Plantations

Plantation grown timbers are a renewable resource, which provide positive and long-lasting social, environmental and economic benefits to the Western Australian community.

The Forest Products Commission (FPC) has more than 100,000 hectares of plantations under its management.

The main plantation species used by industry are radiata pine (Pinus radiata) and maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). These are softwood species that have been planted over many years to help reduce Australia’s reliance on imported timbers. Other plantations include WA sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) and various eucalypt species. FPC managed plantations are located over a broad geographic area that extends from Moora in the north to Esperance in the south.

Plantations

Pine plantations

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Pine plantations were established to meet the State’s expanding demand for structural timber. The softwood plantation sector in Western Australia contributes to the more than $1.4 billion per year generated by the forest industry and supports the employment of more than 1,900 people.

We manage pine plantations of radiata pine (Pinus radiata) and maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) on state-owned and managed land and tree farms on leased farmland. The primary commercial products are pine sawlog and pine industrial wood logs. The plantations provide the resource for three main processing plants – Wespine sawmill at Dardanup, Wesbeam laminated veneer lumber (LVL) just north of Perth and particleboard production at the Laminex site in Dardanup. The supply of pine resource to all three major processing plants is under State Agreement Acts with terms of 25 years.

The Softwood Industry Strategy for Western Australia has been developed to provide the foundation for growing the softwood plantation estate into the future.

A report, Midwest pine as a resource for Carnaby's Cockatoo, was commissioned in 2018 to determine the potential for FPC's midwest pine plantations to offer an alternative food resource for the Carnaby's Cockatoo.

Eucalypt plantations

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The FPC is rationalising sharefarm plantations that were established in the 1990s and 2000s which did not meet anticipated outcomes. These are primarily eucalypt plantings. 

As part of the ongoing rationalisation of sharefarms, we are looking to provide landowners with the option to take possession of trees, or to provide the option to clear trees through an early harvest, if markets are available.

Divesting uneconomical and unsustainable plantations will allow us to focus our resources on increasing the softwood estate in suitable areas in line with the Softwood Industry Strategy for Western Australia.

Since the late 1980s, large areas of Tasmanian blue gum were planted by the State Government and private investors to produce pulpwood for high quality paper manufacture in Asia. These plantations have significantly decreased in recent times but still occur throughout the south western and southern coastal areas of the State. The timber is exported as woodchips from Albany and Bunbury.

Mallees

Mallees are a group of hardy eucalypt species well adapted to Western Australia's lower rainfall agricultural areas and have been used in many carbon sequestration projects. The primary species planted in Western Australia are: 

  • Eucalyptus loxophleba 
  • Eucalyptus polybractea
  • Eucalyptus kochii

More than 14,000 hectares of oil mallees have been planted across the Wheatbelt landscape, mostly in belts intergrated with existing farming activities to develop an industry producing eucalyptus oil and biomass for energy production.

Sandalwood plantations

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Demand for Western Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) oil and wood, particularly in Asia, has been strong for centuries and continues to grow. Currently sandalwood is harvested almost exclusively from natural ‘wild’ stands in the Rangelands. However, future supply is expected to be complemented by sandalwood sourced from plantations established by the FPC, private companies and individual farmers. We currently manage over 6,000 hectares of sandalwood plantation throughout the Wheatbelt and Midwest regions.

WA sandalwood has developed into a growing tree farm industry. When integrated into the farming landscape, sandalwood plantations contribute to improving the Wheatbelt environment and provide income diversity options for farmers.
 

Tree farming

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Well-designed integrated tree farming can deliver a range of benefits, which help mitigate the effects of climate change and decreasing rainfall patterns.

  • Dryland salinity: substantial tree plantings in previously cleared areas will assist in managing the effects of salinity. Progress is monitored via bores located in planted areas and also in unplanted control areas in the same region, to produce comparative results. 
  • Water levels: in areas not yet affected by salinity, the rise in the water table caused by extensive land clearing can progressively make land unusable through water-logging. Well-designed plantings are aimed at reducing and managing the level of the water table. 
  • Carbon sequestration: tree plantings are an effective strategy in offsetting the growing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases to the atmosphere. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. 
  • Commercial outputs: mature trees have a range of commercial uses, including timber for construction and furniture manufacturing, fibre for manufacture of wood products such as particle board, veneers for laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and exotic uses such as the sale of sandalwood for incense and oils. The harvesting, processing and marketing of mature trees has the potential to create sustainable jobs in regional areas. 
  • Farm benefits: stands of trees provide windbreaks, shelter for stock, help reduce soil erosion, and can help protect fragile natural vegetation, as well as providing biodiversity and aesthetic benefits on-farm. And, importantly, the project provides options for an income stream – often from unproductive areas - to assist in the main business activities of the farm.

The main species for commercial outputs are pines, sandalwood, eucalypts and oil mallees.
 

Page reviewed 30 September 2020