Australian Forest Products Assn.'s campaign for federal funding in May budget for innovation institute wins backing of six state governments; CEO says country risks falling behind competitors in use of timber in building, in which it was once a leader

DEAKIN WEST, Australia , May 6, 2014 (press release) – In a remarkable display of national unity all six state Governments have thrown their weight behind AFPA’s push for a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation to be supported in the May Budget.

AFPA Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said, ‘Forestry and forest products are at a crossroads in this country. There is a massive potential market for all the products we derive from sustainably managed forestry, but we are dropping dangerously behind when it comes to innovation. Research and Development has nose-dived in recent years. Five years ago we spent $100 million a year – now it is $30 million. 730 researchers has plummeted to about 200. I congratulate the Ministers from Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, NSW, and Queensland who have agreed that we must unite the national R&D effort to drive the forestry and forest products industries into a vibrant future.’

The Agriculture Ministers have written supporting consideration be given to funding a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation in the May budget. AFPA has been arguing for months that Australia’s fragmented research and development model is just not in a position to deliver the world class blue sky breakthroughs as well as making the inroads into current production that are vital for a sustainable global scale industry. AFPA has produced modelling which shows that such a concerted, organised and properly funded focus on R&D has the potential to deliver up to 20 000 new jobs – largely in regional areas, as shown at http://goo.gl/QcO4N2

The National Institute for Forest Products Innovation is modelled on similar organisations which operate in Canada and New Zealand.

AFPA has proposed that the federal Government invest $40 million over 4 years, the State Governments contribute the same through existing operations and budgets and industry contribute $20 million.

Ross Hampton said, ‘Timber is the building material of the 21st century and wood, at a cellular level, is providing the building blocks for stunning breakthroughs in fuel and plastic replacement materials. In a carbon constrained global economy sustainably used timber is the natural choice. Australia once had pole position. We are now at risk of dropping behind our competitors. There is still time to catch the leaders but only if we act fast.’

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