Saturday, 10 February 2007

Walnuts or Woodchips + Erica Strikes Again

Walnuts or Woodchips With ongoing concern about the negative impact of tax breaks for timber plantation investors, we might have expected the federal government to be looking at reducing or removing such breaks. It has been argued that such tax breaks give timber plantations unfair advantages in competition with traditional farming types.
So what has the government done? It's moved in exactly the opposite direction. It removed the tax breaks on EVERYTHING EXCEPT TIMBER PLANTATIONS. Previously tax breaks had applied to a variety of traditional agricultural crops. No more! Those evil people who were planting walnut and stonefruit trees, using tax breaks, won't be able to get away with their travesty any more. At least everyone seems to be outraged about this [and here, or see the search].
I have to assume that this means that over time we will see timber plantations slowly take over even more former farmland. We all know the old Cree Indian saying about being unable to eat money.
Now, it's quite possible that timber plantations do require some assistance to make them attractive investments. It would seem however that the balance isn't right. Do we need plantation timber to be more attractive than growing food crops or pastoral agriculture? Perhaps the government should revisit the scale of the tax break, and do some careful analysis of the capacity for traditional agriculture to compete.
This article shows how grumpy some people are about this, and gives a better explanation of the schemes.
Erica Betts' understanding of where woodchips come from (Internet)Erica Strikes Again And lastly, can I just note this letter from Erica Betts seems to imply that we only make woodchips from the little bits of timber left over after cutting round logs into square boards. Actually the vast bulk of timber taken from our forests becomes woodchips, or is left to burn, rather than becoming sawlogs. Most trees just aren't suitable for sawlog production. The question is why we chop them down at all, and whether they might be worth more if we left them standing up. The letter from Erica is either disingenuous or thick, take your choice. I don't think he'd try to peddle this tripe in Tasmania, but maybe he thought he could get away with it in The Age.

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