A state inquiry into the future of New South Wales' forestry industry has heard that while current supply commitments can be met, the impact of the Black Summer bushfires will be "quite substantial" in ten year's time.
During the devastating bushfires of 2019-20 around half of the states native forest estate and 15 per cent of the hardwood plantation estate was destroyed, resulting in huge salvage operations last year to harvest the burnt timber before it became unusable.
Replanting efforts are underway now that the burnt timber has been harvested, however the trees will take approximately 30 years to mature.
This windfall is anticipated to lead to downturns in supply over the next few decades, with potential job losses and economic hardship for the industry and towns that rely on it, including Tumut and Tumbarumba in the Snowy Valleys.
During last Wednesday's hearing as part of the inquiry it was heard that the impact of losses to the native forest estate will be particularly felt in the Snowy Valleys region.
NSW Department of Primary Industries group director for forestry policy, Nick Milham, said that current wood supply commitments won't be impacted following the fires, but beyond this, it will differ from region to region.
The impact around the North Coast is predicted to be "minimal", but "quite substantial" in the Southern Highlands and Snowy Valleys.
"So you are looking about 10 years out into the future before that really starts to bite. But it will," Mr Milham said.
"The former Deputy Premier [John Barilaro] said straight out there is a time coming when it simply will not be business as usual in this sector."
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Regional manager for the snowy region of NSW Forestry Corporation, Dean Anderson, said the sawmills in Tumut and Tumbarumba are "basically halved" due to immediate impacts of the bushfires.
"We have renegotiated with the sawmills and free signed 10-year agreements and the mills are going well."
He said that replanting efforts could be complete by 2025 or 2026 if the current rate continues. Because the trees will take roughly 30 years to mature, Mr Anderson admitted this "creates a bit of an age-class lump".
"...rather than take them all out at 30 [years], we will take some out at 30, some at 35 or 36. We will look to smooth out over time," he said, with some trees also harvested earlier for pulp.
Forestry Corporation's 2022 seedling crop is already well underway, with a huge planting effort taking place at its Blowering nursery over the last few months.
Nursery staff have worked to plant around 300,000 seeds a day to supply the 2022 planting program, with 11 million radiata pine sown since September. The crop will now be monitored to produce seedlings for planting next winter, ultimately harvested over the coming decades.
Another issue probed by the inquiry has been weed growth, particularly of blackberries, which are a contributing factor to fuel loads in forest fires.
Mr Anderson said there has been increased funding to spray weeds along firebreaks and fencing in softwood plantations, pushing the weed back into plantations and "not spreading into our neighbours".
He also said Forestry Corporation was trialing a program of spraying under canopy's after a first thinning, using a herbicide to control blackberries that doesn't kill trees, however this was burnt during the fires.
What was observed was successful, he added, so they've budgeted to spray 500 hectares this year.
"What we are expecting is that, with the continual crown overstorey with the spray underneath, by the time we get to the clearfell there will be less blackberry," Mr Anderson said.
"There will still be blackberry but there will be less, which will give us more of a chance with those knockdowns when we re-establish."
In terms of hardwood forests the inquiry heard that weeds are "endemic in the landscape" in many parts of the state, and that "it is just a matter of continuing to try and knock back where we can".
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