A major aim of current forest policy is sustained yield management of the nation’s commercial forest potential, and it puts in place some means to advance this aim.

PNG isa member of the International Tropical Timber Organization, ITTO a body representing the governments of most countries involved in the international trade of tropical timber and logs. ITTO. and its member governments have adopted ‘The Year 2000 Objective” which aims to have all tropical forest production carried out on a sustainable basis by the year 2000.

It is the view of the Forest Industries Association that this needs to be implemented progressively over the next three years so that within a reasonable time, not only are the mechanisms in place, but also that manpower requirements are met and the state of the forest resource is adequately monitored and maintained.

The lessons of the past show that the parties with the main interest in maintenance of a permanent forest estate are the resource owners and resource operators It follows then that recognition of the important role these entities play in the area of resource management is needed, and their participation in future forest production cycles is both secured and actively promoted.

The basis of a sustainable forest industry is the long term management of the forest resource base Forest areas of commercial potential need to be dedicated as production forest for the long term It will be a case of “use it or lose it” as far as the strategic value of resources in the nation’s interest is concerned.

But at the end of the day, who is actually going to do the work? The technical and professional ranks of trained foresters will need boosting over time. The last 20 years has seen dramatic increases in the workload for a small workforce of technically trained foresters. The current situation however, shows the development of an undeniable trend: more field foresters are employed by private enterprise than ever before.

Expanded capacity

The operating companies have greatly expanded their capacity to handle the requirements of planning for modern forest industry operations, and clearly are capable of playing an increasing role in the challenge of forest management into the future, with access to be guaranteed by long term resource area commitments

Statistics from industry show that a high level of competence exists within major operating companies in the actual carrying out of activities. This further reinforces a vital element of future success in this area: Government is in the best position to regulate and monitor, private enterprise is in the best position to implement, given appropriate conditions

It follows then that conditions for investment should be established which will be conducive to active and ongoing forest industry activity by resource owners and resource operators. They will then be in the position to increase employment opportunities for trained foresters and other forest industry workers in PNG. We need engineers for roads and bridges, architects for high rise buildings, and foresters for forest resource management.

A significant contribution to the development of forest management skills was the formation of The Association of Foresters of PNG. The Association was incorporated in the late 1980’s and is continually expanding its membership, which is increasingly made up of trained foresters employed in private enterprise.

There are well over 150 professionally and technically trained foresters in private enterprise operations, most of them national men and women trained in PNG. The real work of the forester is in the forest, and the main avenues for the foresters to apply their skills are with operators and resource owner companies.

The challenge for the future is to man age the forest resources of PNG so as to maximize the potential benefits to be gained from increasing employment in and development of the rural areas, while minimizing the cost of development in the form of environmental and social disturbance.

The chart below illustrates the scope of the task ahead. At present only some eight per cent of PNG’s land area is available as production forest with a further seven per cent identified as planned production forest in the near future. These areas are the resource base on which a sustainable forest industry can be built It is the post logging management of these areas that focuses the foresters immediate attention.

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On average it is estimated that selective logging removes some 25 per cent of the standing timber resource within the logging coup. The application of a variety of appropriate silvicultural practices to the remaining timber stocking will enhance the resource base for future harvesting cycles.

The opportunity for PNG to have a world class” forest industry lies in the further 18 per cent which has been identified as being potential production for eat Whether such an industry can be developed will depend on many factors. Will there be a demand for our forest products in the future and at what price will these products be sold? Product substitution is already having a marked impact on the demand for tropical timber particularly in our main markets areas of Japan and Australia. Will PNG be able to attract investors, domestic or foreign, to the forest sector in order to finance the cost of development?

It is estimated that to convert a significant part of current log export volume into processed product will require an investment in processing facilities and infrastructure in excess of US$1 billion.

The lack of domestic investor interest in the industry continues to be of concern and in international markets! PNG continues to be viewed as a high risk investment destination Will there be sufficient skilled and professionally trained manpower available to meet the demands of an increasingly mechanized and sophisticated industry?

The initial steps have been taken and ongoing harvesting and logging skills training programs are in place. However, a too rapid move to large scale processing could easily outstrip the available labour pool resulting in the need to recruit over seas labour. A shortage of skilled labour may arise in the near future as a result of the adoption of the Logging Code of Practice. As the Code is implemented in field operations the workload of the professional foresters in planning and monitoring will greatly expand

With regard to current industry participants, in particular the resource owners and operators, what is needed is the pro vision of adequate security of ownership and control over the result of their labour and investment.

Two vital elements will need particular attention if the potential of future forest based industries is to be achieved:

  • definition and dedication of a long term, secure resource base, and
  • stability in the investment climate.

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    Sawn timber stacked in kiln dryer

    Reprinted from PNG RESOURCES Magazine

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