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Officeworks goes bush

Two disparate worlds — city-based corporate retailing and farming of the nation’s oldest agricultural land — will come together in a landmark philanthropic deal to restore degraded landscapes across three states. Source: The Australian

Officeworks will announce a multi-million-dollar deal with Greening Australia to rehabilitate some of Australia’s oldest, and most degraded, grazing and cropping land.

A first of its kind in Australia, the $1.2 million-a-year, three-year agreement will see the company fund the planting of two trees for each one used to make the paper and timber products it sells.

It is the largest single donation to GA in its 35-year history and one that has also given farmers in the three target regions — the NSW Highlands, Victorian Volcanic Plains and Tasmania’s Midlands — hope of restoring degraded farmland.

“The need for land restoration, tree planting and adaptation for climate change really weighs on landowners and we are often overwhelmed,” said Tasmanian northern Midlands farmer Julian von Bibra, whose property is to benefit under the scheme.

“To have the support of organisations such as Greening Australia, who have the expertise, is great. But to add a large corporation that brings in an initiative like this is mind-blowing.

“To think that the broader community is chipping in, via Officeworks, is massive and really encouraging. You feel really connected to the rest of society and not as overwhelmed.”

At least 200,000 trees, shrubs and grasses will be planted each year, across the three regions. This will restore local plant species and provide wildlife refuges and corridors between populations of native animals, such as bandicoots and bettongs, while also improving water catchments.

Mr von Bibra said farmers experienced concrete benefits, with restored areas improving bird life, which reduced insect pests, and providing buffers from wind and floods.

Officeworks hopes the deal will persuade customers to buy wood products with pride, rather than guilt.

“This is important to our customers; it’s a way of them purchasing these products from Officeworks and knowing that there is something positive that will come out of it,” said company merchandising head Phil Bishop.

GA said Officeworks was taking a “refreshing … leadership role” in assisting the not-for-profit sector.

“We still rely to some degree on government grants and programs but to really build a good sustainable business case, we need to broaden that base,” said GA conservation director Sebastian Burgess.