The high costs of involved in establishing new plantations are a challenge.
In 1997 all Australian Governments signed up to the Plantations Vision 2020 goal to establish 3 million hectares by 2020 . Despite this new plantation development in Australia is actually going backwards. Existing plantations that were established too far from ports and processing facilities are being harvested and not replanted. Plantations across Australia are owned by:
Governments: The major owners of softwood plantations in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are governments. Tasmania's government retains 50% equity in the softwood plantations on public land in that state.
Managed Investment Schemes: Participation in managed investment schemes soared from the mid 1990s until the Global Financial Crisis in 2009. At one point MIS investors owned over 722,000 hectares (35%) of Australia's plantations, however the failure of some poorly managed MIS has seen the popularity of this investment type dwindle.
Timber Industry Companies: Several companies that manufacture sawn timber, woodchips, paper and other products in Australia own plantations that supply logs to their mills. Since the early 1990's, pulp and paper industry companies and industry organisations based in Japan, Korea and India have started over 20 plantation projects in Australia. These projects have established about 120,000 hectares of plantations. Most of the projects are planting eucalypts and aim to export woodchips.
Superannuation funds: Australian and international superannuation funds have purchased plantations in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and recently in Queensland. This new form of ownership is consistent with a world-wide trend for large institutional investors (Timberland Investment Management Organisations) to allocate a small portion of large diversified funds to 'alternative' investments
Farm foresters and other private owners: Many individual farmers and other landowners own plantations ranging from a few hectares to a few thousand hectares. A 2008 survey indicated that farm forestry (including MIS leases on part of a farm) accounted for over 10% of Queensland’s plantation estate.
Source: Australia’s Plantations 2009 (pdf), Bureau of Rural Sciences.
Growing and financing Queensland’s plantation industry
The financial case for new plantation establishment has always been a challenge, with the long period between outlays on establishment and returns from harvesting being outside the scope of most private investors.Managed investment schemes (MIS) were the major source of funding for plantations in the last 20 years until the Global Financial Crisis exposed some serious flaws in the model.
In 2016 the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) released a policy proposal outlining how the Australian Government could deliver 300 000 hectares of new plantations in the right places. The policy proposes 29 Strategic Plantation Hubs where planting should be encouraged. These hubs are within 100 kilometers of major processing ports and facilities providing domestic and export market opportunities.
In Queensland the hubs were identified as
The policy does not propose new spending. Instead it proposes refining exisitng investment policy drivers and reallocation of funds from existing government programmes.
Any significant expansion of the plantation estate will come from the private sector, but this will require facilitation by Government. In particular, governments will need to address regulatory impediments to plantation expansion. This could be achieved by better targetting of new plantation projects in the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). MIS remains an important vehicle for investment in new plantings, although regulatory changes are required to enhance investment security eg limit MIS plantings within strategic plantation hubs.
The future of southern Queensland's Hardwood Plantation Industry
The Queensland government initiated a hardwood plantation program in 1999 to underpin a future hardwood processing sector, and to provide an alternative resource to that being supplied by State owned native forests after 2025, when existing log supply agreements expire. In late 2014 the Government recently commissioned a review to faciliate a common understanding of the current and future Queensland hardwood plantation estate in southern Queensland, its wood flow and product potential, and the possible role this resource could play in the future Queensland timber processing sector in the period 2025 - 49.
Department of Agriculture & Fisheries
Review of Hardwood Plantation Program