The current forestry industry in East Arnhem is small but regionally and strategically important. Traditional landowners run a sawmill and woodworks facility which is an example of a successful small-scale Indigenous forestry business that has potential to expand its current product range, which is currently focused on replacing imported construction materials including timber roof trusses and supply of specialty timber for local and regional markets.
Over the next five to ten years, there is scope for the northern Australian forestry and forest products industry to double or treble in output value up to $300 million per annum, as a result of increasing harvest levels, expansion of forest resources and potential for downstream processing and value-adding. These opportunities could also generate up to 600 direct jobs in the forest products industry, which includes opportunities in both the native forest and plantation sectors.
The Northern Territory has the second largest forest stock across Australia’s states and territories and has been assessed as having potential for sustainable long-term harvesting. Some of these forests are within the East Arnhem region, with the majority being Darwin Stringybark – which has high durability and multiple potential uses.
A significant research and development project for East Arnhem forestry commenced in mid-2020. The Indigenous Commercial Forestry Opportunities: East Arnhem, northern Australia research and development project will investigate the potential for commercial Indigenous forestry in the East Arnhem region. The project will facilitate sustainable forest-based livelihood benefits for Yolŋu traditional landowners.
There are four concurrent phases of this sustainable forestry research and development project:
|Phase 1 – Forest Product Development Pilot|
|• Establish a pilot site where harvesting, product identification, manufacturing, performance testing and market assessments will occur. |
• Prepare an Operational Harvest Plan (OHP)
• Commence Conservation and Land Management (CALM) training including tree marking, production identification, species mix and other (OHP) requirements.
|Phase 2 – Traditional Owner Engagement|
|• Consult with Yolŋu communities interested in commercial forestry informing them of industry opportunities and practicalities. |
• This will be championed by DEAL project East Arnhem Landowner Prospectus – supporting Yolŋu to explore economic opportunities on their land.
|Phase 3 – Forest Resource Assessment|
|• Involves a comprehensive inventory of the commercial forests of East Arnhem.|
• This will include fine-scale mapping/reporting of the forests via desktop analysis and field-based surveys.
|Phase 4 – Indigenous Capacity Building|
|• Working with the Yolŋu communities with identified potential to operate forestry enterprises to develop their forestry workforce and business opportunities.|
• Training landowners and community members in forest resource assessment.
• Prepare an integrated forestry development model, identifying how communities can work together across the forestry industry.