At a national live streamed forest industries debate, hosted by the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) in Launceston last night, Senator Richard Colbeck, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, announced that a re-elected Coalition Government would provide $500 million in low interest loans to plantation growers.

Chief Executive Officer of AFPA Mr Ross Hampton said, “This is a very welcome development in this campaign. Both major Parties have agreed Australia needs 400,000 additional hectares of production trees over the next ten years, with plantings to be focused in Regional Forest Industry Hubs. However, the Parties have very different approaches to the mechanism to trigger those plantings.”

AFPA was this week highly critical of the Government ruling out removing the barriers to entry for plantations and farm forestry in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). Labor has unequivocally said it would do this if elected.

Last night however the Government has put on the table its own plan for tree planting with a $500 million low interest loan promise.

Mr Hampton said, “the Government has clearly acknowledged that having a Plan without a mechanism to prompt tree planting was inadequate – and that’s a great step forward. AFPA will analyse the $500 million low interest loan promise over the next few days to assess its effectiveness.

“The National Forest Industries Debate also saw the announcement by the Government that the South West Slopes area of NSW, around Tumut and Tumbarumba, would be immediately added to the list of initial Regional Forest Industry Hubs.

“The ALP announced yesterday that it would fund all 13 of AFPA’s proposed Regional Forest Industry Hubs, including South West Slopes in NSW and Southern Tasmania.

“Both Parties also affirmed their commitment to rolling RFA’s with 5-year reviews.

“AFPA will be assessing all promises against the goals of our 20,000 jobs growth plan and scoring the Parties before polling day,” Mr Hampton concluded.