The forests of South-East Queensland support a range of forest-based industries including recreation, ecotourism, timber production and processing, grazing, bee keeping, mining and flora collection. The economic component for the Comprehensive Regional Assessment evaluates the forest resource and identifies the current status of the forest-based industries. As the RFA will establish the management framework for the region's forests for the next 20 years, the information will be used to explore opportunities for these forest-based industries.
The region's forests are the focus of the State's timber industry, currently contributing 75 per cent of the sawlog volume processed in Queensland. This includes virtually all of the plantation cut and 66 per cent of the total hardwood cut from Crown and private land. The SEQ forest industry provided 8240 jobs 1996-97.
The region's timber comes from public and privately-owned native forests; plantations in State forests (160,000 hectares of softwood, 1,200 hectares of hardwood) and plantations on private land (about 12,000 hectares of softwood).
The total native forest harvest is currently about 338,000 cubic metres a year. Of this total, 210,000 cubic metres are currently cut from private forests. Long term sustained yields from State forests in the region are only approximately 80 per cent of the current harvest and the sustainability of the harvest from private lands is unknown.
Plantations are becoming increasingly significant in the region's timber supply. By 2010 sawlog production from State-owned plantations is set to increase from current levels of 990,000 to about 1.3 million cubic metres a year. from State plantations and from 95,000 to 150,000 cubic metres.
As well as sawlogs, other wood products are harvested from the forests, such as poles, piles, girders, landscaping and fencing timbers and posts.
Tourism and recreation in the forests of South East Queensland are likely to see major growth over the next two decades, with visitor days predicted to increase by 57 per cent by 2021.
The recreation and tourism assessment for the RFA found that visitors to the region's forests spent about $196 million in 1997. Of the 7.6 million visitor days in the forests that year, most (6.6 million) were by local residents, with a further one million visits by tourists.
National Parks are the most popular destinations - around 1.2 million visitor days are spent each year in Noosa National Park, with more than a million spent in the rainforests of Springbrook or Lamington National Parks. Fraser Island and Cooloola together account for another 1.1 million visitor days annually.
Commercial nature-based and ecotourism tour operations are an important forest industry worth about $29 million each year and employing 768 people. The 40 operators who conduct 100 per cent of their business in the region's forests employ about 230 of these people.
Grazing is a long-standing use of the region's forests. On State forests, more than 43,000 beef cattle are grazed, with an operating profit of $1.4 million each year.
Beekeeping, or Apiary, is a small but significant industry in the forests, with State forests and timber reserves providing more than 40 per cent of the region's honey production and 17 per cent of its queen bee production.
The forests of the Imbil district south west of Gympie were found to be particularly important to the industry, with more than 70 per cent of available sites booked each year.
Mining in the region's forests is as valuable as in the cleared areas of South East Queensland and directly employed 644 people in 1994-95. Nineteen mines in theforested areas produced coal, gold, sand, magnetite and other industrial minerals worth $199.2 million in 1996-97. The two largest mines - the rutile-zircon-ilmenite mine on North Stradbroke Island and the coal mine at Tarong supplying the Tarong power station - generate most of the production, followed by silica sand mining on North Stradbroke Island.
About 230 square kilometres of the region's forests (0.65 per cent) were covered by mining leases in 1996, with $4.1 million committed to exploration in the region and total mineral expenditure in the region amounting to $180 million.
Known deposits include heavy minerals in Agnes Waters, Middle Island and Hummock Hill Island, gold at Mount Rawdon, the Ban Ban zinc deposita and the Norton gold deposit.
The collection and export of of native cut flowers and foliage from the region's forests is becoming more significant, providing full time employment for 50 people, with a turn-over of $3 million in 1997-98. The industry predicts it has the capacity to treble its turnover by 2005-06, more than doubling the number of employees.