Tasmanian State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural land 2009

Tasmania has had a rabidly pro-forestry Parliament for generations; at least rabid in terms of rhetoric!

But when it came to developing a State policy on the protection of agricultural land plantation forestry was the only primary industry specifically mentioned.

http://www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/policy/state_policies

Plantation forestry is the ONLY primary production that is specifically excluded from designated prime agricultural land in Tasmania.

Principles 3.10 and 3.11 of the Policy specifically discuss plantation forestry. Principe 3.10 provides a general exclusion of plantation forestry from Prime Agricultural Land, whilst 3.11 allows plantation forestry to be excluded from any other agricultural land.

What is the purpose of the Policy?What developments are affected?Where does the Policy apply?
To conserve and protect agricultural land so that it remains available for the sustainable use and development of agriculture, recognising the particular importance of prime agricultural land. ‘Agricultural use’ includes use of the land for propagating, cultivating or harvesting plants or for keeping and breeding of animals, excluding domestic animals and pets. It includes the handling, packing or storing of agricultural produce for dispatch to processors or markets and controlled environment agriculture and plantation forestry.Proposed non-agricultural use and development that is ‘discretionary ‘or ‘prohibited’ on land zoned either Significant Agriculture or Rural Resources in planning schemes or land adjoining these zones but with a different zoning.All agricultural land in Tasmania zoned either Significant Agriculture or Rural Resources in planning schemes

Prime Agricultural Land (PAL) is defined as land with Land Capability Classes 1-3, as discussed in the following website:

https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/agriculture/land-management-and-soils/land-and-soil-resource-assessment/land-capability

PAL comprises 108,000 ha or just 4.3% of Tasmanian private land.

So why specifically exclude plantation forestry from 4.3% of Tasmania’s private land?

Why not exclude mohair goats, walnuts or truffles as well? Why pick on trees?

For a rabidly pro-forestry Parliament this Policy makes no sense whatsoever.

If a farmer plants a tree on any of these 108,000 ha are they breaking the law? Will they be prosecuted?

I know lots of farmers say you can’t eat wood, but as the recent global timber shortage demonstrated, neither can you build houses out of vegetable waste!!

As I’ve said many times before the forest industry in Tasmania is struggling to build a future. It wants to encourage farm forestry, but the Government has put numerous hurdles in its path. This Policy is one such hurdle.

Another hurdle is the treatment of plantation forestry under the Forest Practices Code. Plantation forestry should be treated just like any other primary industry, subject to the same rules and regulations. Just like it is in New Zealand!

It’s called a level playing field, and allows farmers to make better investment decisions to improve their commercial performance.

Now I think about it, the only reason plantation forestry is specifically mentioned in this policy is a warning to politicians. Under current markets the only way forest plantations would be grown on prime agricultural land is if politicians intervened to distort and corrupt markets as they did during the Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) disaster.

But as the world continues to run short of timber and wood prices increase, this Policy will need to be reviewed. The Tasmanian Government will need to start encouraging farmers to grow trees instead of discouraging them.

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