Woodchips were introduced to Australia in the early 1970’s in the name of utilising waste arising from sawlog production. The resulting changes to logging practices and volumes of trees logged are well documented in Forestry Professor John Dargavels’ book, “Fashioning Australia’s Forests” 1995 – describing the impacts of markets in shaping the way in which forests are logged. Wood chipping paved the way for clear-fell logging and resulted in a near 40% increase in wood volumes from logging to satisfy demand for woodchips “doubtless leading to more trees being cut …(and) radically refashioned the structure (age) of stands and the landscape of … forests.”. At the same time employment fell by 36% “.
In the logging industry ‘waste’ is commonly defined as any tree for which there is no higher value. It is common in Tasmania for 90% of the trees cut in a logging coupe to be classified as pulp logs or waste – and in southern NSW and East Gippsland 80%. With the decline in export woodchipping a new market is needed for ‘pulp logs to provide the economic underpinning to produce an ever decreasing volume of sawn timber,
In 1990-91, 350,000 tonnes of woodchips were exported from Newcastle with a similar volume of sawlogs produced. By 2017 pulp log production had fallen to 21,397 tonnes p.a. and sawlogs to 187,835 tonnes p.a. In 2019 the entire volume of all native forest wood production in NSW, including pulp logs, was 1 million tonnes per annum - the same amount of wood needed to supply the Redbank Power Station. Yet proponents say they have an assured wood supply from within a 300 km radius around the power plant.
There is no product produced from native forests that cannot be produced from our existing plantation estate.