A Departmental review of the restrictions in the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) that effectively exclude plantation and farm forestry projects from the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) has confirmed that these barriers should be removed. 

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) urges the Government to finally act to allow forestry to play a greater role in Australia’s climate change efforts and grow more trees, vitally needed for future timber production.

A letter from the Assistant Minister with responsibility for Forestry, which has been released to the Senate, urges Environment Minister Melissa Price to remove rainfall restrictions which are strangling carbon sequestration opportunities for Plantations and Farm Forestry.

The February 2019 letter notes that water use by plantations is already considered through state water planning processes and the National Water Initiative, and that under the CFI regulations the Agriculture Minister also has complete veto power over any plantation project deemed to have “an undesirable impact on agricultural production”.

In his letter, Senator Colbeck says:

“In recognition of the government’s commitment to review the water restrictions for plantations, and the clear lack of new plantation development that is occurring at the present time, I would like to request your consideration of removing the 600mm rule from the CFI negative list and the 400mm rule from the farm forestry methodology. I believe this will have untold benefits for Australia’s carbon abatement goals and for our forestry industry…I look forward to working with you on considering his important action in support of a strong and viable forestry industry.”

In its National Forest Industries Plan, released in September last year, the Federal Government committed to “undertaking a review of the water requirements in the [CFI] farm forestry and plantation methodologies to enable forestry to fully participate in the ERF”.

Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Mr Ross Hampton, welcomed Senator Colbeck’s letter backing AFPA’s campaign to remove the water restrictions in the CFI and thanked him for his support for the industry.

Meanwhile, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Joel Fitzgibbon has now promised a future Labor Government would do the right thing in this area.  In a media release, Mr Fitzgibbon said:

“A Shorten Labor Government is committed to removing the water rule and will reinvigorate the land offset market, to help industry reduce pollution at least cost, and give farmers, the forestry industry and traditional land owners new opportunities to earn income.”

Mr Hampton said “AFPA has been seeking equal footing for production trees with environmental trees in carbon reduction policy for more than three years.  It is gratifying that we are finally seeing some common sense applied to this matter but deeply disappointing that it is coming in the dying days of this Parliament when there is no time left for the Morrison Government to table the regulation and have the anomaly corrected.

“AFPA will be making this our number one issue in the coming election campaign and will be seeking unequivocal commitments from candidates and Parties particularly in forestry focused seats.

“We shall be ensuring the communities who work in our industries, in those electorates understand which candidates are backing the growth of a resource base for our industry, and are therefore helping secure the future for the 120,000 Australians who work across the forest industry value chain around Australia,” Mr Hampton concluded.