Removing timber waste from KI will be massive job

KIPT ESTATE: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers owns 86 per cent of the plantation forestry on Kangaroo Island. Its portfolio is about 80 per cent hardwood (bluegum) and 20 per cent softwood (pine). Image: KIPT website
KIPT ESTATE: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers owns 86 per cent of the plantation forestry on Kangaroo Island. Its portfolio is about 80 per cent hardwood (bluegum) and 20 per cent softwood (pine). Image: KIPT website

Entrepreneur Nigel Gammon has set up a business called Kangaroo Island Industries with the mission of cleaning up timber waste and reverting land from forestry to agriculture.

But he said KI residents should be under no illusion that the job of cleaning up timber waste on the Island would be a massive job that could take as long as five years of constant work and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

KIPT is now calling for expressions of interest from parties willing to take on the job of reverting land from forestry to agriculture and then to take on the job of managing the land as farm land.

Kangaroo Island Industries and Mr Gammon now plan to submit their plan for reversion of KIPT forests to farm land.

"The tender which will close on the September 17 is asking investors to do what KIPT should have done many years ago," he said.

"The timber needs to be harvested, then processed into pellets or converted into biochar while KIPT continues to sit back and wait for the plantation land to be set up for cropping etc.

"It then needs to be sent off the island to be sold. I can't imagine who will be party to these proposals and so what will happen over the years with all this timber waiting to disintegrate."

Mr Gammon spent three years living on KI about 10 years ago but left due to business and medical issues.

The planting of timber plantations and the fires that have swept the Island in 2019-2020 should never have happened, he said.

"What was a tax minimisation scheme has turned into an incredible debt for the Island's economy," he said.

"The bankruptcies of (plantation companies) prior to Kangaroo Island Plantations taking ownership of the nearly 25,000 hectares of timberland and 4.5 million tonnes of pine and eucalyptus forests should have been a warning to the new owners that action needed to happen."

The seaport proposal at Smith's Bay should have been a red flag for the locals that the timber industry wasn't going to happen, as the thousands of pages of protests and counter arguments attest, he said.

"The current situation of seeking tenders to remove the timber is a near impossibility," Mr Gammon said.

"Hundreds of millions of funding needs to be spent to set up such timber removal systems such as pellet plants, carbonising equipment to produce biochar etc.

"Meanwhile the timbers are rotting and becoming worthless and a huge fire risk."

He said turning the land into agricultural use would take years and it was unclear who would look after the establishment of these properties.

KI farmers have had a rough time over the years and he said he did not expect them to be capable of purchasing the former forestry land from KIPT, which was a publicly listed company.

Mr Gammon said nearly 50 per cent of the shares were owned by big investment companies. And he alleged KIPT was currently buying back its own shares.

KIPT ESTATE: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers owns 86 per cent of the plantation forestry on Kangaroo Island. Its portfolio is about 80 per cent hardwood (bluegum) and 20 per cent softwood (pine). Image: KIPT website

KIPT ESTATE: Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers owns 86 per cent of the plantation forestry on Kangaroo Island. Its portfolio is about 80 per cent hardwood (bluegum) and 20 per cent softwood (pine). Image: KIPT website

He said Kangaroo Island Industries was initially formed to fund a number of businesses, including the purchase of the defunct abattoir at outside of Kingscote.

It was also looking at setting up greenhouses to be powered with renewable power to produce high value, KI branded food products for interstate and overseas markets.

The company had an interest in producing biochar to replenish the soils once the timber had been removed, he said.

"Biochar has become a multibillion dollar industry and KI could have been exporting the biochar once the necessary plant had been set up and which would have produced years of income for the plant owners which could have been put into a cooperative," he said.

KIPT seeks proposals

Kangaroo Island Planation Timbers meanwhile is also calling for expressions of interest for its new agriculture focus.

The company on its website put out a call for parties interested in the conversion from forestry to agriculture.

Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers owns 25,000 ha of prime agricultural land on Kangaroo Island. About 14,000 ha is planted to hardwood and softwood, which is under reversion to agriculture.

The website states "KIPT is seeking proposals for the development of a large-scale enterprise on Kangaroo Island".

Work will involve:

  • clearing of 14.500ha of timber lands
  • disposal or removal of about 4.5 million tonnes of timber and biomass
  • site preparation of pasture, water resources and fencing
  • development and/or operation of high-value agriculture enterprise(s)

Parties interested in work listed are invited to register their interest in the establishment and/or operation of agriculture enterprise(s) on 25,000 hectares.

The company is asking for "capability statements" to be submitted by Friday, September 17.

"The qualified parties will then be invited to a second round in which detailed proposals will be sought."

KIPT was contacted for comment by The Islander.

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