Campaign to boost tree farming profile

WANING investor confidence and criticism of tree farming practices in rural Australia has prompted the industry’s new umbrella organisation to launch a national awareness campaign.

As an arm of the Australian Forest Growers, Treefarm Investment Manag-ers of Australia is comprised of seven of Australia’s biggest tree plantation timber investment companies, includ-ing Great Southern Plantation, Timbercorp and Norgard Clohessy Equity.

Most of these are based or have their roots in WA, the leading State for bluegum plantation development.

The national print campaign and the public relations campaign which followed was designed to raise the profile of plantation forestry and highlight the benefits for rural and regional Australia and the national economy.

Stratagem Communications manag-ing director Robbie Stewart said plantation forestry was an area that had been subject to both a lack of information and misinformation for investors and the general public.

“We’re starting out with some fairly simple advertising and following it up with a public relations campaign, the first round will be in the Financial Review and in the capital city daily newspapers,” Mr Stewart said.

He said the campaign was in response to a number of disreputable tree plantation investor schemes that had damaged the investor profile of the industry.

“These are seven big companies that are growing and harvesting at a pretty major level, these are not tax dodgers,” Mr Stewart said.

“The primary audience is investors, not just retail also institutional investment and to an extent the media commentators.”

Moves by the ATO to disallow refunds from mass marketed investment schemes including forest plantations have resulted in a Senate inquiry, which has further damaged the industry’s reputation.

Of the submissions received by the Senate inquiry, more than 90 per cent are from WA where there was strong investment in agricultural schemes.

Investors are now arguing that tax avoidance was not the primary incentive for investing in forestry plantations.

The forestry plantations have also received media attention for their insensitivity to agricultural practices in regional areas and problems with aerial spraying and damage to fences.

Kristen McPhail, national marketing manager Norgard Clohessy, said there were a number of profiles on the industry in rural communities but there were more really positive stories.

“We’ve been a lifeline to many rural communities, this campaign is getting out another side of the story, a more balanced side,” he said.

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