THE future of Australia’s wood supply will be secured under an ambitious funding plan working with foresters across the eastern states to plant up to 150 million trees in the next five years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will travel to Tasmania today to announce the federal government’s $86m investment in forestry.
It is expected to leverage at least $300m in investment from states, territories and industry to establish more plantations.
Mr Morrison will announce $86 million for a cash-grant scheme to help foresters and farmers in 11 declared regional forest hubs – including the whole of Tasmania – establish new softwood and hardwood plantations.
The federal government funding would make up 40 per cent of the total, and it “expects” the states and territories to provide the remaining 60 per cent.
Foresters and farmers can apply for the government grants, which must be equally matched by private investment, to plant either softwood or hardwood forests.
Should all of the states and territories agree with the funding proposal, Mr Morrison said the target was for 150 million trees to be planted by the end of 2027.
Mr Morrison said the government would collaborate with states and territories to deliver the “turbo-charging” forest industry funding through a grants program over five years.
“This program is about getting more trees in the ground and securing an Australian supply of timber for future generations,” he said.
“Australia has 1.77 million hectares of plantations and we want that to grow further, that’s why we’re making the largest investment of any Australian Government in this space for more than 30 years.
“Getting more trees in the right places will help to meet future demand for wood products, which at a global scale is expected to quadruple by 2050.
“The farming, fishing and forestry sectors are projected to be worth $84bn in production value this year and my government will keep doing everything we can to see that grow even further.”
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the grants would have long-lasting benefits for rural and regional communities.
“This program will create jobs in regional Australia, not just in the planting phase, but in 25 or 30 years’ time when that wood is harvested and processed into a truss, a timber frame or an engineered wood product,” Mr Littleproud said.
“We want to partner with states and territories who own and manage forestry resources to plan for the future and turbocharge this industry.
“Forestry is a renewable, sustainable industry that continues to create jobs in the regions and delivers quality, Australian-made products for this country.”
Last year, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics found that Australia’s commercial plantation area had actually decreased in size by 198,700 hectares between 2014 and 2020.
The report prompted the AFPA and Master Builders Australia to estimate the country could be 250,000 house frames short by 2035 unless drastic action was taken by governments.
They called on the government to “fast track” the billion trees plan and add 400,000 hectares of plantation timber by 2030.