A game-changer on the horizon
New timberlands to bid into the federal emissions reduction fund
TIMBER PROCESSORS, regional communities and consumers will benefit from the largest expansion of the State-owned timber plantation estate in decades, following the purchase of close to 7,000 hectares of pine plantations by Forestry Corporation of NSW.
The newly-purchased estate adjoins State-owned pine plantations near the major timber processing hubs of Oberon, Tumut and Tumbarumba and will augment timber and pulpwood production over the short and long term.
But, AFPA Chief Executive Officer Ross Hampton says while it certainly is good news see NSW Forest Corp investing and building its timberlands assets “these are purchases of existing plantations”.
Forestry Corporation of NSW already manages more than 220,000 hectares of softwood plantations as part of the $1.92 billion softwood plantation industry.
This property includes close to 7,000 hectares of pine plantation and plantable area, so this purchase is the equivalent of adding 13,000 football fields of pine plantations to the Stateowned estate.
Mr Hampton said that while the industry would benefit from the professional and active ownership of Forest Corp, the broader forest products industry badly needed new greenfield sites as well.
“We have been stalled in this regard for more than a decade.
“Mills can’t get sufficient softwood in some places and Australia is missing out on value adding manufacturing opportunities as companies can’t invest as they cannot currently see a growing fibre supply.
“The game-changer may be the opportunity we hope will soon emerge for new timberlands to bid into the federal emissions reduction fund - a modest carbon payment potentially offsetting a small portion of the high costs of planting. The methodology to allow this is soon to be released. Industry is maintaining the pressure on the government to deal with the final details as soon as possible, “said Mr Hampton.
Timber is one of the most renewable products available and sustainable timber production underpins the booming housing construction and packaging industries.
State-owned pine plantations currently produce enough structural lumber to construct a quarter of the homes built in Australia each year, as well as significant volumes of renewable pulpwood for paper and packaging.
This newly-purchased plantation will be sustainably managed in line with the neighbouring State forest plantations and will continue to produce a renewable supply of timber in perpetuity.
Forestry Corporation of NSW Chairman James Millar said the purchase was made possible by substantial improvements in profitability and reduction in debt in recent years.
“Our ability to make this investment was a direct result of the efforts of the forestry team over the past few years to improve our performance. This has enabled us to pay down debt and be in a position to invest in expansion. This is an exciting new acquisition close to our existing plantation resources and key timber processing hubs, so it will offer great synergies with our existing operations,” Mr Millar said.
The South-West Slopes (of which Tumut is a hub) currently produce more than a billion dollars worth of forest products a year – but there isplenty of room for expansion, according to Softwoods Working Group Chairman Peter Crowe
“Australia is short of wood,” he told the Tumut & Adelong Times. “It’s been pretty much like that for the last 30 odd years, and if you look back historically we’re just asshort of timber now as we were after the Second World War when Australia basically ran out of wood.
“We need to do something about it.”
Former Mayor Trina Thomson believes the council has a key role to play in encouraging investment in the plantations.