Sunday, June 27, 2010

our disappearing forests and the local economy

Last Thursday saw around 300 community members gather at the Memorial Hall in Healesville to learn about logging in the local area.

Concern has been growing since Vic Forests have started logging in the Toolangi region, compacted by continual traffic from logging trucks at all hours of the day and night.

Local community members and environment groups came together to organise a forum to talk about logging in the region. Many people spoke on many subjects.

I was asked to speak about the Yarra Ranges economy and where logging fits into that economy.

The figures I used came from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and other economic analysis done for the Shire in 2008.

We often hear "the timber industry is a significant economic, environmental and social contributor to the local economy", I was asked to talk about this and explore what the key drivers are in the Yarra Ranges economy.

I started by talking about employment. Current figures show the shire has 35,289 workers, with the Retail, Manufacturing, Education and Construction sectors employing the bulk of workers (around 50%).

The Retail sector employs the higher number of workers at 18.3% (6,435), whilst Agriculture, Forests and Fishing employs 5% (1,772 jobs). Now when the ABS collates figures they pool together Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, so it represents all 3 sectors as a lump sum. In Yarra Ranges, the highest employer in that particular sector is Agriculture, when the figures are broken down to Timber and Fishing it represents 91 jobs or 0.3% of total employment in the shire.

Now how does this translate to dollars?

There is no doubt when you look at the economic data Yarra Ranges' key industry sectors are Manufacturing, Property & Business, Retail, Education, Agriculture and Construction.

Tourism is also key driver, it doesn't have a classification of its own, but it influences Manufacturing (wine production), Agriculture (grapes, berries, nurseries) and Accommodation, Cafes & Restaurants, it is another significant contributor to the local economy.

Value to the economy can be expressed various ways, at the forum I talked about Gross Industry Output and Value Added totals.

Gross Industry Output is about the gross revenue generated by business, Value Added is the total market value of goods after deducting costs of goods and services used to produce the goods.

Gross Industry Output
Across the Shire the total output, so gross revenue, generated is $9.019 billion.

Of this Manufacturing is by far the greatest sector at $3.043 billion (33.7%), whilst Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing is worth $381 million (4.2%), of this when we split out just Forestry and Fishing it is valued at $24 million or 0.2% of our economy in gross terms.

Value Added total
Across the Shire the total Value Added revenue generated is $3.514 billion.

Once again Manufacturing tops the scale worth $672 million (19.1%), Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing comes in at $210 million (6%), and when we drill down to Forestry and Fishing we find it's worth $12 million or 0.3% of our local economy in value added terms.

On the night I didn't talk about the costs in relation to infrastructure, but there is an impact on local roads and bridges and that's a cost borne by ratepayers and taxpayers.

I am saying there are jobs in the timber industry but it's time to transition to plantations and get out of native forests. I didn't talk about woodchips either and the fact that over 80% of logged forests are woodchipped. What I did say to community members on the night is that when the timber industry says it is a significant driver in our economy we must look at the facts.

Manufacturing is a force in Yarra Ranges, however let's get to tourism – a real growth area in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.

A significant number of business in tourist towns, and Healesville is most definately a tourism town, receive significant direct and indirect benefits from tourism.

As outlined earlier Tourism operates over a number of industry sectors so other methods need to be used to determine economic activity.

The Shire's current calculations determine that tourism is worth $381 million per annum and is responsible for employing 2,059 people. That's 4.22% of our economy and 5.83% of the Shire's employment.

When we look at the data it is clear what industry sectors are the fundamental drivers of the economy in Yarra Ranges.

The Yarra Ranges Council sees our strength is preserving our environment, to encourage even greater visitation rates, it is our natural beauty that attracts people to the region.

The Shire of Yarra Ranges has long been recognised as a special place for its natural beauty and diverse habitats. The combination of national parks, state forests, private gardens and its location on the doorstep of Melbourne all combine to make the area unique in its natural, cultural and amenity values. The Shire contains some of the most environmentally important areas in Victoria, which are a significant factor in attracting residents and tourists.

Yarra Ranges contains significant areas of remnant native vegetation, much of which is botanically and zoologically significant, providing important habitat for wildlife.

The Shire, and in particular the 'Yarra Valley', is gaining local and international recognition as a fine food and wine producing area. Each year, over 2.2 million tourists visit the area, including the wineries of the Yarra Valley and the townships and gardens of the Dandenong Ranges.

As a council we don't think the government should be allowing the ongoing destruction of our native forests in the Toolangi region (let alone water catchments) due to the significant impact it will have on tourism in the region.

Healesville is a town that is trying to get back to a more stable trading environment after the fires and it is tourism which will provide a great way to secure Healesville's future.

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At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

funny how you can twist figures to suit your agenda


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