The Forestry Minister’s planned $350 million purchase of land for the State’s softwood plantation is already behind schedule.
It was revealed in Parliament on Tuesday that the Government had purchased land worth $6.2 million out of the $350million 10-year program that is projected to bolster the supply of pine and softwood timber.
“The Forestry Minster has repeatedly stated that it is the government’s preference to purchase land rather then enter into share farming agreements, so he is off to a very slow start so far, “Shadow Minister for Forestry Steve Martin MLC said.
“When the program was announced, it was intended to provide “at least 33,000 hectares.
“Minister Kelly has been repeatedly questioned about the feasibility of adding that many hectares in the high-rainfall areas of the South West necessary to grow plantation timber. Well, it appears the task is more difficult than he imagined.”
“$6.2 million out of $350million is not good enough. The available land is only going to get more expensive in coming years and the Minister will not meet the target of at least 33,000 hectares.”
The Minister revealed that some share farming agreements had been established and the Government was negotiating with Water Corporation to access land, but the total figure added to the plantation is less than 1500 ha.
Agricultural land in the high rainfall zone has risen in value and Minister Kelly’s ability to purchase land will diminish over time as that valuable land continues to appreciate.
“It might be time for the Minister to re-evaluate the amount of land that the fund can add to the softwood plantation.”
From the Minster’s response yesterday, it is also clear that the softwood plantation is being expanded in traditional farming areas further removed from the pine processing businesses.
“In the very first year of the program land has been acquired in West Arthur, Williams and Boddington. How far east does the Minister have to go to find enough land for the coming years?”