The Victorian Government has committed a record $110 million to invest in growing Victoria’s plantation wood supply through the establishment of plantations in Gippsland via the Victorian Forestry Plan’s Gippsland Plantations Investment Program. The Program will operate alongside a farm forestry program led by VicForests, which will enable Gippsland landholders to also participate in plantations development under the program.
About Victoria’s plantations
Victoria has a mature plantation industry and the largest total area of commercial plantations of all Australia’s states and territories with 421,000 hectares (ha) or 22 per cent of the national estate. Currently five out of six trees harvested in Victoria are from plantations with Victoria’s plantation estate area generally evenly balanced between softwood and hardwood plantations.
Victoria also has the highest level of plantation wood production in the country at around 7.8 million m³/year and has the largest export volume by some margin (around 5.3 million m³/year).
The vast majority of the softwood processing sector in Victoria and the adjacent regions utilise the softwood species Pinus radiata (radiata pine). Radiata pine is versatile and fast growing, and can be used to produce a range of wood products such as structural sawn timber for buildings, plywood, or for paper and packaging. Growing radiata pine is efficient and comes with very little wasted timber, as all parts of the log have a use.
Hardwood plantations in Victoria are predominantly grown for pulpwood export. In 2018 Victoria was the largest producer of hardwood pulpwood in Australia, accounting for 32 per cent of Australia’s production. This increases to 42 per cent when the South Australian volume of hardwood pulpwood that is exported through the Port of Portland is included.
Economic growth and plantations
The Victorian plantation growing and processing sector is an important part of the state’s economy, supporting regional development and boosting rural economies. The sector provides jobs, improved domestic productivity, export revenue and broader economic benefits to the state from the growing, harvesting, processing and utilisation of Victorian grown fibre.
In 2015 the Victorian plantation and growing sector generated approximately $3.26 billion to the state’s economy. Of this total, softwood supply chains were the predominant contributor, comprising $2.5 billion. The gross regional product arising from the Victorian plantation and processing sector was estimated at $1.4 billion, highlighting the importance of the sector in supporting regional communities.
Victorian Forestry Plan – Gippsland Plantations Investment Program
In 2019 the Victorian Government announced the Victorian Forestry Plan to cease large-scale native forest harvesting in State Forests by 2030. As part of the plan, Victorian industries relying on native forest sourced wood are being supported to move to a plantation-sourced wood supply where possible.
The Gippsland Plantations Investment Program is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to support the sustainable growth of Victoria’s plantation estate and transition away from native forest harvesting in line with the Victorian Forestry Plan.
The program will use government’s $110 million commitment to new plantation development to leverage and accelerate private investment and boost new plantation development in Gippsland.
New plantations will not be ready for planned native timber volume reductions in 2024 or 2030 and are not intended to replace native timber tree for tree.
The Victorian Government will work to make sure that new plantation development is complementary to existing privately-owned plantations and other land uses, including agriculture.
VicForests in partnership with the Victorian Government is in the early stages of developing a farm forestry program. This program will be focussed on maximising the contribution that farm forestry can make to increasing the supply of plantation timber while delivering a range of other benefits to private land holders and the community. The government expects to be able to release more details about the program in early 2021.
Latrobe Valley Crown Land Plantations
Planting of blue gum seedlings on 230 hectares of two crown land sites in the Latrobe Valley has been recently completed by VicForests. This in addition to the 250 hectares planted last year. These plantings are complementary to privately owned plantations and other land uses, including agriculture.
Gippsland National Institute for Forest Products Innovation
In collaboration with the Commonwealth the Gippsland Centre of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) is part of the Victorian Forestry Plan’s promotion of research and development opportunities to help diversify the sector.
The initiative will complement future grants to individual businesses under the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund, assisting the industry to transition from native timber harvesting to plantation timber.
In addition to becoming a hub of expertise and fostering collaboration, the NIFPI will provide grants to forestry initiatives with projects covering areas such as plantation management, timber processing, wood fibre recovery, advanced manufacturing and the bioeconomy. These projects will complement the transformation of the industry.
The NIFPI will receive ongoing administrative support from Forest and Wood Products Australia and is expected to promote cutting-edge research that leads to targeted investment to boost the sector, enabling future job growth in Gippsland.
Page last updated: 19 March 2021