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Scene in Northern NSW

The Social & Economic Importance of the Timber Industry in Northern NSW


Introduction
The north coast of New South Wales, like other areas of the State, was originally settled and developed during the search for timber for the young NSW colony. Consequently many towns, both large and small, owe their early origins to the proximity to a timber resource.

Today Australia produces approximately two thirds of the wood and wood products it consumes. The manufacture of these products occurs mainly in rural areas and as such the industry plays a major role in many rural economies. Some of the earliest settled rural timber communities still have an economic and social dependence on the timber industry.

The industry encompasses hardwood and softwood processing, drawing resource from both public and private forests. It includes the growing of timber as either plantation or native forest, sawmilling, harvesting, manufacturing of wood and wood-based products, export wood chipping and pulp and paper production.

A number of studies looking at the social and economic framework of rural timber communities have been undertaken over the last 15 years. There is some variation in the findings of these studies, particularly in relation to employment levels and economic inputs. This brochure looks at the results of the more important studies in relation to northern NSW undertaken as part of the recent Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) process. Because of the variation between the studies it should be noted that any figures quoted are indicative only.

In the context of the CRA, northern NSW incorporates the Upper and Lower North East Regions and covers an area extending north from Gosford to the Queensland border and west to Muswellbrook, Armidale, Glen Innes and Tenterfield, covering in excess of 40 local Government areas.

The Upper North East Timber Industry
The Upper North East incorporates the local government areas of Ballina, Byron, Casino, Coffs Harbour, Copmanhurst, Glen Innes, Grafton, Guyra, Kyogle, Lismore, Maclean, Nymboida, Richmond River, Severn, Tenterfield, Tweed and Ulmarra.

Employment in the Upper North East Industry
The best available information indicates that there are about 115 companies (sawmills, veneer mills, pole, pile and girder producers) operating in the Upper North East Region. These operations vary in size from just one or two employees to in excess of 100. There are up to 40 independent harvesting and haulage companies.

The major industry activity is centred around the Grafton area, which accounts for about one third of the total employment. Other significant industry centres are Lismore, Casino, Woodenbong, Urbenville, Kyogle, with smaller operations in the Tweed Valley.

In 1996, the year of the last census, data indicates that the timber industry was responsible for the employment of about 1,928 people. The CRA studies concluded that the processing sector of the industry employed about 860 people and the harvesting and haulage sector about 170. It is presumed that the remainder is employed in other wood manufacture.

As a result of the flow-on effect to service industries reliant on the timber industry (for example repairs and maintenance, machinery, fuel, tyres, product transport, financial services, advisers and accountants), it is estimated that the total employment attributable to the industry in the Upper North East is about 3,000 to 3,500 people.

Economic Inputs
Direct employment in the Upper North East timber industry results in about $50 million being contributed to household incomes. The total (ie. direct plus flow-on) impact of the industry in the Upper North East is estimated to be worth about $90 million in incomes.

Income from the timber industry contributes significantly to the economies of small communities such as Woodenbong, Urbenville, Rappville and larger towns such as Kyogle and Grafton.

The annual gross turnover of the hardwood sector alone in the Upper North East Region is estimated at $174 million. With large softwood processors at Kyogle, Rappville, Lowanna and Grafton, total annual industry turnover is estimated to be in excess of $200 million.

The Lower North East Timber Industry
The Lower North East Region comprises the local government areas of Armidale, Bellingen, Cessnock, Dumaresq, Dungog, Gloucester, Gosford, Great Lakes, Greater Taree, Hastings, Hawkesbury, Kempsey, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Nambucca, Newcastle, Nundle, Port Stephens, Scone, Singleton, Uralla, Walcha and Wyong.

Employment in the Lower North East Industry
The best available information indicates that there are about 122 companies (sawmills, veneer mills, pole, pile and girder producers, export woodchips) operating in the Lower North East Region. These operations vary in size from just one or two employees to in excess of 80. The number of independent harvesting and haulage companies has not been determined by the latest studies although indicative numbers are about 40.

The Newcastle region supports a major timber industry activity and includes towns such as Bulahdelah. Other significant industry areas include Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Walcha, Wauchope, Gloucester, Macksville, Bowraville, Dorrigo and Gosford.

The 1996 census figures indicate that 3,312 persons were employed in the timber industry with 681 of these being engaged in forestry and logging and 1,105 employed in sawmilling and timber dressing. The balance of 1,616 was engaged in other wood product manufacture.

As a result of the flow-on to service industries reliant on the industry it is estimated that the total employment attributable to the industry in the Lower North East is in excess of 6,000.

Economic Inputs
Employment in the Lower North East Timber Industry results in about $80 million being directly contributed to household incomes. The total (ie. direct plus flow-on) impact of the industry in this region is estimated to be worth about $150 million in incomes.

Income from the timber industry contributes significantly to the economies of towns such as Walcha, Gloucester, Bulahdelah, Kempsey and Bowraville.

Income from the timber industry contributes significantly to the economies of towns such as Walcha, Gloucester, Bulahdelah, Kempsey and Bowraville.

Other Economic Benefits to the State and Community
In 1997/98 the estimated value of royalty paid by the industry to State Forests of NSW was in the order of $22.5 million ($10 million in the Upper and $12.5 million in the Lower North East).

In addition to wages and royalty paid by the industry, estimations place sawmill expenditure outside the timber industry itself as high as $12,800 per employee per annum. Many timber industry businesses also contribute in cash or kind to their local communities.

References
Draft Social Assessment. NSW Upper North East. December 1998 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Forest Assessment Branch (Social Assessment Unit) Commonwealth of Australia.

Draft Social Assessment. NSW Lower North East. December 1998. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Forest Assessment Branch (Social Assessment Unit) Commonwealth of Australia.

The Forest Industry Blueprint for the NSW Upper and Lower North East Regional Forest Agreements. October 1998. NSW Forest Products Association Ltd.

Produced by Northern NSW Forestry Services for the Northern Rivers Regional Development Board (NR Regional Plantation Committee)

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