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Fear of fickle governments holds back tropical tree planting

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Cooperative Research-Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology & Management

Fear of fickle governments holds back tropical tree.planting For immediate release - Monday, September 14 1998

Landholders considering putting in plantations of rainforest timbers on their properties in north Queensland mistrust future government actions that could lock up this land through environment preservation orders,

This emerged a* one of the biggest barriers to commercial planting of rainforest timbers in a survey of landholders carried out by the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre (Rainforest CRC) in the Atherton, Eacham and Johnstone Shires of north Queensland.

Rainforest CRC researcher, Dr John Hcrbohn says this attitude has strong implications for Government incentive schemes seeking to boost commercial production of rainforest cabinet timbers in Australia.

“Many landholders expressed considerable concern in the survey about what would happen to rainforest plantations on their land,” Dr Herbohn says.

"They are worried that governments will stop them harvesting these trees, and will force them to manage these trees for purely environmental purposes

“Unless current and future governments can overcome these concerns, it is unlikely that large scale planting of rainforest trees for commercial purposes will be undertaken”

Survey respondents rated secure harvest rights and favourable tax treatment as the most valuable incentives to plant trees.

Existing schemes such as the Community Rainforest Reforestation Program and the Plantation Joint Venture Scheme have not been successful in persuading landholders to use trees as a commercial crop.

Other barriers to planting commercial rainforest trees centre around concern over ftiture cash flows. They included future prices, a long wait for returns, low timber prices, a lack o f information about returns and uncertainty about profitability.

But the landholders surveyed stressed the importance of planting native rainforest trees on their property for both environmental and personal satisfaction reasons,

“Landholders attached far greater importance to the environmental and landcare benefits o f trees than they did to commercial benefits,” Dr Herbohn says. “They also rated a personal interest in trees and a desire to ‘improve the look of the property’ as important reasons,

Cooperative Research C eelre tor Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management Director, Professor Nigel Storlt

Phone: 07 4042 1246; Fax; 07 4042 1247

“This suggests that tree planting schemes that Incorporate environmental valves would be more acceptable to landholder# than those simply designed to produce timber,"

The survey with a covering letter was distributed to 500 landholders with greater than 10 hectares of suitable land in the Atherton, Eacham and Johnstone Shires Almost half the landholders surveyed (45 percent) responded to the survey.

This Rainforest CRC project is jointly conducted with James Cook University and the University of Queensland and relies on cooperation from the Queensland Forest Research Institute, the Community Rainforest Reforestation Program and the Shires of Atherton, Eacham and Johnstone

Further statistical analysts is currently underway on the survey results, and researchers hope to more fUDy determine the major influences on landholder attitudes and behaviour towards planting trees for commercial timber production.

Respondents to the survey were eligible for a draw to win book vouchers K&K Mitchell of InnU&ii in the Johnstone Shire won a voucher for SI00 while Susu Holdings in the Atherton Shire and J&M M om s in the Eacham Shire each won vouchers for $50.

The Cooperative Research Centres Program was set up to strengthen collaborative research links between industry, research organisations, educational institutions and relevant government agencies.

For interview and further information: Dr John Herbohn, James Cook University, Phone 07 4781 4250 (work), 07 4781 5803 (Jjome/mobilc) Mr David Smorfitt, James Cook University, 07 4781 4230

For media assistance: Kerry Moore, Phone 07 4042 1245 (work), 0419 769 106 (mobile) Miranda Free, 0411 045 006 (mobile)

Cooperative Restore* Centre for Tropic*! Rainforest Ecology and Management Director, Professor Nigel Stork Phone: 07 4042 1246; Fax: 07 4042 1247