01 August 2022
North East NSW is a favourable region for establishing and growing planted forests for timber and environmental benefits. Much of the region experiences high rainfall, has productive soil and a long growing season. Tree growth rates are relatively high compared with other regions and there are a broad range of landscapes to support a diverse range of native and exotic species. On the coast and hinterland plantation species such as blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis), spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), and southern pines (Pinus elliottii, Pinus caribaea and their hybrids) all perform well. On the tablelands radiata pine (Pinus radiata) is a proven performer. When established on cleared land these plantations will produce sawlogs, poles, and veneer as well as fencing timber and firewood. The same plantations can be used to protect and restore soils and water catchments, enhance biodiversity, and capture and store carbon.
North East NSW has a well-established timber industry which services a growing national demand for wood. There are over fifty active wood processing facilities within the region which means that land where trees can be grown is often located close to a market.
A combination of environmental and socio-economic metrics were used to model the suitability of cleared land for five discrete planted forest types, namely:
- Commercial hardwood (eucalypt) plantations
- Commercial southern pine plantations
- Commercial radiata pine plantations
- Farm forestry plantings
- Environmental plantings
Mapping and analyses found 630,000 hectares of cleared land suitable for hardwood plantations, 730,000 ha of cleared land suitable for southern pine plantation and 740,000 ha suitable for radiata pine plantation. When parameters were applied to distinguish between optimal and sub-optimal land the extent of suitable land was much reduced.
There were fewer geographic constraints applied to farm forestry plantings and environmental plantings. 1.52 million ha of land was found to suitable for farm forestry and 3.52 million ha of land was found to suitable for environmental plantings.