Long-term operations to gradually harvest and replant timber plantations in Tarkeeth State Forest, southeast of Bellingen, are underway.
Forestry Corporation is progressively harvesting mature timber plantations within Tarkeeth State Forest and replanting the entire plantation area with the next generation of seedlings.The operations have been spaced over several years commencing in 2016 and involve a number of separate harvesting and replanting operations, each around 100 to 150 hectares in size. The 320 hectares harvested in previous operations have regrown into thriving plantations for the future and the area harvested in 2020 will soon be replanted as well.
Since 2016, Forestry Corporation has carried out several operations to harvest and replant sections of the Tarkeeth State Forest plantations. During 2021, we will again be recommencing harvesting operations, with work expected to take up to six months.
These operations are wholly within the State forest plantations and have been carefully planned in line with strict environmental regulations to ensure waterways, native forest and special environmental features are protected during operations.
Plantations are planned under the Plantation and Reforestation Code, which contains strict requirements to protect numerous environmental features. Plans detailing how each section of forest will be harvested in line with the Code are available on our Plan Portal.
Eucalyptus plantations are managed very differently to native forests because they have been specifically planted to grow timber as quickly as possible. Timber plantations are essentially a long term agricultural crop, needing roughly 35 years to mature between planting and final harvest.
In NSW, timber crops are grown on previously cleared land in an ongoing cycle, with new seedlings replanted on the same site once the mature trees have been harvested. Eucalyptus are light-loving, so a new crop of seedlings will grow most vigorously when the whole of the previous crop has been harvested, as that provides adequate light and space for new seedlings to thrive.
The plantations are being harvested progressively over many years, with many of the areas harvested in previous years now well established. The image below shows young plantations regrowing in a recently-harvested part of Tarkeeth State Forest.
Forestry Corporation’s plantation management is based on science and carried out in line with the Plantations and Reafforestation Act and Code, which is the NSW legislation on plantation management.
The Tarkeeth State Forest plantations are situated within a broader forested landscape, which includes National Parks and native State Forests managed for conservation, recreation and timber production.
While the trees in the Tarkeeth plantations were specifically planted for future timber production, our staff work in the bush every day and are passionate about conserving wildlife which is why we carefully plan all our work before we touch a single tree.
Harvesting in timber plantations is planned under the Plantation and Reforestation Code, which contains numerous requirements to protect environmental features. In addition, Forestry Corporation has identified a number of other protection measures, including a connectivity corridor running east to west through the plantation to complement the vast area of National Park in the Bellingen Valley and allow wildlife to continue moving freely across the landscape.
Forestry Corporation has been harvesting timber from plantations in the Bellingen and Kalang Valleys for many decades and understands the importance of these waterways to local communities and the broader environment.
Forestry Corporation has carefully planned its timber harvesting in the Tarkeeth plantations under the conditions of the Plantations and Reafforestation Act and Code, which set out clear constraints including the retention of existing vegetation along drainage lines and on steep slopes to protect against erosion and buffer zones around dams and waterways.
We have used sophisticated LiDAR imagery and data to map all of the slopes within the plantation so we know exactly where the steep areas are. The harvesting machinery operators use GPS systems in the forest to ensure that harvesting avoids any areas that we require to be protected. The strict limits we have put in place on harvesting timber on steep slopes in this plantation go above and beyond the requirements of the Plantations and Reafforestation Act and Code.
We will be harvesting the plantations in sections around 100 hectares in size and replanting each area with more than 1,000 trees per hectare soon after we complete harvesting. A thorough assessment of potential erosion hazards will be completed in each part of the plantation to ensure cultivation practices are specifically designed to suit the area.
After timber plantations are harvested, there is always some residue left on the forest floor including branches, leaves and smaller parts of trees that can't be processed into timber products. Burning this residue ensures it doesn't build up and become a fire hazard and, importantly, also creates a rich seed bed where the newly planted seedlings can flourish.
Burning will take a few days after each operation is complete in each harvested area.
The Tarkeeth plantations are a wonderful demonstration of how forests can be regrown on previously cleared agricultural land and after we harvest these mature plantations we will re-establish new plantations to supply sustainable local timber for future generations.
Forestry Corporation has developed a seed orchard within Tarkeeth State Forest to develop a seed store for high quality local native species that will be cultivated in our production nurseries and planted to re-establish the Tarkeeth plantations.
Forestry Corporation manages plantations over a 30 to 40 year cycle, from planting through to final harvest and replanting. As each section of plantation is harvested, it will be quickly replanted with more than 1000 native seedlings per hectare.
Replanting will include some weed control operations, involving spraying of common agricultural use chemicals, such as round-up. We do need to complete weed control two or occasionally three times at the beginning of a timber plantation's 30-40 year life cycle to knock down the pest plants like lantana and privet and get new tree seedlings established quickly so that they out-compete weeds. The most effective way to do this is by spraying the area before the new seedlings are planted. The herbicides used and the number of applications will depend on the weeds present following site preparation, with our aim being to minimise chemical use. Spraying methods will be site dependent and a combination of methods, including back pack, skidder and drone will be used. All these methods will be controlled from the ground and applied just above the weed layer.
Herbicides used are bought off the shelf and will be used in line with the label directions, which the Australian Government regulators have approved as safe for the community and the environment. Strict buffers will be in place to prevent spraying near any waterways or streams.
hectares per harvest
seedlings per hectare
year plantation rotation
years of forest management
Supplying local industry
Timber plantations make an important contribution to the supply of sustainable wood and wood products in NSW. Timber is a renewable resource that’s in demand throughout Australia and the world and sourcing timber from plantations and then restocking those plantations for the future is a really sustainable way to ensure we continue meeting the community’s timber needs.
The timber from the Tarkeeth State Forest plantations will be supplied to several sawmills in the Bellingen Valley, Nambucca and Grafton who will process them into a range of timber products that may include power poles, timber flooring and decking, pallets, fencing, roof battens and plywood.
The full range of timber products from power poles to timber pallets for transporting goods provide an important source of local work and revenue to businesses in the Bellingen area. Forestry Corporation staff and contractors also live and work locally in regional centres across the NSW north coast.
Following harvesting the site will be cultivated and replanted with local native species, Blackbutt and Tallowwood. More than 1000 trees will be planted on every hectare that is harvested to re-establish a high quality timber plantation for the future.
This will ensure future generations can continue to source high quality and sustainable timber products from Tarkeeth State Forest.
History of Tarkeeth State Forest
Tarkeeth State Forest near Bellingen is 1450 hectares in size and around 60 per cent of this area is timber plantation. The entire Tarkeeth State Forest is former farmland. Most of the area was historically cleared and used for agriculture before 850 hectares were planted with a timber crop in the 1960s and 1970s. Other formerly cleared areas were allowed to regenerate naturally into native regrowth forest. Currently, Forestry Corporation is only working in the timber plantations within Tarkeeth State Forest.
The Forestry Commission purchased the entire area in 1984. As the map below from the Forestry Commission records at that time shows, most of the land was privately owned farms.