A $1 million expansion will double the capacity of Forestry Corporation’s Grafton Production Nursery, fast-tracking efforts to replant timber plantations affected by fires over the Black Summer, Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis has announced.

Mr Gulaptis said he was delighted to have his Nationals colleague, Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Forestry John Barilaro onsite with him to make the funding announcement, which was part of the NSW Government’s stimulus funding.

“This is a massive boost to the Grafton region as the timber industry will be vital to regrowing the local economy after bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Gulaptis said.

“Local plantations were badly impacted by fires last year, with more than a third of the pine plantations around Grafton and Walcha and 15 per cent of hardwood plantations affected by fire and needing to be replanted.

“Over the coming months, the Grafton nursery will double its capacity by installing new growing frames and irrigation systems, thanks to a $1 million investment from the NSW Nationals in Government.

“Half of the components will be manufactured locally, with work expected to be complete by September in time to begin sowing the next season’s crop.

“With the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing this region has been amongst the hardest hit by job losses in recent months, investing in local jobs in the renewable timber industry is vital not just for today but for future generations.”

The expansion will enable the nursery to grow around 4 million seedlings for replanting in 2021, eclipsing the record 2.3 million being dispatched this month for this year’s planting program.

Mr Gulaptis said every year the Grafton Production Nursery grows a mix of pine and eucalyptus seedlings to replant State forest timber plantations on the north coast that have been harvested for renewable timber products the previous year.

“Work is already well underway to salvage the usable timber from fire-affected plantations and prepare the sites for replanting, so by the time our new crop is ready for dispatch in 2021 they can go straight into the ground to regrow the burnt plantations,” he said.

“Once in the ground, these seedlings will be grown for around 35 years to supply renewable timber for the next generation’s homes and infrastructure.”