Back to top

Revitalising our sandalwood industry

Sandalwood oil is extracted locally from high oil bearing wood for use in perfumes, cosmetics and therapeutic products in domestic and international markets. This is a market that returns a valuable income to the state and enables significant investment into regeneration of the species in its natural environment.

The sandalwood industry is an important component of the state’s forestry strategy, particularly for remote and regional communities.    

The industry for wild Western Australian sandalwood was restructured in 2015–16. In consultation with other government agencies, the industry and stakeholders, the Commission has undertaken work to review the harvest limit and regeneration protocols, review commercial arrangements for sales, processing and marketing, and take action on illegal harvesting.

The new sales, processing and marketing contracts will be awarded in 2016 and are designed to improve outcomes for regional and Aboriginal communities.

An extended inquiry into the sandalwood industry was conducted by the Legislative Council’s Environment and Public Affairs Committee. This inquiry was open for public submissions. Their report (Report No 35: Inquiry into the Sandalwood Industry in Western Australia) was completed in May 2014. The government responded to this report and provided progress on implementing the recommendations. 

Parks and Wildlife undertook a review of the Sandalwood Order of Limitation during 2015 and subsequently the Sandalwood (Limitation on Removal of Sandalwood) Order (No.2) 2015 was published in December 2015. The order, which takes effect from 1 July 2016, sets the annual quota at 2,500 tonnes, being 1,250 tonnes of green and 1,250 tonnes of deadwood. While this represents a reduction, the new volume is expected to be sufficient to service our markets by funding the ongoing regeneration program over the next 10 years and will support the ongoing sustainability of the industry.

During 2015–16 core actions have focussed on: 

  • Development and implementation of the post 2016 wild Western Australian sandalwood sales, processing and marketing arrangements to meet the government’s social, environmental and economic criteria. 
  • Consultation with Aboriginal stakeholders to ensure that future sales, processing and marketing arrangements will support their involvement. This approach is consistent with the State Government's Aboriginal Economic Participation Strategy 2012-2016 which aims to increase the potential for Aboriginal people to participate in the state's economy.

Tender processes 

A Request for Proposal (RfP) process has been undertaken to implement new industry arrangements for the sales, processing and marketing of wild Western Australian sandalwood.

Following extensive consultation with stakeholders a new industry structure is being developed to meet a number of objectives including: 

  • market stability
  • opportunities for new entrants in the industry
  • employment and investment opportunities in regional Western Australia
  • greater Aboriginal involvement in the industry
  • a smooth transition to a mixed wild and plantation based industry into the future.

The tender process for sandalwood harvesting was released in April 2016. The new contractual arrangements will aim to enhance resource regeneration and sustainability measures, encourage greater Aboriginal involvement, and support new industry entrants.

The tender for haulage services will be released once the outcome of the RfP for the sales, processing and marketing arrangements, and distribution of sandalwood has been finalised. 

Sandalwood regeneration 

‘Operation Woylie’ is a research program aimed at improving sandalwood regeneration in the semi-arid regions of Western Australia, through the use of mechanical ripping and seeding. The program started in 2008 and its name is derived from a small native marsupial called the Woylie, which has been shown to aid sandalwood regeneration by caching and distributing the seeds.

During 2016, the mechanical sandalwood seeder had another big year, sowing about 5 million seeds, the equivalent of 11.7 tonnes, within rip-lines over 
900 kilometres. 

Good rainfall during winter has led to the successful regeneration of native sandalwood from the seed sown, demonstrating the success of this program.

This regeneration program is important because sandalwood populations will significantly decline in the Murchinson and Goldfields areas in the absence of active regeneration programs. The program is funded from the proceeds of sandalwood harvest.  

During spring, the Commission will assess sandalwood germination and survival within each seeding region.  Over the next five years, these seeding sites will continue to be monitored to ensure the sandalwood is regenerating and to further refine the program.


2016 Annual Report in full (PDF 6.8 MB)

Return to Annual Report homepage