Criterion 6 Maintenance and enhancement of long term multiple socio-economic benefits to meet the needs of societies
Processed hardwood timber from native production forests.
The 17 indicators in this criterion are designed to show the extent to which Australia's forests contribute to national and regional economies, benefit personal and community wellbeing, and support cultural values. Socio-economic data are important measures of the monetary and non-monetary value and benefits of forests to society. In addition, Australian communities, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (referred to as Indigenous communities in SOFR 2013), have strong social, spiritual and cultural attachments to forests, whether for traditional needs, provision of wood and non-wood forest products and other benefits, direct and indirect employment, or active and passive recreation.
The indicators in this criterion are considered in five sub-criteria.
Production and consumption
Wood from forests provides employment for workers in harvesting and processing, revenues to governments, and incomes to landholders and businesses. Analysis of trends in the value of wood and wood products harvested from Australia's forests enables an assessment of a portion of the socio-economic benefits derived from forests. Consumption trends over time provide a measure of the capacity of forest and wood-processing industries, through domestic production and importation, to meet Australian society's demand for wood products, and a measure of the industry's contribution to the national economy. Wood and wood product categories examined in this report are sawn wood; wood-based panels; and pulpwood, woodchips, paper, cardboard and fibreboard.
Rising global and national demands for forest products, with consequent increased demands on forest resources, have led to calls for greater reuse and recycling of forest products. Considerable quantities of wood-based forest products, such as structural timbers, pulp, paper and sawmill residue, are recycled in Australia.
Although wood is economically the most valuable forest product, many Australian non-wood forest products (NWFPs) are harvested and sold commercially, including for emerging export markets. Some NWFP industries are based on wild harvesting and hunting, including hunting of feral animals such as wild pig and deer.
Australia's forests also provide a range of other services, such as carbon sequestration, soil conservation, protection of catchments for water production, ecotourism, and biodiversity conservation. These can broadly be divided into amenity services and environmental services. Markets or other economic mechanisms exist for some of these services, allowing forest-based services to provide monetary value as well as social and environmental benefits.
The quantity of investment and expenditure in developing, maintaining and obtaining goods and services from forests is a measure of the economic commitment to forest utilisation and management.
The Australian, state and territory governments undertake many activities that, together, constitute forest management. A range of data on investment in forest management is available, although differences in the classification of activities, accounting arrangements and reporting timelines means that it is not possible to calculate national expenditure on forest management. Similarly, information on investment by the private sector, whether for native forest management or for plantation establishment, is either not collected or is not publicly available because it is commercial-in-confidence; expenditure on the management of nature conservation reserves is also generally unavailable in a consistent form. However, data are available on establishment of new plantations and re-establishment of harvested plantations, as indicators of investment in future wood availability.
Investment in research, development and adoption of new or improved technologies can lead to improvements in forest management and industry practices. The focus of research and development in the forestry and logging subsector is on improving wood production, harvesting and transport; and identifying new markets for standing wood. Research and development in the wood product manufacturing subsector tends to focus on identifying new forest-based products and processing methods, such as new applications for timber in construction, new timber treatments, and new export markets. Research and development in the pulp, paper and converted paper product manufacturing subsector covers a range of areas, such as energy efficiency in pulping and drying, and the development of new products.
Tourism and recreation
Australia's forests are highly valued for tourism and recreation, and a wide range of forest-based recreation and tourism opportunities is available. Some facilities, such as walking and riding tracks, picnic sites and campgrounds, are provided specifically to meet the needs of recreational visitors and tourists. Other facilities, such as roads and vehicular tracks, are provided for a range of management purposes but are also available for use for recreation and tourism. The dispersed nature of forest tourism and recreation nationally means that data are limited across jurisdictions and tenures, and difficult to compile nationally.
An area of forest is considered to be available for recreation and tourism if there is no legal or other prohibition on public access to the forest. Most publicly owned forested lands designated for multiple use or as nature conservation reserves are available for recreation and tourism. Some data are collected for areas where visitors have to pay for access to private land (e.g. forest wildlife parks).
Although various outdoor recreation and tourism activities, such as bushwalking and camping, are allowed in most public forests, some areas have exclusions or restrictions to ensure visitor safety, or to protect specific scientific, natural, cultural or water-supply values. Other activities such as horse-riding and mountain-bike riding may be permitted only in certain areas. Limited road, track and trail access, a lack of facilities and other practical considerations may also restrict or prevent public use of forests.
One way to measure the financial value of the amenity service of forest-based tourism and recreation is to estimate the number of people visiting forests in various tenures, and how much money they spend to do so. Changes in visitor numbers to national and state parks and to forests in other tenures can reflect changes in the perceived value of forests; it should be noted, however, that not all national parks are forested, and moreover that data on visitor numbers are not comprehensive.
Cultural, spiritual and social values
Forests are recognised as one of Australia's greatest natural assets and are highly valued by the community for their wide range of environmental and socio-economic benefits. Understanding the importance that people place on Australia's forests provides an insight into the acceptance and approval by communities of activities related to forest management. The extent to which Indigenous people participate in forest management reflects their connection with the land, and the integration of Indigenous values into forest management practice, policy and decision-making.
Access, management and ownership are key parts of the relationship of Indigenous people with land. The Indigenous estate can be broadly divided into land tenure and management categories based on the degree of Indigenous ownership, management and other rights over the land. Effective Indigenous participation can occur through a variety of direct or consultative mechanisms, but it is difficult to measure the extent of this participation at the national scale. All state and territory jurisdictions maintain registers of Indigenous heritage sites that afford legal protection to registered sites, including those in forests, and also provide a level of protection for heritage sites that are not yet included in the register.
Australia's forests include many sites that provide evidence of the interactions between non Indigenous people and forest landscapes, and the activities that have taken place on the continent since first European settlement. A wide variety of forest sites, features, structures and landscapes have recorded non-Indigenous cultural value.
Employment, worker welfare, and community resilience
Employment is an important measure of the contribution of forests to viable communities and the national economy. Reductions in forest-sector employment can indicate a reduced economic contribution from forests, and may have implications for forest-dependent communities. A sustainable industry will maintain wage rates, workforce health and worker safety at levels that are comparable with national averages for similar occupations.
The Australian forest and wood products sector has undergone significant structural changes in recent years, with reductions in the areas of native forest available for harvest and consequently in the volume of wood harvested from native forests, reduced investment in new plantations, and reduced demand for wood products. Moreover, older processing facilities have been closed or decommissioned. Such changes have economic and social implications for forest-dependent communities.
The capacity of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to accommodate and adapt to change is influenced by their level of economic dependence on the forestry industries, and by the resources they are able to draw on to assist them in responding to change. Resilient communities can adapt to, and remain viable in, changing social and economic conditions. Community resilience can be conceptualised and measured in different ways. It is sometimes interchangeable with adaptive capacity, since increasing adaptive capacity will enhance community resilience.
The town of Bright in north-east Victoria.