An Indigenous-owned forestry project on the Northern Territory’s Tiwi Islands is working towards maximising tropical forestry projects to help grow Tiwi’s 30,000 hectare forestry estate.

The Tiwi Plantations Corporation begun a three year, $4.6 million project to grow the Tiwi forestry industry and build sustainable export sector.

Tiwi Land Council and Traditional Owners have long been in charge of their own land. The Northern Territory government ended their involvement in forestry on Tiwi Islands in 1986 and handed over 4900 hectares to the Tiwi Land Council.

In 1996, Tiwi leaders decided to use 10 per cent of the land in forestry as a way to create sustainable employment and remove Tiwi people from reliance on welfare.

The current project is focused on transitioning the estate to higher-value eucalyptus pellita trees.

Tiwi Plantations Corporation is working with Cooperate Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, the University of Melbourne, Charles Darwin University, Midway Limited, Forest and Wood Product Australia and the NT government.

Plantation Management Partners, Midway executive officer Glen Samsa said underneath the science is a story of Tiwi persistence.

“Forestry is a long term enterprise and that’s one that sits well with the Tiwi, they’ve been managing their land for 6000 odd years,” he said.

“They really do think long term and this project is quite young in terms of forestry projects.”

Mr Samsa said continuing this project whilst keeping in mind the sustainability was one of their important goals.

“Forestry is going to be very important with decarbonisation and the world looking to reduce its carbon footprint, forestry is an important sector there,” he said.

“So compare our carbon footprint against the likes of steel and concrete, there are some really good benefits to forestry around some of those building prospects.”

The project currently consistently employs 30 to 35 per cent Tiwi Islanders and Traditional Owners.

Increasing those numbers is something Tiwi Plantations Corporation chair Kim Puruntatameri is wanting to improve.

“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.

“It’s good for Tiwi people and women are stepping up.

“Where we are now, women are getting involved and I’d like to more women in forestry.”

Currently, scientists are working across multiple sites to undertake a detailed assessment of the current plantation before beginning work.