Letter, Business Age, 24/4/07
Following on from the comments of Anthony Amis (BusinessDay, 4/4) about plantations, there are also negatives to hardwood plantations.
In the area of Gippsland where I live, farms (mostly dairy) are being bought up and turned into hardwood plantations for paper-making.
This does virtually nothing to protect native forest, which has been almost totally destroyed here anyway. The plantations bring several problems in addition to those mentioned by Amis:
- When enough discrete plantations exist they provide fire corridors where previously grazed land was relatively fire safe.
- Gradually communities of people are replaced by trees, with erosion of all the social benefits that accompany living communities. Less people living in the area means less jobs, obviously.
- The log trucks destroy roads not intended for those weights very quickly. Ratepayers have to pay for repairs and there are less people to pay the rates
- Unlike pine plantations where according to popular rural belief, nothing else grows, hardwood plantations encourage the growth of blackberries, thistles, ragwort and other weeds. Farmers inspect and manage their land constantly, but large plantation companies tend to inspect their land very infrequently, so these weeds infest neighbouring properties. So do the foxes, rabbits and other pests that multiply.
- Plantations carry the same problems that all clear felling brings — erosion, water quality issues, and an unpleasant ugliness of outlook.
With the growth in the numbers of "tree changers" I would certainly rather see communities of people who love the rural lifestyle and can earn a living from a variety of activities and support small towns, than have the problems that plantations bring.