Plantation policy – time for action
The 1992 National Forest Policy Statement includes a provision for ‘an enhanced plantation research and development effort, particularly in relation to improved technology and processes, tree breeding, species selection, land capability assessment, and integration of commercial wood production with agricultural activities’. However integration of commercial wood production with agriculture (agroforestry) is being retarded by shortcomings in the Commonwealth taxation regime. For example, small plantation owners cannot offset establishment and management costs against other income without a special dispensation is from the Tax Commissioner. Requiring potential plantation growers to wait many years before claiming such costs is a significant disincentive that should be removed.
The closure of the federally-funded Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry in 2012 has also significantly weakened the research effort envisaged in the NFPS. While the past decade has seen log production from Victoria’s native forests diminish, while supply from eucalypt plantations has increased the latter is almost wholly due to increased pulpwood production.
However, recent research has shown that with modern sawmilling machinery eucalypt plantations originally destined for pulpwood are capable of profitably producing higher value solid wood products (e.g. see FWPA report PNB290-1112).
RFPG urges a review of the policy and tax environment within which plantation timber is grown with a view to accelerating the transfer of sawlog production from native forests to plantation.