Unarable land given a new lease on life

Unarable land given a new lease on life

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Under utilised farmland could put to good use as Greening Australia announced its desire to work with more landowners across the country. Photo: Jesse Collins.

Under utilised farmland could put to good use as Greening Australia announced its desire to work with more landowners across the country. Photo: Jesse Collins.

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"We want to bring something that adds value to the existing enterprise."

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FARMERS and landowners could have the opportunity to make money from unarable land as Greening Australia has announced its search for 330,000 hectares across Australia.

The not-for-profit organisation, which has been operating for 39 years, admitted it's an ambitious target in acquiring such a large landbank to meet its 2030 impact goals.

However, it maintained that the appetite to invest in environmental offsets, including carbon sequestered through large-scale tree plantings, has increased substantially amid corporate demand to achieve zero net emissions targets.

Greening Australia chief executive officer Brendan Foran said along with the target being ambitious, it was also critical in achieving scale to have enough impact using market forces.

"Restoration is a reasonably expensive activity as it's essentially re-building nature," Mr Foran said.

"We need labour, materials and technologies so it has involved scaling up on the capital side."

Greening Australia has allocated $1.2 billion of capital to the project and in partnering with CBRE, it will seek to lease or buy land across any State and Territory.

"We are not looking to compete with agricultural enterprises," Mr Foran said.

"We want to bring something that adds value to the existing enterprise."

Along with landowners being able to earn money from a lease or sale of land, Mr Foran said Greening Australia's projects around biodiversity, carbon and improving land, would be beneficial to the property's environment.

He said that landowners should be incentivised to undertake practices or projects that promote a healthy environment, regardless of earning carbon credits.

WA-based CBRE agribusiness associate director Phil Melville and his colleagues Phil Schell (South Australia), Shane McIntyre (Victoria), Tom Burchell (Victoria) and Andrew Loughnan (Queensland) will be assisting Greening Australia in sourcing land.

"We will be identifying the areas that will give good performance with carbon sequestration," Mr Melville said.

"We will engage with landowners and see what their plans are for their property or areas of their property that have been underperforming.

"Farmers will still be able to put crops in or intercrop - it's just about working with them."

Mr Melville said there were various areas in WA that would be suitable for Greening Australia's projects, such as areas that are salt scaled, areas where machinery is unable to go or where water is limited.

"It's all about aggregation and depends on how much carbon can be taken out of the atmosphere - usually more carbon can be sequestered in higher rainfall areas but we will be looking in all rainfall areas," he said.

"The land has to be where native flora and fauna already grow and (Greening Australia) would not be introducing new species."

Mr Melville expected that investment appetite into carbon is on the way up.

"This is the largest scale of investment in carbon that I have seen so far and it's only going to grow," he said.

"I think the key is to make the landscape more productive; that's why we will be looking for properties that are under utilised."

Greening Australia's projects in regard to biodiversity will involve restoring productivity on unarabale or difficult-to-farm land and exploring opportunities to undertake biodiversity projects for grant, co-investment or Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) generation.

Its carbon projects will aim to provide stable and consistent returns on more marginal areas of selected farms via ACCUs.

And other projects by Greening Australia are set to improve asset resilience to climate risk, integrated agricultural projects and undertake trials to optimise and develop regenerative agriculture design.

Mr Foran said the lead time in developing these projects will be about a year and after six months to three years, carbon benefits can be expected.

"We aim for a 95 per cent or more survival rate in the trees that we plant," he said.

Greening Australia has projects in every State and Territory of Australia, with its largest presence being in WA.

"The landscape in WA is good to work with because it is quite flat," Mr Foran said.

"A lot of our growth has been in WA."

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