Seventh generation Connorville Station owner Roderic O’Connor (right) with workman Gary McGrath and property overseer Adrian Carpenter. Image HERE
A Northern Midlands property is at the cutting edge of a revolution. ANNIE KEARNEY reports.
FOR nearly 200 years the O’Connor family has produced some of the country’s finest cattle and merino sheep on historic Connorville in Tasmania’s Northern Midlands.
But this year, as well as farming livestock, the O’Connors are being paid not to harvest anything.
More precisely, the seventh generation of this pioneering dynasty is at the cutting edge of a revolution - the new world of carbon trading.
Connorville is banking cash for not cutting down any of the trees on its 17,800-hectare property that sprawls beneath the Western Tiers.
It is one of more than a dozen Tasmanian farms that have entered into agreements to offset carbon credits for multinational companies.
Connorville’s involvement in the scheme is being managed by Redd Forests, an Australian company that is capitalising on the need for national and global companies to offset their emissions.
Connorville may be paid about $250,000 not to cut down any of its native eucalypt forests.
The amount is paid on a market rate that fluctuates depending on national and international events.
The agreement stipulates that Connorville cannot harvest trees for the next 25 years.
The decision to be involved in the scheme rather than to engage in logging is one that Connorville owner Roderic O’Connor believes is a risk worth taking.
‘‘It’s quite weird thinking that you can be paid for doing a crop and then the next minute for doing nothing,’’ he said.
‘‘It sounds too easy or lazy or something’s wrong, but you’re forgoing quite a lot of income from timber sales to do that.
``When it worked out that the money I would forgo from harvesting would be similar to what I would earn storing carbon, I thought let’s do it.’‘
Mr O’Connor said the program enabled him to combine his commitment to conservation with farming and to maintain the family business.
‘‘I’ve been thinking about this for 10 years but couldn’t get any programs to do it with.
‘‘This is another avenue for the family business, for me or my son (Lachlan, 9) or family, to keep on going.
‘‘With this, we can look after conservation issues and keep farming.’‘
Project developer Redd Forests says the program could be a replacement for low-value logging in Tasmania.
The scheme enables properties to sell carbon credits assigned to them dependent on the volume of timber they had intended to harvest.
Redd Forests managing director Steven Dickie said Tasmania was a good option for carbon trading because of the already established forestry industry.
‘‘It’s a commercial solution to philosophical problems and a pragmatic and practical solution to environmental problems,’’ he said.
Mr Dickie said landowners must show intent to harvest the trees.
They are then allocated credits for the volume of timber that they would have been able to sell. These credits are sold through middlemen to companies worldwide.
Farmers must show that they would harvest the wood if not for the scheme, so logging must be legal in the state where the project is proposed.
Mr Dickie said the program was not a replacement for the forestry industry or for high-value logging, but solely for low-value woodchips.
Mr Dickie said five Tasmanian properties had registered with Redd Forests and another eight would soon be registered with the international scheme.