Push to reward mallee planters

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Peter MilneCountryman
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Kulin farmer Keith Wilson planted and removed mallee trees from his property.
Camera IconKulin farmer Keith Wilson planted and removed mallee trees from his property. Credit: countryman, Danella Bevis

A mallee industry veteran says the State’s farmers should receive carbon credits for keeping their mallee trees.

Any changes would be too late for Keith Wilson, who planted 700,000 mallee trees on his Kulin farm between 2007 to 2010.

He later ripped out 620,000 of them after a thwarted attempt to “do the right thing”.

Mallee trees had been promoted as revenue earners from carbon credits and fuel production as well as an aid to combat wind erosion and salinity.

By the time the last of Mr Wilson’s trees were planted in 2010, a trial plant in Narrogin to process mallee had closed, leaving carbon credits as the only possible source of income.

Mr Wilson said the Government had “pulled the plug” on carbon credits and could not be trusted.

His 400ha of mallee tree continued to grow and without harvesting root growth, Mr Wilson effectively lost about 700ha of arable land.

Mr Wilson has kept shelter belts of about 80,000 trees.

Former Oil Mallee Association manager for the Upper Great Southern David McFall said he understood Mr Wilson’s frustration.

He said early adopters of mallee, who wanted something different for their farms and communities, had been abandoned at a policy level and left carrying the can.

He said about 1000 farmers had planted more than 30,000ha of mallee across WA in a drive to build enough resources to support a new industry.

Mr McFall said the root growth problem could be managed and advised mallee growers to hang in there. “The marginal farming systems in WA need an alternate income stream,” he said.

Oil Mallee Association director Simon Dawkins has been with the association for more than 20 years.

He is optimistic about the long-term viability of mallees for WA farmers, believing governments would eventually realise their importance.

Mr Dawkins said there had been confusion over eligibility for carbon credits, including the date of plantings that would qualify.

He said about half of the carbon credits generated under the current Emissions Reduction Fund were from avoided deforestation.

This allowed landowners who had permission to clear native vegetation to earn credits by not clearing the land and maintaining the vegetation.

Mr Dawkins said the fact that WA farmers did not need permission to clear their planted mallees had counted against their eligibility for the scheme.

He urged the State Government to make a case to the Federal Government for keeping mallees to be counted as avoided deforestation.

Mr Dawkins said farmers he had spoken to valued the trees and wanted to leave the land better than they found it.

But if they sold their farm, the mallee plantings reduce the net arable hectares, and hence the value of the property.

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