COALITION TIMBER PACKAGE WELCOMED IN QUEENSLAND
BUT THERE’S STILL GAP IN PLANTATION INVESTMENT POLICY
Grazing land in Queensland has been identified as having good potential for new plantations, given large areas of suitable land and the scope for carbon neutral beef for producers.
THE Queensland timber industry has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister and Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonno Duniam of a $219.5 million package to invest in R&D and new technologies to expand the sector.
Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens said the announcement was clear recognition of the industry’s growth potential and its role in providing renewable products to meet rising demand and support the circular bio-economy.
“The package announced last week acknowledges the critical importance of the timber industry to the economy and the need to boost our sovereign capability to provide much-needed timber materials for our housing and commercial building needs,” Mr Stephens said.
“We welcome the funding to reinvigorate R&D capacity and look forward to an opportunity to boost research in tropical forestry and wood products development in northern Australia,” Mr Stephens said
“In addition, we value the contribution of the forestry hubs to developing pathways for further growth which can be supported by the program to accelerate wood processing technologies.
“However, a major gap still exists for new plantation investment in a number of growing regions. This package is like supercharging the engine room for value added timber products, but leaving the handbrake on for new plantations.”
This is the so-called ‘water rule’, which prohibits new plantations from accessing carbon markets in the Emissions Reduction Fund in areas above 600 mm annual rainfall. No other revegetation projects are subject to this restriction.
“The water rule has an additional knock-on effect for the $1 billion Land Restoration Fund in Queensland, which requires revegetation projects to be compatible with the ERF in order to receive carbon payments, effectively blocking new plantations from participating in the Queensland scheme,” Mr Stephens said.
“If this restriction is not lifted, we are likely to continue to see no new investment in plantations in Queensland, given high up-front costs and the long time-period for timber returns.”
“However, with the bundling of annual carbon payments with timber returns and other benefits such as improved agricultural productivity from livestock shade and shelter, we will likely see stronger interest in new plantations.”
Grazing land within Queensland has been identified as having good potential for new plantations, given large areas of suitable land and the scope for carbon neutral beef for producers.
“The water rule has been progressively removed for a number of plantation regions across Australia, but remains in place in north Queensland, south and central Queensland, southeast NSW, central west NSW and the Northern Territory,” Mr Stephens said.
“This is particularly disappointing given the Cooperative Research Centre for Northern Australia in mid-2020 identified this as a major policy impediment for forestry industry growth in the north.”
At the last federal election in 2019, the Australian Labor Party also announced it would remove the water rule barrier to promote new plantation investment and provide a level playing field with other land sequestration projects.
“We have been working in close collaboration with our national counterpart, the Australian Forest Products Association, to fix this perverse policy,” Mr Stephens said.
“We look forward to hearing more from the major parties about this issue in the upcoming forestry industry debate to be held in Tasmania on the April 27.
“We just want good public policy consistent with the goals of growing the plantation resource. This barrier should be removed for all regional forestry hub regions within the first three months of the next Australian government.”
MAIN PIC: Boosting research in tropical forestry and wood products development in northern Australia… softwood plantation tree seed orchard in Queensland. Photo: Timber Queensland