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Communities catch-up 3: Living with Plantations

A new research project being undertaken as part of CRC for Forestry Communities Project 4.3.1 is looking at the characteristics of communities within close proximity to plantations (residing within plantation properties and adjacent to plantation properties). With social concerns often raised regarding the types of people who move onto plantation properties, and the perceived lack of inclusion of new residents in local community groups and activities, there is a need for research to provide evidence either proving or disproving these perceptions.

This project will look at those people leasing houses on properties established to plantations, and those people living on properties immediately adjacent to plantations. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with 15-20 people to develop a greater understanding of the diversity of these communities, their interactions with the wider community, factors that may positively or negatively influence their ability to interact with the wider community, and their perceptions of plantations as a neighbour. A quantitative survey will then be distributed to gain a broader understanding of community diversity, social inclusion, social perceptions regarding plantations as a neighbour, and the impact of plantation establishment on social wellbeing.

Wellbeing is a complex social construct, its definition highly contested within the diverse literature. Research often involves the study of individual or subjective wellbeing, looking at the presence of positive mood, the absence of negative mood, and overall life satisfaction (hedonic wellbeing). In order to gain a greater insight into the impact of plantations on the wellbeing of rural and regional communities, we are going to approach wellbeing as being a reflection of the extent to which a person is fully-functioning within the context of his or her society (eudaimonic wellbeing), rather than a reflection of personal happiness. It is hoped that this approach will help to highlight the influences that impact on a community members ability to participate in community activities (i.e. function within the society), and thus provide evidence of the impact of plantation establishment on community (or social) wellbeing.

The research is still being developed however it is anticipated that two study regions will be included, one region with a mature plantation estate and significant new establishment operations, and another region where plantation establishment is emerging. The inclusion of two disparate regions may provide some insight into the maturation of social perceptions and community cohesion, thus providing useful information for forest management organisations operating across a range of social contexts. The actual study regions have not been chosen at this stage.

Further information regarding this new project will be made available on the Communities Project 4.3.1 website as the project progresses.