Monthly Archives: April 2020

Planting Timber Forests on Australian Farms – a Reaction

NextGeneration

This recently published article in the University of Melbourne journal Pursuit caught my eye:

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/planting-timber-forests-on-australian-farms

The article provides a very brief overview of the Next Generation Forest Plantation Investment Project:

https://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/nextgenplantations

The Project itself covered a great deal of ground and hence there is a great deal of reading material in the 10 separate reports and supporting documents.

Trying to distil all this material down into a digestible take home message is a challenge in itself. And it depends upon the intended audience. I’m not sure the article succeeded, with too much focus on “new business models”.

As I’ve been writing for many years, the forest industry in Australia is in serious trouble on just about every level. Many of the problems faced by the industry are of its own making.

Past attempts to reset the industry and plan a way forward have largely focused on what Governments and taxpayers can do for the industry. Not surprisingly vast sums of money have been wasted, for little if any gain. Often the outcome has been disastrous!

One could say that confidence within the Australian forest industry is at an all time low.

Back to The Project and the article….

The positives:

  • A focus on farm forestry and a recognition that this IS the future of the forest industry (many others in the industry strongly disagree with this sentiment);
  • A recognition that the forest industry itself needs to change its attitudes and behaviour towards the broader rural community (this is a very rare admission!);
  • A recognition that the forest industry itself needs to take control of its own future and not expect Governments and taxpayers to do the job;
  • Within Report 10 of the Project is a list of 11 recommended actions which the forest industry itself should do to support more commercial tree investment on rural land. This is very rare indeed!

The negatives:

  • The Project covers too much ground! The forest industry just doesn’t have the resources to deal with half of the recommended Actions, even if it wanted too. And I expect half the industry just isn’t interested.
  • The article focuses on “new businesses models”, as if this is the keystone to all of the forest industries problems and potential. The article fails to convince me. I see other issues being more pressing and significant.
  • Where to next? With an enormous list of recommended actions the Report provides no clues to how any of these actions are to be implemented or by when. Will this Project become yet another forest industry dust collecting exercise?

About the best statement in the article is this:

The industry recognises that creating opportunities from more commercial trees on rural land will require them to change the way they interact with rural landowners.

That is a unique and extraordinary statement.

Meanwhile there is no evidence that the industry does in fact recognise the need for change.

So would the average Australian farmer be convinced by this article (assuming they even hear about this project)? I doubt it.

They would see the focus on “new business models” and assume it was Managed Investment Schemes (MIS) Mark 2, designed to take their money and land and rip them off yet again.

As far as the farming audience goes, the article has the wrong message.

So dear reader, tell me what you think of the article?

Are you brave enough to wade into all the Project Reports?

Happy  reading!

PS. Farm forestry has been promoted in Australia since the 1960s with very little progress over the last 50+ years. Has anyone in the forest industry ever asked the question – what are we doing wrong?