New Government Forestry Grants

October 22, 1999 The Rural News

Australia's $2 billion a year trade deficit in forest products and the destruction of farmland through dry land salinity are to be tackled through $3 million in grants announced by the Federal Government.

The bulk of the money, $2.33 million goes to Greening Australia to promote the commercial farming of trees by landholders and community groups.

Forestry Minister Wilson Tuckey said the grants would be used to promote he sustainable harvest of timber. "Australia is now borrowing $2 billion per annum from the rest of the world to pay for the difference between our forest products consumption and what we manage to produce to the point of export from our own resources," Mr Tuckey told reporters.

"And that is all primarily because we continue to export raw materials such as woodchip and green sawn timber instead of paper and furniture." Mr Tuckey said Australia had the ability to turn this around, but would not be able to attract the investment needed unless it could guarantee sustainable supplies of timber.

Greening Australia chief executive Mark Thomas said plantation forests had the added benefit of helping to reduce the impact of dry land salinity. "The incorporation of tree crops into farming systems offers a classic win-win solution," he said.

Farm forestry offers farmers the opportunity to grow trees as a cash crop, while at the same time providing benefits to farm productivity and the environment through control of erosion and salinity."

Funding for the projects comes from the $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust Fund.