Forest Levy takes important step

16 July 2013

An application for the introduction of a levy on harvested logs has been lodged with Associate Minister for Primary Industries Hon Jo Goodhew.

 "This is an important step in the process of getting a Levy Order under the Commodity Levies Act and follows a successful forest grower referendum in March," says Forest Growers Levy Trust chair Geoff Thompson.

"Officials will now take several months to assess the application and all the accompanying detail about levy collection, budgeting and ongoing structure. We are fundamentally on target to introduce the levy from 1 January 2014."

The Trust has consulted mills, log marketing companies and export marshalling companies about the systems that need to be in place to secure the log harvesting data needed for the Trust to collect the levy.

"Feedback from these discussions has been very helpful and will strongly influence the shape of our data collection system. Log buyers will play a central role in the system and the minister needs to be satisfied about the particulars of collection and the cooperation requested from participants," Mr Thompson says.

The Trust will continue to keep potential levy payers informed of developments, but this is not easy because there is no central database of forest growers to allow direct contact. Instead the Trust is using its ForestVoice website, industry publications and other media.

The month long levy referendum had a successful outcome with 502 growers (86.3%) voting "yes". The results on numbers voting and hectares represented by the "yes" vote were the same. Analysis of the vote satisfied the Trust that the turnout was on a par with similar commodity referendums.

The proposed levy rate is 27 c a tonne of harvested wood in the first year and can be raised to a maximum rate of 30 c a tonne over the 6 year term of the levy order. With sharply increased harvesting now occurring, the income from the levy is likely to exceed $6.5 m annually.

Most of this will be applied to industry-good projects like improved health and safety, ensuring high levels of protection against bio-security risks and researching many issues from improving seed genetics to harvesting methods.

"The Trust will be working closely with the minister's advisers to ensure that all necessary input for the issue of the Levy Order is provided," says Mr Thompson.

"This is a very important step to unify and boost the forest industry. It produces exports of similar value to meat exports, but has potential to expand more quickly over the next 10-15 years with positive leadership and encouragement from the government," concluded Mr Thompson.

Forest Growers Levy Trust media release. For more information, contact Geoff Thompson, Tel 04 499 3280

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