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Whitman College

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action


The goal of my study was to understand the impacts of tree plantation expansion on rural communities in the Central North of Tasmania. This study is particularly relevant with the recent surge of plantation development in the last ten years and the current uncertainty over future plantation expansion because of the supposed shift in the woodchip industry from native forest to plantation-based as well as the proposed Gunns' pulp mill. By understanding the current impacts as well as problems within the system, it is my hope that these results can be used for better planning and change in the future plantation estate.

My methodology consisted of ten in-depth interviews with people of a variety of perspectives during the months of April and May in 2011. During each interview I asked the participant questions about: positive and negative impacts of plantations, how plantations and forestry practices could be improved, their attitude towards the proposed Gunns’ pulp mill, and relevant background information. I also strove to understand their connection to the issue of tree plantations to potentially make the connection between a person’s responses and other factors. From each interview, I identified impacts mentioned, major problems they saw with plantations, and potential solutions.

There were a variety of results from my study. Participants described a greater number of negative impacts rather than positive impacts. The most mentioned impacts included: water use and pollution, loss of local town infrastructure, visual change, and change in employment. Participants thought that major problems within the plantation system were the current scale, past expansion and lack of planning due to MIS, and a lack of regulation. Across the board, there was more disagreement over environmental impacts in comparison with social impacts.

Within a larger context, the findings point broadly to the fact that there are numerous concerns over tree plantations and their impacts of rural communities. If there is future plantation expansion, this could result in an exacerbation of the impacts found in this study. The disagreement between those in the plantation industry and others over the environmental effects calls for more scientific research into these impacts. Furthermore, the results of this study imply that there needs to be more planning and communication between local councils and land users to ensure that plantations are placed in appropriate places so that negative impacts to communities do not continue.


Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Sustainability