Creating jobs for future generations is at the heart of an Indigenous-owned and led forestry project on the Northern Territory’s Tiwi Islands, according to the Tiwi Plantations Corporation (TPC) Chair Kim Puruntatameri.

Mr Puruntatameri recently led a site and port tour at TPC’s Melville Island headquarters and said the 3-year, $4.6 million project will play a key role in helping grow Tiwi’s 30,000-hectare forestry estate and ensuring a sustainable export sector.

“Seeing the harvesters back in action and the ship being loaded is great after a long break while having the project team update us on the research taking place, helps us to plan for the next 15-20 years of forestry,” he said.

The maximising tropical forestry project has been funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), the University of Melbourne, Charles Darwin University, Midway Limited (Plantation Management Partners), Forest and Wood Products Australia and the Northern Territory Government and is focused on transitioning the 30,000-hectare estate to higher-value Eucalyptus pellita trees.

Scientists are working across multiple sites, undertaking a detailed assessment of the current plantation.  State-of-the art molecular marker technology and assessment tools are being used to identify which varieties will deliver the best wood and paper products to inform future planting decisions.

University of Melbourne research lead, Professor Gerd Bossinger said his team have collected more than 1500 DNA samples from thousands of trees.

“We’ve now got a great understanding of the genetics of the Eucalyptus pellita trees and are looking at how the soils, planting and ongoing management influence growth and what this means for the wood quality and economic value at harvest,” he said.

TPC Project Coordinator, Mr Andy Bubb said the pace of the research along with the harvesting and shipping occurring has been an exciting development after a difficult couple of years.

“The research being conducted here is a strong collaboration led by the Tiwi Plantations Corporation. As harvesting and shipping occurs new areas are opening for production. The results of this project will be incredibly important information for the Tiwi Plantations Corporation Board in making future investment decisions”.

In addition to technical field work and trials, researchers and community development practitioners from Charles Darwin University are working with Aboriginal and rural communities to document best practice forestry plantation establishment practices and develop a Northern Forestry Industry Growth Model which will outline new options for economic development and employment on Indigenous-owned lands.

Plantation Management Partners (Midway) CEO Glen Samsa, said the significant investment by from the research partners was critical and will directly impact future investment in the Tiwi forestry estate.

“The research project is a vital first step in proving the commercial viability of a second rotation on the Tiwi Islands. This is a necessary pre-condition to attract investment partners who can support the future plantation estate,” Mr Samsa said.

CRCNA Chair Ms Sheriden Morris said the forestry project is industry-led research at its best.

“We’re seeing researchers working together with the community and businesses to ensure the science translates directly into outcomes for the community.

“It’s clear this work will deliver underpin the social, cultural and economic development of Tiwi for the next 30 to 40 years and beyond,” she said.

Media enquiries

Carla Keith, CRCNA 0499 330 051