Victorian government to plant 16 million trees in Gippsland to maintain state’s timber supply

The Victorian government is investing in a new plantation estate in Gippsland to plant millions of trees to maintain the state’s timber supply and reduce emissions. 

A $120 million investment will fund the plantation of 16 million trees in regional Victoria in collaboration with Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP), who are expected to match the state government’s investment. 

The trees will be planted on 14,000 hectares across Gippsland — the equivalent of 7,000 MCGs — and the state government says it will “underpin” 2,000 new and existing jobs in regional Victoria. 

Environmental approval

Friends of the Earth campaigns coordinator Cam Walker said it was a great but overdue investment. 

“This is an investment that really should have been happening 30 years ago. However today is the next best time,” he said. 

“After the fires of 2019-2020, native forest logging is facing a terrible shortfall.

“The model that we need to move towards is to rely on all our trees, all our fibre needs, coming from non-native forest sources.” 

In 2019, the state government announced it would cease large-scale native forest harvesting in state forests by 2030. 

Once approved, plantings are expected to begin next year and should lead to all harvested trees being sourced from plantations — an increase from the current 83 per cent.

Mr Walker said creating a stronger source of plantation timber in Gippsland was also important.

“At present, most of our plantation stock is in the west of the state, and there is a transport cost of bringing that wood to Gippsland to process,” he said.

Plantations on greenfield sites

HVP chief executive Stephen Ryan said the plantations would be on greenfield sites.

“This is an eight to 10 year program. So we’ll do it in a very calculated manner that won’t cause any disruption to the market,” he said.

“We won’t be going after prime agricultural land either — we can’t afford that, and we don’t need it.”

Mr Ryan said it would take around 14 years before some timber could be harvested for pulp wood, with the rest typically harvested in 25-27 years’ time. 

“This is sorely needed,” he said. 

“There has been no expansion of the softwood plantation industry in Australia for over 20 years.

“I think everyone’s familiar with shortages of building products and timber generally.

“Now the Victorian government is doing something about it, and we’re pleased to work with them to do that.” 

Reducing emissions

The investment should also reduce the state’s emissions by removing an estimated 7.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years.

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said the project would help to support Gippsland workers into the future.

“This investment will deliver Australia’s largest softwood plantation to Gippsland, and it is a vital part of industry support and jobs growth as the transition continues across the region,” she said.