Media Release – Tuesday 16 June 2020

More than 23 million tree seedlings are being planted across the Green Triangle this winter aided by a global work effort.

A hardworking team of about 150 tree planters, including a large percentage of foreign backpackers, are painstakingly planting both hardwood (eucalyptus globulus – blue gum) and softwood (pinus radiata) seedlings on second and third rotation holdings across the south east of South Australia and south west of Victoria.

Their work has been supported by dedicated nursery staff who have been tending to the seedlings, managing them over the past nine months in readiness for planting.

Through the leadership and research efforts of Tree Breeding Australia, the industry has generated superior DNA in the seedlings with chosen desired traits aimed at producing higher quality grade out-turn and pulp yield.

An average of 1300 of these seedlings will be planted on every hectare of land, more than 18,000 hectares, over the coming weeks which is being aided by timely winter rainfall.

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said this year’s planting had involved more extensive planning than normal due to the impacts of COVID-19.

“Closed state borders and the need for planters to undertake a fortnight of isolation in South Australia have proved challenging for many planting teams this season,” she said.

“Backpackers take up a considerable percentage of this workforce who return to the region year after year for the work task. Whilst some have been able to enter back into the region, many have waited around patiently in anticipation of the pending work task.

“This workforce brings significant benefit to many of the region’s smaller communities. For example, a team have taken up residence in the Heywood Caravan Park to complete work in the local area. These 15 workers will be eating in local cafes, the hotel and supporting the local supermarket, whilst visiting key tourism spots in their off-time which generates important economic benefit for the township and broader region.”

Contractor Cari Merrett, from Stephen Merrett Contracting, said their business had attracted personnel from the across the globe, including Canada, Thailand, France and Italy.

She said they had been inundated with more than 800 applicants willing to take on the planting role.

“This is hard work but they get plenty of benefit out of it financially,” she said.

“The Canadians say this work is ‘easy’ compared to home, where they are planting in pretty difficult, treacherous conditions.”

Tree Breeding Australia pine technicians, father and son duo, John and David McKersie with the organisation’s general manager Dr Tony McRae at the Glencoe nursery preparing stock for planting.