Blue gum plantation resurgence as investors capitalise on 'Rolls Royce' of woodchips

Blue gum tree plantations could play a vital role in Australia's future carbon economy, according to forestry industry leaders, but they believe the Federal Government needs to change its current policies to recognise the hardwood's potential for carbon capture.

The managing director of forestry management company PF Olsen, Pat Groenhout, said the current lack of federal policy to recognise the capture and storage of carbon by the nation's hardwood estate was a significant hurdle faced by foresters and investors.

"I'm confident that the people who are responsible for making those decisions are increasingly recognising the important role that plantations are going to play in addressing climate change issues," Mr Groenhout said.

"But frankly, from the forest industry's perspective, it makes no sense at all that the things that are most likely to — and the most capable of — capturing and storing carbon in the long-term, aren't being recognised within the current Australian federal policy environment.

"But I guess we have, as an industry, some confidence that that will be resolved at a policy level as we head into the next few years."

His comments come as foresters across southern WA are seeing a steady growth and consolidation in the hardwood plantation industry, with the total value of annual output estimated at $345 million for the region, providing employment for more than 6,000 people.

Alongside more established agribusinesses, forestry has struggled to reverse a community perception that growing trees takes valuable farming country out of production and was initially an unreliable investment.

But a report by Canberra University researchers commissioned by Forest and Wood Products Australia indicated hardwood plantations now form a vital part of WA's economy that needs more investment to cash in on the growing world demand for blue gum pulpwood.

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