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Land Use Trends

This section outlines available data on land use trends for agriculture and plantation forestry over the period from 1985 to 2002.

Agricultural statistics have mainly been supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics directly on request. For most of the period those data comes from an annual census of agricultural establishments. For the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 years the statistics are less reliable than for other years because they comes from a representative sample of agricultural establishments rather than a full census.

Forestry data comes from a range of sources including Forestry Tasmania and Private Forests Tasmania.


3.1. AGRICULTURE

3.1.1. NUMBER OF FARMS
On the surface Australian Bureau of Statistics figures appear to suggest that total number of farms or agricultural establishments7 has declined by almost 20 per cent since 1986 - from 5,315 to 4,286 (Table 2). However, the apparent reduction is at least partly due to the inclusion, or exclusion, over time of establishments with relatively low total income.

The 1986 figures include all establishments with an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) of more than $2,500. For 1991all establishments with an EVAO greater than $20,000 are included, and for 1996 and 2001 all establishments with an EVAO of more than $5,000 are included. This explains much of the variation in the number of establishments where EVAO is less than $22,500 in Table 2.


Table 2: Total Number of Agricultural Establishments, Tasmania
by Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations

Table 2: Total Number of Agricultural Establishments, Tasmania

Notes:  1986: Establishments included with EVAO greater than $2,500
1991: Establishments included with EVAO greater than $20,000
1996, 2001: Establishments included with EVAO greater than $5,000
 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Census (ANZIC by EVAO Range)
With the exclusion of establishments where the EVAO is less than $22,500 the total number of establishments has been more consistent over time at around 3,000 to 3,400 (Figure 1).

Since 1986, the number of smaller establishments has declined while the number of larger establishments has increased. This is mainly a result of the trend in most agricultural sectors for increases in farm size and output. To some extent it is also due to increases in nominal prices for agricultural products.

Figure 1: Total Number of Agricultural Establishments by Size - Smaller Farms Excluded
For establishments with EVAO greater than $22,500

Figure 1: Total Number of Agricultural Establishments by Size - Smaller Farms Excluded
 


Source: See Table 3.

At the present time a gross income of at least $100,000 would normally be required for a farm business in Tasmania to be commercially viable on a stand-alone basis. On this basis there are currently around 1,700 commercially viable agricultural establishments in Tasmania. In fact, a gross income of $200,000 is probably a more realistic threshold for stand-alone commercial viability. In 2001 there were slightly less than 1,000 establishments with an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) of $200,000 or more. It should be noted that so-called agricultural establishments often earn additional income from non-agricultural pursuits such as forestry or from off-farm sources.

Around three-quarters of the total agricultural establishments are in the Northern and North Western Natural Resource Management Regions (Table 3). These Regions also have a higher proportion of larger properties in terms of their estimated value of agricultural operations.

 

Table 3: Number of Agricultural Establishments by Natural Resource Management Region
(2001)
 Table 3: Number of Agricultural Establishments by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Census (ANZIC by EVAO Range).

3.1.2. OVERALL AGRICULTURAL LAND USE
The total area of agricultural establishments in Tasmania is around 1.9 million hectares and appears to have remained fairly constant at around that level for the past 15 years or so (Error! Not a valid bookmark self-reference.).

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics survey and census data, the total area of establishments where the main source of income is agriculture has declined from around 2.1 million hectares in 1984-85 to 1.8 million hectares in 2001-02. However, this apparent decline may be misleading. If the first two years are discounted, the total area of agricultural establishments has in fact been fairly steady at around 1.9 million hectares.

The reason for discounting the first two years is that in 1985 and 1986 rural establishments were defined as having an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) of $2,500 or more. From 1987 to 1991 the threshold was lifted to $20,000 thereby excluding a large number of smaller establishments - and their land area. For 1992 and 1993 the threshold was lifted further to $22,500. From 1994 to the present the minimum EVAO level has been reduced to $5,000.

In addition, the apparent drop to around 1.8 million hectares in 2002 may require confirmation from a future census - 2002 was a survey year rather than a full census as was the case in 2001.

The total area of agricultural establishments in Error! Not a valid bookmark self-reference. and Table 4 has been allocated to crops, sown pastures, native pastures and a balance figure, which includes timbered areas (native bush and plantations) occurring on agricultural establishments.

Figure 2: Agricultural Land Use in Tasmania
Figure 2: Agricultural Land Use in Tasmania 

Source: See Table 4


Table 4: Agricultural Land Use, Tasmania
('000 hectares)

Table 4: Agricultural Land Use, Tasmania
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Crops (including fodder crops) make up around four per cent of the total area of agricultural establishments in Tasmania.

Sown pastures (including areas cut for hay and silage) make up almost 50 per cent of the total area of agricultural establishments in Tasmania. Some of the variations that occur between years may possibly be due to changes in the way in which overall land use questions have been posed and analysed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics over time. Based on Private Forests Tasmania data, the actual area of plantations in 2001 that were on land used for pasture five years earlier has been assessed at 22,400 hectares (Table 26). This represents around 2.4 per cent of the 919,000 hectares of sown pastures in 2001.

In the most recent agricultural census (2001), native pastures and "balance" which includes forest areas make up 22 per cent and 25 per cent of the total area respectively. While the figures appear to show some reduction in native pastures over time this may not be the case if figures for the first two years (1985 and 1986) are discounted - as discussed above. Other than these two years the native pasture figure has generally been in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 hectares. Similarly, despite what appears to be some anomalies in the mid 1990s the "balance" area has also remained in the 400,000 to 500,000 hectare range. As outlined above, this figure mainly reflects plantation and native forests on agricultural establishments. That is, establishments that have agriculture as their main source of income.

Overall, the data does not appear to support the view that there has been any significant change in agricultural land use over the past 15 years. The apparent 134,000 hectare reduction in sown pastures in 2002 comes from a survey rather than a full census and will need to be confirmed by future survey or census results.

3.1.3. AREA OF HOLDINGS BY FARM TYPE
As noted above the total area of agricultural establishments in Tasmania is around 1.9 million hectares. These are farms where the main source of income is agriculture.

Figure 3 and Table 5 show the changes in areas and proportion by farm type from 1986 to 2001.

Around 75-80 per cent of total farm area is associated with establishments with broadacre farming as the main source of income. Broadacre farming includes sheep and beef farming and cereal cropping.

Also, as noted above, the apparent reduction in total area between the 1986 Census and more recent years is at least partly due to changes over time in the Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations criteria for including, or excluding, establishments in the agricultural census.

Figure 3: Total Area of Agricultural Establishments by Farm Type

Figure 3: Total Area of Agricultural Establishments by Farm Type
Source: See Table 5

While "intensive livestock" and "other agriculture" are included in Figure 3 so that all farm types are represented, the actual areas occupied are very small ( Table 5 ) and as a result are not readily visible in the graph.

Table 5 : Total Area of Agricultural Establishments by Farm Type, Tasmania
 Table 5 : Total Area of Agricultural Establishments by Farm Type, Tasmania

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 3).


3.1.4. CROPS
Total Crop Area

Currently there is almost 80,000 hectares of crops grown in Tasmania each year. Most of this is annual crops such as cereals, vegetables and poppies. There is also an area of around 7,000 hectares of perennial crops such as apples, cherries, apricots, walnuts and grapes (Table 6).

Since 1985 the area of cereals and vegetables has remained relatively constant. However, the area of poppies has increased more than threefold over the same period. This increase has occurred throughout the State but particularly in the Northern Natural Resource Management Region where it has been able to compensate for the reduction in income from sheep. It has been associated with an increase in the demand for irrigation water as most poppy crops are now irrigated.

In the past few years there has also been an increase in the area of perennial horticulture.

The "other crops" component of the total crop area consists mainly of fodder crops and cereals for hay/silage. It also includes crops such as legumes for grain and pyrethrum. The reduction in "other crops" area over time is most likely due to a substantial reduction in the area of fodder crops grown in association with the sheep industry, a practice that was more prevalent in the 1980s than at present. The "other crops" area was particularly high in 1985 and 1986. This may be partly due to the inclusion of additional smaller farms in the Australian Bureau of Statistics agricultural census data for these two years.

Figure 4: Crop Areas, Tasmania
('000 hectares)
 Figure 4: Crop Areas, Tasmania


Source: See Table 6

Table 6: Crop Areas, Tasmania
('000 hectares)
 Table 6: Crop Areas, Tasmania


Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Figure 5 and Table 7 show the total area of crops by Natural Resource Management Region.

The Northern Natural Resource Management Region currently grows almost 50 per cent of the total area of crops in the State, largely as a result of the large areas of cereals and "other crops" grown in this Region. The Southern and North Western Regions share the remaining 50 per cent on an almost equal basis.

Apart from 1985 and 1986 (discussed above), both the total crop area and the proportion of this in each of the three Natural Resource Management Regions has remained relatively constant since the mid 1980s.

Figure 5: Total Crop Area by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)
Figure 5: Total Crop Area by Natural Resource Management Region 

Source: See Table 7


Table 7: Total Crop Area by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)

Table 7: Total Crop Area by Natural Resource Management Region
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Cereals

Most cereals are grown on broadacre farms in the Northern and Southern Natural Resource Management Regions, with only a small proportion in the North Western Region. Cereals are relatively low gross margin crops and therefore do not compete well with higher value crops on the better cropping land in the North Western Region.

Table 8: Area of Cereals for Grain by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)
 Table 8: Area of Cereals for Grain by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

While the total area of cereals since 1985 has been relatively stable at around 20,000 to 25,000 hectares, there have been changes over time in the make-up of that total area. In recent times the area of barley has declined while the area of wheat has increased (Table 9). The increase in the area of wheat grown has been associated with the introduction of higher yielding feed wheat varieties in recent years.

Table 9: Cereal Areas, Tasmania
('000 hectares)
 Table 9: Cereal Areas, Tasmania

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Vegetables

The largest vegetable growing area is in the North Western Natural Resource Management Region. However, there has been some reduction in that Region in recent years and some growth in the Northern Region due to the larger scale opportunities offered in areas such as the northern Midlands and the north-east, and less competition for cropping land.

The larger vegetable areas for all three Natural Resource Management Regions in 1995 appear to be an anomaly, possibly due to the way in which the census figures were collected or analysed.

Table 10: Area of Vegetables by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)
 Table 10: Area of Vegetables by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey.
Note: There appears to be an anomaly with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 1995 - all figures are too high.

Potatoes (mainly for processing) make up over 40 per cent of the total area of vegetables grown in the State and the area grown has increased steadily since 1985 (Table 11). Gross margins on potatoes tend to be at the higher end of the vegetable gross margin scale, compared to peas, for example, which earn a lower margin per hectare.

The increase in potato area has been a significant driver behind the demand for additional irrigation water (Section 4). Potatoes generally require between four and five megalitres of water per hectare per annum.

Processing potatoes in Tasmania are grown under contract to one of two companies (Simplot or McCains) and increases in area over time are dependent on these companies increasing contracts to farmers, or in some cases by growing additional areas themselves under joint venture arrangements with farmers.

Overall, the increase in potato area since 1985 has been largely offset by a reduction in the area planted to peas as the demand for frozen peas has fallen.

The onion area, which expanded from around 600 hectares in 1985 to 1,600 hectares in the mid 1990s has dropped back to around 1,100 hectares in more recent times.

The areas of carrots, beans and broccoli, while not as great as potatoes and peas, have all shown a steady increase in recent times.

Table 11: Vegetable Areas, Tasmania
('000 hectares)
Table 11: Vegetable Areas, Tasmania 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Note : The area of "Other" Vegetables shown for 1995 appears to be an anomaly in the data held by Australian Bureau of Statistics for that year. The Total figure of 24,600 hectares for that year is probably also suspect - given that the totals both before and after are around 19,000 to 20,000 hectares.

Poppies

There has been strong growth in poppy area (and yield per hectare) throughout the State over the past 10 to 15 years. Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures the total area planted has increased from 4,700 hectares in 1985 to 16,100 hectares in 2002 (Table 12). In particular, the Northern Natural Resource Management Region has shown a threefold increase in the 10 years from 1992 to 2002 and currently makes up around half of the total area.

According to industry sources, the area planted to poppies increased further to around 17,500 hectares in 2003, however, the area being grown for the 2004 harvest has been reduced as a result of a build-up in stocks relative to anticipated market demand. The reduced area is likely to be maintained for at least the next year or so. Both contracting companies (Glaxo Smith Kline and Tas Alkaloids)8 expect areas to recover in several years and hopefully to continue to expand into the future.

The growth in poppy area has been one of the main drivers behind the expansion in irrigation water demand (Section 4), particularly in the Northern Natural Resource Management Region. Most poppy crops are irrigated and have an irrigation water requirement of between one and two megalitres per hectare per annum.

Table 12: Area of Poppies by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)
Table 12: Area of Poppies by Natural Resource Management Region 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey.

Perennial Horticulture

There has been strong growth in the area planted to perennial horticulture crops in recent years particularly in the Southern and Northern Natural Resource Management Regions (Table 13).


Table 13: Area of Perennial Horticulture by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)
 Table 13: Area of Perennial Horticulture by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Orchard fruit, which consists mainly of apples but more recently with increasing areas of cherries, apricots and walnuts, makes up the bulk of the area of perennial horticulture in the State.

While consistent data on the area of apples are not available over the period, in the late 1980s the total area planted was around 2,600 hectares. Data on total tree numbers (Appendix 4) show an increase from around 1.3 million at that time to 1.5 to 1.6 million currently. However, given that recent apple orchards are mostly planted at higher densities, the total area planted to apples may not have increased greatly (if at all) over the period.

The increase in orchard fruit in recent years is largely as a result of increased areas planted to cherries and apricots, almost exclusively in the Southern Natural Resource Management Region. This is a result of a growing realisation of the benefits of a relatively warm and dry climate in areas such as the Coal River Valley combined with the availability of irrigation water from the Coal River Irrigation Scheme and Hobart Water.

The area planted to walnuts has also shown steady growth since the mid 1990s and currently occupies a similar area of land to hops (Table 14). Walnuts are mainly being planted on the east coast (near Swansea), and with some more recent plantings in the Coal River Valley.

Table 14: Perennial Horticulture Areas, Tasmania
('000 hectares)
 Table 14: Perennial Horticulture Areas, Tasmania

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).


3.1.5. LIVESTOCK
Total Livestock Numbers

The area of improved and native pastures on agricultural establishments in the State is outlined above (Table 4). As discussed, year to year variations in the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates of sown and native pasture areas make it difficult to detect any real trends over time. There are no statistics that show the allocation of pasture areas to various livestock enterprises. However, there are statistics for the total numbers of grazing (and other) animals in the State (Table 15).

Sheep numbers have declined since 1985 due mainly to reduced returns to farmers. Higher feed prices in Tasmania tend to make pig and poultry production less economic than on the mainland, and numbers of pigs and poultry layers have also fallen. Beef cattle numbers have been relatively stable since 1985 although there has been a reduction since 1998. Dairy cattle numbers have increased over time but with some reduction since a peak in 1999. The apparent substantial drop in total dairy cattle numbers in 2002 comes from survey results rather than a census and needs to be interpreted with caution.


Table 15: Livestock Numbers, Tasmania
('000 head)

Table 15: Livestock Numbers, Tasmania
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).


Dairy Cattle

Total dairy cattle numbers have increased significantly since 1985, with a peak of 232,900 head in 1999 (Table 16).

The dairy industry is concentrated in the Northern and North Western Natural Resource Management Regions. Between 1985 and 2002 there has been an overall increase in both the Northern and North Western Natural Resource Management Regions but a reduction in the Southern Region.


Table 16: Total Dairy Cattle Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 head)
 Table 16: Total Dairy Cattle Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

While there has been some reduction in total dairy cattle numbers since 1999, total milk production reached a record high in 2002 before falling somewhat in 2003 when lower milk prices coincided with difficult seasonal conditions (Figure 6).

Total dairy cattle numbers include young stock and so it is possible that milking cow numbers may not have fallen to the same extent as total dairy cattle numbers. Australian Bureau of Statistics results for 2002 which indicate that there may have been a significant reduction in total numbers, particularly in the North Western and Southern Regions, come from a representative survey rather than a full census and will need to be confirmed with later figures.

The growth in dairy cattle numbers through to 1999 occurred concurrent with the growth in plantation forestry that occurred in the late 1990s. Conversion of beef and sheep properties in higher rainfall areas to large-scale dairies was a factor in that growth. A substantial increase in irrigated dairying was another factor.

While there has been steady growth in dairy cattle numbers and production, total dairy farm numbers in Tasmania have fallen steadily over time (Figure 6) as average farm size and cows milked per farm have increased9. The increase in average farm size is a result of existing dairy farms buying neighbouring properties, new large-scale dairy conversions, and the exit of smaller dairy farms. The exit of smaller farms was assisted to some extent in the late 1990s by the relatively high land prices paid by the forestry prospectus companies at that time. As well as being smaller in area, some of the dairy exits were also likely to have been less productive, being in higher altitudes or on poorer soil types.

In 2002, excellent pasture production in spring and early summer, and a record high milk price resulted in total production reaching a record 671 million litres. In 2003, however, poor seasonal conditions and low prices resulted in a sharp reduction in production.

 

Figure 6: Dairy Farm Numbers and Milk Production, Tasmania
Figure 6: Dairy Farm Numbers and Milk Production, Tasmania 

Source: Davey & Maynard, Tasmanian Dairy Industry Regional Profile, DRDC, January 2000 (updated with information provided by DPIWE)


If the peak of 2002 is ignored it appears that total milk production may have levelled off at around 600 million litres. Uncertainty over the future of the major manufacturing firm Bonlac, and recent low prices (apart from 2002), are the most likely causes of the apparent slow down in the long-running expansion of the State's dairy industry.

The availability of suitable land is unlikely to have been a factor in this apparent slow down in industry growth. Tasmania has a large area of suitable land throughout the State that could be converted to dairying, including properties of sufficient size to achieve a reasonable scale of operation. Adequate supplies of irrigation water may become a factor that limits growth in future years although there is potential for further storage of winter flood flows.

Beef Cattle

Since 1985 total beef cattle numbers have been relatively stable but with a peak in the late 1990s (Figure 7 and Table 17). As for dairying, the beef industry is concentrated in the Northern and North Western Natural Resource Management Regions. Currently around 85 per cent of all beef cattle are in these two regions.Total numbers have declined slightly since the peak in the late 1990s. The decline appears to be more significant in the Northern and Southern Regions than in the North Western Region.

Cattle numbers in the North Western Region have shown an overall increase over the period and have only declined slightly since 1999, despite the amount of pasture converted into plantations in that Region the late 1990s.


Figure 7: Beef Cattle Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 head)
 Figure 7: Beef Cattle Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: See Table 17

 

Table 17: Total Beef Cattle Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 head)
 Table 17: Total Beef Cattle Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region


Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Total beef cattle numbers have declined by 17 per cent from around 521,000 in 1996 to 432,000 in 2002. It is likely that at least some of this reduction is a result of the expansion of forestry plantation area. Other factors include conversion of beef cattle areas into large-scale dairy farms and relatively low beef prices throughout much of the 1990s.

Interestingly, however, while there was a sharp decline in total cattle numbers from 1996 to 2000, there has been some recovery in 2001 and 2002, possibly as a result of increasing beef prices (Table 17). There is, in fact, a similar number of beef cattle in Tasmania in 2002 as there was throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. This would tend to support the view that total cattle numbers have been influenced more by prices paid than by the amount of land taken up by plantation forestry.

Sheep

Total sheep numbers have declined by around 30 per cent since the latter half of the 1980s (Figure 8), following the demise of the reserve price scheme that had underpinned wool prices prior to that time. Along with the reduction in sheep numbers there has also been a 30 per cent reduction in wool production from around 20,000 to 14,000 tonnes.

Figure 8: Sheep & Lamb Numbers and Wool Production, Tasmania
Figure 8: Sheep & Lamb Numbers and Wool Production, Tasmania 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (See Appendix 4).


The sheep industry is concentrated in the Southern and Northern Natural Resource Management Regions which include the drier Midland and east coast areas which have extensive grazing areas generally more suited to sheep than beef cattle (Table 18).


Table 18: Total Sheep & Lamb Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 head)
 Table 18: Total Sheep & Lamb Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Pigs

Total pig numbers have fallen by over 60 per cent since 1985 - due mainly to declining returns. Higher feed prices in Tasmania tend to make production less profitable than for other Australian States.

Pig numbers are highest in the Northern Natural Resource Management Region (Table 19). Since 1985, numbers have fallen in all three Regions, but particularly in the Southern and North Western Regions.

Table 19: Total Pig Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 head)
Table 19: Total Pig Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (Appendix 4).

Poultry

Poultry layer numbers have fallen in all three Natural Resource Management Regions since 1985, associated with deregulation of the egg market and lower returns (Table 20).


Table 20: Total Poultry-Layer Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region
('000 birds)
Table 20: Total Poultry-Layer Numbers by Natural Resource Management Region 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS data available on request, Agricultural Commodity Survey (See Appendix 4).


3.2. FORESTRY
This section focuses on the plantation estate, primarily on private land.

In June 2001 there were 3,352,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania covering 47 per cent of the State's land area. In 2002 the area of plantation forest was about 207,000 hectares or 6 per cent of the total forest area. About 1,115,000 hectares of forest, including 124,000 hectares of plantation is on privately owned land.

Tree plantations are included as an agricultural use in the State Policy on Protection of Agricultural Land. In many respects tree plantations are farms growing a crop of trees, all be it a large crop grown over a long period of time.


3.2.1. PLANTATION FORESTRY
Records for plantations on private land in Tasmania were not kept systematically prior to 1998 and are unreliable. Since 1998, there has been a 55 per cent increase in the total area, entirely due to the net increase in hardwood plantations (Figure 9 and Table 21).


Figure 9: Area of Hardwood and Softwood Plantations on Private and Public Land in Tasmania
('000 hectares)
Figure 9: Area of Hardwood and Softwood Plantations on Private and Public Land in Tasmania 

Source: Table 21

While the proportion of plantations on private land has varied from year to year, the figures from 1999 to 2002 indicate that this proportion is increasing. In 2002, plantations on private land occupied 124,000 hectares or 59 per cent of the total plantation area.


Table 21: Plantations in Tasmania
('000 hectares)
Table 21: Plantations in Tasmania 

Source: Annual Reports - Forestry Commission, Forestry Tasmania, Private Forests Tasmania


As described above, reliable data for plantations on private land is only available from 1998. Since that time there has been a significant increase in total hardwood plantations, particularly on private land.

The location of hardwood and softwood plantations on private and public land in Tasmania is shown in Map 2.


3.2.2. PLANTATIONS AND LAND CAPABILITY
Land capability classification is an internationally recognised means of classifying land and is used to evaluate the capability of land to support a range of agricultural uses on a long-term sustainable basis. It may be defined as a ranking of the ability of land to sustain a range of agricultural land uses without degradation of the land resource10.

Only private freehold agricultural land and small areas of Crown land that is either "unallocated" or leased to private operators has been evaluated for land capability in Tasmania. Agricultural land is broadly defined as land capable of being used for grazing and annual broad area cropping. Over the period from 1992 to 2002, the Department of Primary Industries Water and Environment conducted land capability surveys and produced maps on a 1;100,000 scale in the following Natural Resource Management Regions - Southern (Derwent, Nugent, D'Entrecasteaux), Northern (Forester, Pipers, South Esk, Meander, Tamar) and North-Western (Hunter, Circular Head, Inglis, Forth). The Tamar map is predominantly within the Northern Region and Forth is predominantly within the North-Western Region.

Land capability assessment takes into account those climatic and physical factors that affect the land's long-term potential for sustainable grazing and crop production activities. It does not necessarily equate to the suitability of land for a specific purpose. Overall land suitability for a particular purpose takes into account other factors such as economics and availability of other essential inputs such as labour, roads, transport etc. Specific land uses, including forestry, are not incorporated into the capability system. However, knowledge of where plantations are located, and the land capability of those areas, allow a determination as to whether plantations and other agricultural sectors are in competition.

The Tasmanian system classifies land into seven classes. Class 1, 2 and 3 are collectively defined as prime agricultural land, as they represent the most productive areas with most enterprise versatility, and are at the least risk of degradation as a result of growing annual crops. Land capability class gives a general indication of land use (Table 22).

Table 22 Land Capability Classes and Appropriate Land Use

 

 

Source: Grose CJ (Ed ) 1999, Land Capability Handbook.

For the purposes of this report, the area of plantation on Class 1-3 (prime agricultural land), Class 4, Class 5-7 and Unmapped has been determined. Prime agricultural land is significant as it forms the basis for the State Policy for the Protection of Agricultural Land, 2000. This Policy acts to protect prime agricultural land from development, except in prescribed circumstances. Tree farming and plantation forestry are included within the definition of agricultural land use.
Class 4 land has been separated out as it is currently used extensively for grazing throughout Tasmania but is increasingly being used for cropping, particularly in the Northern Natural Resource Management Region. The increase in cropping on Class 4 land is as a result of increases in the area of potatoes and poppies being grown in recent years and a demand for larger-scale areas. It has been facilitated to some extent by planting into raised beds to improve drainage.

Class 5-7 land is, by definition, unsuitable for sustained annual cropping.

The unmapped area represents the area of plantation not included in the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment's land capability maps or is located outside the area assessed for land capability. It can be reasonably assumed that plantations within the unmapped category do not conflict with normal agricultural production.

The land capability system normally allocates land to an individual class eg Class 1, Class 2 etc. However, there are many occasions where it has not been possible to allocate land to a single class. These have been recorded as complexes eg. Class 1/2. This example is predominantly Class 1. However, in strict land capability terms, it implies that at least 60 per cent of the land is Class 1, the remainder being Class 2. For the purposes of this report, any complex such as Class 1/2 has been included as Class 1.

Spatial data for Tasmanian plantations as at December 200111 has been used to determine the interaction between plantations and land capability12. A total of 195,100 hectares of plantation was present at that date (Table 23). Of this, 168,600 hectares (86 per cent) occurred on Class 5-7 or unmapped land. 22,100 hectares (11.3 per cent) occurred on Class 4 land, and 4,400 hectares (2.3 per cent) was located on prime agricultural land (Classes 1-3).

Most of the plantation area on prime agricultural land at the time was on Class 3 land within the North Western Natural Resource Management Region. The total area of prime agricultural land in the North Western Region is 66,300 hectares. The 3,800 hectare area occupied by plantation in this region represents 5.7 per cent of that total. The area of plantation on Class 1-3 land does not automatically indicate that plantations have displaced agriculture. Some may have been established on areas that were previously native forest or other vegetation that had been located on prime agricultural land. Some may have been established as plantations a long time ago.

The Class 4 land occupied by plantation was also predominantly in the North Western Region. The total area of Class 4 land in the North Western Region is 106,100 hectares of which plantations occupied 13,500 hectares or 12.7 per cent. 

Figure 10: Area of Plantation by Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
Figure 10: Area of Plantation by Natural Resource Management Region, 2001 

Source; See Table 23

A small area of plantation exists on Class 1-3 land in the Northern Region but is obscure in the scale used in Figure 10 (See Table 23).


Table 23: Area of Plantation by Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
('000 hectares)

 

Source: Davey & Maynard spatial analysis of 2001 Forest Group Data Set provided by Private Forests Tasmania

Of the total hardwood plantations area of 117,400 hectares, 94,900 hectares (81 per cent) was located on Class 5-7 or unmapped land (Table 24). 18,500 hectares (16 per cent) was planted on Class 4 land. Hardwood accounts for the majority of plantations on Class 1-4 land within the North Western Natural Resource Management Region

4,100 hectares (4.4 per cent) of hardwood plantation was located on prime agricultural land. Of this 3,600 hectares was located with the North Western Natural Resource Management Region.

Table 24: Area of Hardwood Plantation by Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
('000 hectares)

 

Source: Davey & Maynard spatial analysis of 2001 Forest Data Set provided by Private Forests Tasmania

For the softwood plantations, 73,800 hectares (95 per cent) was established on Class 5-7 and unmapped land (Table 25). 3,700 hectares (5 per cent) was located on Class 4 land. Only 300 hectares (0.4 per cent) was located on prime agricultural land.

The proportion of unmapped land is much higher for softwood than for hardwood, as a greater proportion of Tasmania's softwood plantation is located outside of areas covered by land capability mapping.


Table 25 Area of Softwood Plantation by Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
('000 hectares)

 

Source: Davey & Maynard spatial analysis of 2001 Forest Data Set provided by Private Forests Tasmania

 

Figure 11: Area of Hardwood and Softwood Plantation by Land Capability Class
Tasmania, 2001
Figure 11: Area of Hardwood and Softwood Plantation by Land Capability Class 

Source: See Tables 24 and 25


Figure 12: Area of Hardwood and Softwood Plantation
by Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
Figure 12: Area of Hardwood and Softwood Plantation


Source: See Tables 24 and 25

In general, while there has been some development of plantations on the better classes of agricultural land, the bulk of the plantation area is on Class 5-7 or unmapped areas. The proportion of forestry plantation area on prime agricultural land is very small.

Map 3. Land Capacity of Plantations in North Western Region

Map 4. Land Capacity of Plantations in Northern Region

3.2.3. PREVIOUS LAND USE OF PLANTATIONS EXISTING IN 2001
A picture of the area of plantations in 2001 in relation to the pre-existing land use in 1996 has been established using spatial data - for both private and public land (Table 26). Determining previous land use prior to 1996 is not possible due to the lack of reliable data.

73,400 hectares (60 per cent) of the total area of plantation located on private land in 2001 was also used for plantations five years earlier in 1996. This could represent either the same plantation existing in each year, or a subsequent rotation on the same area of land.

For private land over the period from 1996 to 2001, 22,700 hectares (19 per cent) has been established on land that was previously native forest and an additional 22,400 (18 per cent) has been established on what was pasture for grazing purposes in 1996.

Table 26: Plantations Area on Private Land in 2001 compared to Pre-Existing Land Use in 1996, Tasmania
('000 hectares)

 

Source: Private Forests Tasmania

For the 74,800 hectares of plantation on public land in 2001, 54,500 hectares (73 per cent) was previously plantation in 1996 (Table 27). Over the period from 1996 to 2001, 18,300 hectares (24 per cent) has been established on land that was previously native forest, and 600 hectares established on what was previously pasture.
 

Table 27: Plantation Area on Public Land in 2001 compared to Pre-Existing Land Use in 1996, Tasmania
('000 hectares)

 

Source: Forestry Tasmania

3.2.4. AGE OF PLANTATIONS
In 2001, the area of trees in the 0-5 year age category amounted to 51,000 hectares, or 42 per cent of all plantations on private land (Figure 13and Table 28). This reflects the growth in plantation establishment in recent years, particularly in the Northern and North Western Natural Resource Management Regions.

The analysis of spatial data for plantation age categories revealed a certain area of plantation with an unknown age, due to uncertainties in the data held by Private Forests Tasmania. For the purposes of this report, the total area with an unknown age was allocated pro-rata over the remaining categories.

Figure 13: Area of Plantations on Private Land by Age Groupings and Natural Resource Management Region (1996 and 2001)
('000 hectares)
Figure 13: Area of Plantations on Private Land by Age Groupings and Natural Resource Management Region (1996 and 2001) 

Source: Table 28

Table 28: Area of Plantations on Private Land by Age Groupings and Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
('000 hectares)

 
Source: Private Forests Tasmania

Thirty three per cent of the area of all plantations on public land in 2001 was five years old or less (Figure 14 and Table 29). Most of this is located in the Northern Natural Resource Management Region, reflecting the suitability and land availability in that Region for plantations.


Figure 14: Area of Plantations on Public Land by Age Groupings and Natural Resource Management Region
('000 hectares)
 Figure 14: Area of Plantations on Public Land by Age Groupings and Natural Resource Management Region

Source: Table 29

 

Table 29: Area of Plantations on Public Land by Age Groupings and Natural Resource Management Region, 2001
('000 hectares)

 

Source: Forestry Tasmania


NOTES
7 An establishment is the smallest accounting unit of business within a State or Territory, controlling its productive activities and maintaining a specified range of detailed data enabling value added to be calculated. In general an establishment covers all operations at a physical location, but may consist of a group of locations provided they are within the same state or territory. The majority of establishments operate at one location only.
8 From personal discussion with management of the two companies.
9 Davey & Maynard, Tasmanian Dairy Industry Regional Profile, DRDC, January 2002.
10 Grose CJ (Ed ) 1999, Land Capability Handbook. Guidelines for the Classification of Agricultural Land in Tasmania. Second Edition, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Tasmania (Back to text)
11 Source: Private Forests Tasmania
12 Source: Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment