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Australia looks to the long isle for farm forestry inspiration

Farming and forestry aren’t always viewed as compatible, but a recent visit to New Zealand by industry representatives has revitalised the future of Australia's farm-forestry ventures

Representatives from the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) and the National Farmers' Federation (NFF), including AFPA Chair Greg McCormack and NFF President Fiona Simson, last month crossed the ditch to examine farm forestry operations near Rotorua.

The joint delegation of members from both peak bodies investigated ventures that have realised the benefits of the practice across the Tasman.

“New Zealanders do farm forestry really well. It’s very much accepted and respected among NZ farmers.

"Australia can certainly learn a lot from our neighbours on this issue,” Mr McCormack said.

There are a multitude of benefits to farm forestry including; investment and income diversification for traditional farmers, protection for stock and crops and improved water quality on properties.

“In Australia, we haven’t been as accepting of the practice, but hopefully with the NFF taking a strong and unprecedented interest, feelings will change,” Mr McCormack said.

“It’s always great to be able to see the ways in how different countries produce a whole range of agricultural products. In New Zealand, with farm forestry, we are seeing some excellent results,” Ms Simson said.

“In New Zealand, more than 578,000 hectares or 34 per cent of plantation forest is owned by private individuals with parcels of no more than 10,000 hectares,” Ms Simson said.

By contrast in Australia, there are 150,000 hectares of small scale planted forest established by farmers. Furthermore, in places like the United States and Sweden, more like 50% of forests are owned by farmers, families and small landholders.

Curent research on farm forestry in Australia is also pointing to real benefits. Early results from the CSIRO show that when 5-10% of a farm is under trees, it can increase the productivity of other agricultural products on the farm.

“There’s a way to go, but the more we talk about it, the more we talk up the benefits, the more the take-up of farm forestry will improve in Australia,” Ms Simson said.

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