate is determined by our members, who comprise wood processors, forest growers, and Australian importers of forest products. We operate within the rules and laws set by our Constitution, the Corporations Act of 2001 (Cth), and a Statutory Funding Agreement (SFA) with the Australian Government. We have a Board of eight Directors and our head office is in Melbourne.

“That forest and wood products are the preferred, sustainable material that meets the market needs.”

Putting a value on our tree-mendous natural resources by Alice Burnet.  Available from <http://www.bellingencourier.com.au/story/4663577/putting-a-value-on-our-tree-mendous-natural-resources/> [15 May 2017, 4 p.m.]

ForestryConnect is a digital media platform for everything forestry. Sign up to our newsletter delivered fortnightly to your inbox.