Plantations and farm forestry present unique opportunities to increase Australia’s long-term wood supply while contributing social, economic and environmental benefits to Australia.
In recognition of this, the Australian Government are implementing a suite of initiatives totalling over $300 million to support Australia’s forest industries. These initiatives aim to strengthen, support and continue a sustainable forestry sector now and into the future. The full list of programs is available on the department’s Forestry webpage.
Increasing Australia’s plantation forests is a key Australian Government forest policy objective. Benefits of growing our plantation estate include increasing the supply of domestically grown timber products, sequestering carbon to help meet Australia’s carbon emission reduction commitments, and helping to offset reduced access to the native forest resource.
More information on the Australian Government’s Support Planation Expansion program, which is providing $73.76 million in grant funding over four years from 2023–24 to 2026–27 can be found here.
Each state and territory has a plantation forestry code of practice in place in accordance with the 1992 National Forest Policy Statement and the national principles related to wood production in plantations. The principles are structured into several sections relating to different plantation production activities. These sections include the establishment, management and harvesting in both public and private plantations.
There is a substantial body of scientific and policy activity through major Australian Government programs. These recognise, promote and evaluate opportunities to achieve multiple objectives through revegetation and plantations. This includes demonstrating that strategically placed plantations can be important for sustainable production and improved soil, water quality and salinity mitigation, and carbon and biodiversity benefits. 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 also frequently publishes data on the Australian forest and wood products sector. In 2020–21, plantation forests produced over 87% of the 27.1 million cubic metres of logs harvested in Australia. Most plantation logs are derived from softwood plantations (59%) compared to hardwood plantations (41%). Further data on Australia's plantations can be found on ABARES’s publications webpage.
Farm forestry is the incorporation of commercial tree growing into traditional farming systems. This can take many forms, including:
- timber plantations: These are a long-rotation agricultural crop planted to produce large volumes of wood and timber per unit area.
- timber belts: These are linear plantings of one or more parallel lines of trees and are often planted to protect pasture and crops from hot, drying winds and to reduce erosion.
- woodlots: These are small opportunistic plantings of any shape and can serve many purposes, including to manage environmental issues, to act as firewood blocks near houses, and for mid-paddock shelter.
- wide spaced plantings: This involves establishing trees several metres apart. Wide spaced plantings can be pruned more easily to produce high quality timber and integrated with stock grazing or fodder trees/shrubs.
Farmers now have more options for diversifying their income through farm forestry, such as capitalising on the demand for wood and wood products and the ability to participate in carbon markets. These changes are improving opportunities for farm forestry and increasing interest in combining tree growing and traditional farming activities.
In April 2022, ABARES published the Farm forestry sector report, which can be found here.
In April 2022, the Australian Government released the Farm Forestry: Growing Together Plan. This plan recognises the new opportunities and provides practical information and resources for farmers looking to invest in farm forestry. It also supports the previous Farm Forestry National Action Statement (NAS), which outlined the objectives and actions agreed by the Australian, state and territory governments and the forest and wood products industry to develop farm forestry. The NAS was endorsed by the Natural Resource Management and Primary Industries Ministerial Councils in August 2005.
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