Plantations and farm forestry present an opportunity to increase Australia’s long-term wood supply while contributing significant social, economic and environmental benefits to regional Australia. The links from this page will help you find out more about how to get involved in farm forestry and to learn more about Australia's plantations.
Increasing the plantation timber resource to expand Australia's forest industries and offset the reduced access to native forest resource is a key forest policy objective of the National Forest Policy Statement,
Regional Forest Agreements and
Plantations for Australia: The 2020 Vision. The overarching principle of the 2020 Vision is to enhance regional wealth creation and international competitiveness through a sustainable increase in Australia’s plantation resources. This is to be achieved through a notional target of trebling the area of commercial tree crops to 3 million hectares by 2020, using mainly private sector funding.
However, Australia's plantation estate may stabilise at the current level of around 2 million hectares. In 2008-09, the total plantation area decreased for the first time since the National Plantation Inventory commenced reporting in 1993.
In parts of Australia, plantations yield up to 14 times more wood per hectare than native forests, largely due to plant selection and breeding, and the use of more intensive management techniques. Continued improvement of plantation stock in terms of wood quality, yield and disease resistance is expected in the future. Better silvicultural management is another major reason for increased wood yields, ensuring uniform, high-quality and cost-competitive timber products.
Plantations produce over two-thirds of the 26.5 million cubic metres of logs harvested in Australia on average each year. The potential supply of coniferous plantation sawlogs is not expected to change significantly for the next 15 to 20 years, but should then increase by around 1 million cubic metres a year to 2054. The potential supply of coniferous plantation pulpwood is not expected to change significantly from now to 2054.
Australia’s plantation processing industry comprises a number of large, internationally-competitive companies. In recent years the plantation processing sector has invested heavily in the development of modern efficient sawmills, reconstituted and engineered wood production facilities and best practice pulp mills. Continued development of plantations is necessary to support further investment in the plantation processing sector. This investment will assist in developing new export and value-adding industries, and contribute to regional economic development.
Plantations also offer important environmental benefits. Plantations, strategically placed in the landscape, are recognised for their importance for sustainable production and improved soil, water quality and salinity mitigation, carbon and biodiversity benefits. There is a substantial body of scientific and policy activity through major Australian Government programs that recognise, promote and evaluate the opportunities to achieve multiple objectives through revegetation and plantations. Key research in this area has been undertaken by the
Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and Forest and Wood Products Australia.
ABARES produces a number of publications on Australia's plantations which can be found on their
Farm forestry means different things to different people. Essentially however, it is the incorporation of commercial tree growing into farming systems. It can take many forms, including timber belts, alleys and widespread tree plantings. Farm forestry can provide farmers with an alternative source of income. It can improve agricultural production by providing shelter for stock and crops and can provide substantial environmental benefits such as salinity control.
Over the past decades, landholders and community groups all over Australia have invested significant effort in planting trees and other plants in revegetation and forestry projects. The National Farm Forestry Inventory reported that by 2001 over 65,000 hectares had been planted in farm forestry activities.
The Farm Forestry National Action Statement, endorsed by the Natural Resource Management and Primary Industries Ministerial Councils in August 2005, outlines the objectives and actions agreed by the Australian, state and territory governments and the forest and wood products industry to develop farm forestry.