Hardwood plantation estate declines

Providing the evidence for industry efforts to encourage plantation expansion to supply the next generation of forest resource in Australia, the latest plantation data shows the national estate continuing to decline. In the latest release of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) plantation statistics, the clear difference in trajectory between the nation’s softwood and hardwood plantations becomes increasingly evident.

The summary below has been supplied by ABARES.

Total plantation estate

Australia’s total commercial plantation area declined by 26 260 hectares from 2013–14 to 1 973 400 hectares in 2014–15 (Figure 1). The total softwood plantation area increased by around 11 200 hectares and was comprised of 130 hectares of new plantations and around 11 070 hectares identified because some plantation managers revised their area figures, including fallow areas for the first time. The hardwood plantation area declined by 34 800 hectares as plantation managers returned unproductive plantation land to agriculture or to lessors on the expiration of hardwood plantation lease arrangements.


Source: ABARES

States and territories

In 2014–15 Victoria continued to have the largest total area of plantations, followed by New South Wales and Western Australia (Figure 2). The last time the New South Wales total plantation area was greater than Western Australia’s was 1999–2000, a year before the peak of new hardwood plantation establishments in Australia.

Between 2013–14 and 2014–15, the total plantation area decreased in all states except

New South Wales and the Northern Territory, which increased by 0.8 per cent and

6.5 per cent, respectively, mainly because of improved mapping of plantations.


New plantations

The area of new plantations established in 2014–15 was around 600 hectares (Figure 3), with the majority planted in the Northern Territory and Queensland. Around 500 hectares of new hardwood plantations were established, a decline of 60.1 per cent from 2013–14. Around 100 hectares of new softwood plantations were established in 2014–15, a decline of 65.9 per cent from 2013–14.

In comparison, in 1999–2000 around 137 500 hectares of new plantations were established in Australia, a difference of 136 800 hectares from 2014–15 (Table 1).


In 2014–15 institutional investors owned 50 per cent of the total plantation area.

Government owned 21 per cent and farm forestry and other private growers owned

21 per cent of the total plantation area in 2014–15. The proportion of plantations owned by managed investment schemes (MIS) continued to decline and was around 5 per cent in 2014–15. This was a result of plantations that were previously owned by MIS being sold to institutional and private investors. The plantation area owned by timber industry companies was around 4 per cent in 2014–15.


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