COMMUNITIES in the south are bracing themselves for the worst in the wake of the collapse of two MIS operators in a month.
Farmers who leased land to timber companies Timbercorp and Great Southern Plantations remain uncertain about future payments, while local councils fear loss of revenue if lessors and the companies themselves are unable to pay their rates as a result.
Fingers are particularly firmly crossed in the Plantagenet shire, where Great Southern owns a large number of properties and harvest from about 40,000 hectares of plantations.
Shire president Kevin Forbes said there would be great ramifications if Great Southern ceased harvesting, with many nurseries, contractors and workers reliant on the industry.
He said Great Southern contributed a substantial proportion of local rates, and it would be frightening if it defaulted on them. The scenario would be exacerbated if farmers who relied on lease payments from the scheme also could not afford to pay.
Mr Forbes said it was unclear how property values would be affected with the situation still in limbo.
“Great Southern started buying up about 14 years ago at prices local farmers found attractive,” he said.
“The question now is whether farmers will come back and consider the costs of putting the plantation land back into farming production.”
Over in neighbouring Nannup, the feeling was just as tense.
The Nannup Shire has about 12,000ha of tree plantations, with much of the land leased from farmers by Great Southern and Timbercorp.
President Barbara Dunnet says she’s concerned land planted to trees will now be abandoned.
Mrs Dunnet, who leases about 200ha herself to Great Southern, said it wasn’t that easy to reinvent land that had been planted to bluegums.