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Socio-economic impacts of plantation forestry in the South West Slopes of NSW, 1991 to 2004

1 Jan 2005

A large area of softwood plantation has been established in the South West Slopes (SWS) of New South Wales since the 1920s and plantation timber has been processed on a large scale in the region since the 1950s. There has been ongoing expansion in the volume of wood harvested, and in the capacity of processing facilities in the region. This study examined the socio-economic impacts of the growing plantation sector over 1991 to 2004. A range of socio-economic impacts were examined and the focus was on examining independent evidence related to a range of key perceptions expressed in previous studies about the socioeconomic impacts of plantation forestry, particularly: changes in key economic sectors in different local government areas (LGAs), change in the total population living in rural areas and towns, change in socio-demographic characteristics of the population, including age structure, educational attainment, rate and type of employment, rate of unemployment, number of new residents, and household income growth, employment and investment by the plantation sector in the region, changes in provision of key services in the region, rental and housing availability| and transportation networks used by the plantation sector. Ongoing growth of the plantation sector in the region, particularly of the processing sector, has contributed to stabilisation of the population of townswith processing facilities, and to stable economic growth in LGAs such as Tumut. Although increasing mechanisation has led to higher output per employee from the plantation sector, employment levels have remained relatively steady over time, as expansion of volumes harvested and processed has generally been rapid enough to match improvements in efficiency over time and keep employment needs steady. The presence of integrated processing in the region has resulted in a high level of employment in the plantation sector, with 1.53 people directly employed per 100 hectares of plantation in 2003-04, over 90% of which were employed within the SWS.

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