Special Timbers Management Plan Update #2



Over at the Tasmanian Department of State Growth website they now have some information about special timbers.

Yet another Special Timbers Management Plan is being prepared.

The Management Plan is required to be in place by October 2017, with the draft Plan available for public comment in early 2017.

So get those pens warmed up. You only have 18 months to wait before you are permitted to have your say!!

Current work to inform the development of the Management Plan includes:

  • A resource assessment of the special timber resource available in existing production forest managed by Forestry Tasmania;
  • Market demand research is being undertaken to better understand demand for special timbers;
  • celery-top pine harvesting trial as part of investigations into alternative harvesting techniques;

It’s an incredibly myopic view of special timbers:

  • No mention is made of the fact that blackwood is by far the dominant special timber, accounting for over 90% of volume harvested each year.
  • No mention is made of the commercial potential of private grown Tasmanian blackwood.
  • No mention is made of the fact that blackwood sawlog supply and Tasmania’s iconic blackwood industry is now in jeopardy due to decades of overcutting and mismanagement by Forestry Tasmania and successive State governments.
  • No mention is made of the current and recent markets for special timbers including price and demand history. For example a summary and review of The Island Specialty Timbers public tender results for the past 5 years would make for very interesting reading. See my annual reviews of IST blackwood tender results as an example:


  • No mention is made about possible sales, costs, prices and marketing arrangements;
  • No mention is made of the continuing fiasco of Tasmania’s most valuable timbers being a taxpayer-funded community service.
  • No mention is made of how the ongoing harvesting of special timbers from public forest will be funded, or how much it is likely to cost. One suspects that (as in the past) financial and commercial matters will not be discussed in this forthcoming management plan.
  • There’s no mention of the new Hydrowood project that is going to be supplying the market with significant volumes of salvaged special timbers over the next 5-10 years.


  • Unfortunately there is also absolutely no information about the proposal to log the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and the recent visit to Tasmania by delegates from UNESCO. This issue of international importance is completely ignored! I guess the Tasmanian Government does not want the UNESCO delegates to be fully informed, let alone anyone else who has concerns about World Heritage management.
  • They can’t even provide a Table of Contents, an indication of the scope of the management plan.

Would I be correct in guessing that State government special timbers policy is all about politics and supporting a handful of woodworking mates?

There is nothing here about commercial opportunity or industry development.

There is absolutely nothing here for existing and prospective commercial blackwood growers.

Once again its totally pathetic!


When will Tasmania get a fully commercial and profitable forest industry?

Specialty timber industry has Tasmanian Government support, despite [WHA] logging doubts





Mr Hodgman was confident of changing the [UNESCO] delegation’s mind.

“We’ve every confidence that the delegation are open to understanding what we do in Tasmania and accepting, we believe, that an appropriate balance is in place,” he said.

“Any harvesting would be subject to considerable controls and environmental protection, including at a national level.”

But if unsuccessful, the Premier said logging would be banned.


The UNESCO delegation is in town to find out “what we do in Tasmania”.

what we do in Tasmania”…???

What we do in Tasmania is make stupid forest policy and then stuff things up, again and again!

What is perfectly obvious from the last 35 years is that politically-driven forest policy in Tasmania has been a disaster for both the forest industry and the Tasmanian community.

The “appropriate balance” in place is nothing more than wedging the community and winning elections.

It has nothing to do with good profitable sustainable forest management.

And as for “considerable controls and environmental protection” haven’t these been in place for decades but still the special timbers industry is in crisis?

It’s not about the controls and protection is it? The dominant issue continues to be the politics and conflict.

Our forest industry will never be profitable and sustainable because logging public native forests is just too political. There is no resolution to this problem except stopping the logging of public native forest. That is the fundamental lesson of the last 35 years.

One thing is absolutely 100% guaranteed. Any logging of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area would be an ongoing battleground that would further damage the Tasmanian community and our political system for decades to come. Not to mention the incredible waste of money and time it would entail.

Both of the major political parties DO NOT support the special timbers industry because they DO NOT support profitable tree growers.

Without profitable tree growers the special timbers industry has no future at all.

Tasmanian politics really does beggar belief!

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Hydrowood update


The long anticipated Hydrowood project is finally under way on Lake Pieman on Tasmania’s west coast salvaging specialty timbers from flooded hydro dams.



Here is the projects new website.


I have both hopes and fears for this project in terms of what it could do for the special timbers/blackwood market.

My hopes are that through Hydrowood sales the company will provide much needed special timbers price and market transparency. This is unlikely to happen but I will certainly be encouraging the company management to adopt a commercial/transparent model.

The main driver that will encourage Tasmanian farmers to grow commercial blackwood is if there is much more price and market transparency. Can I get Hydrowood on board?

Ideally I would like to see Hydrowood set aside the very best logs from the salvage operation and every 3-6 months have a major auction.

Let us put 1,000 cubic metres of Tasmania’s finest timbers on the auctioneers table every 3 months and see what the market is prepared to pay!

Let us clearly demonstrate that the forest industry has commercial muscle and is no longer a community service.

Let us use this opportunity to stimulate interest in the real value of quality timber, and growing trees as a profitable investment and primary industry.

The fears are that a) they will flood the market and drive down prices, or b) the ST oligarchy that are currently pushing for World Heritage logging will force the Government to put restrictions on the Hydrowood markets/prices, or c) given the history of the last 40 years that this will turn into yet another Tasmanian forest industry disaster.

Hydrowood estimates they will salvage 80,000 cubic metres of special timbers over the next 3 years, with the possibility of the project lasting another 5 years. This is far more special timbers than has ever been supplied to market before. I would be surprised if the Australian market can absorb this volume of wood. Some of it will have to go to export markets. Perhaps all of it should go to export markets.

Much of this 80,000 cubic metres will be blackwood.

I don’t have a problem with our valuable timbers going for export, especially if they are attracting premium prices and the market is kept informed.

What this huge volume of premium wood will do for the special timbers market and for prices will soon enough become apparent.

The Hydrowood project will definitely have a prolonged and significant impact on the profitability of a number of important Tasmanian businesses. Consequently there will be political repercussions.

So now the Tasmanian special timbers market has four different classes of suppliers:

  1. Forestry Tasmania and its subsidiary Island Specialty Timbers selling taxpayer-subsidised, community service special timbers from public native forests, for which the Tasmanian/Australian taxpayer contributes $80 per cubic metre to subsidise the sawmillers and craftspeople [unprofitable and unsustainable];
  2. Hydrowood supplying salvaged special timbers from Hydro dams, at a cost that reflects the cost of salvage [profitable (??) and unsustainable];
  3. Tasmanian farmers selling salvage special timbers from their farms at a cost that reflects the cost of salvage [profitable and unsustainable];
  4. Tasmanian farmers who are actually growing commercial, sustainable special timbers where the cost of the wood actually reflects the cost of growing, harvesting and replanting the trees [profitable (??) and sustainable]. These poor farmers now have a very difficult market in which to operate and compete. They have absolutely no support from the Government or industry. Do they have any support from the market?

If the State Government goes ahead with logging the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area there will be a fifth supplier in the special timbers market – taxpayer-subsidised, unprofitable and unsustainable.

If that’s not a buyers dream market I don’t know what is!

How can Tasmania’s special timbers and blackwood industries have any future with this mess of a marketplace?

The only business model for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing. So where are the profitable tree growers in any of this mess?

Does Tasmania really want a special timbers industry? It sure doesn’t look like it!

Dear reader, please think carefully before making your next special timbers purchase.

It really is a pathetic joke!

But good luck to the Hydrowood team.

It’s a shame we can’t have a profitable, commercial and sustainable special timbers industry in Tasmania, as well as the clean-up and salvage.


Some Hydrowood salvaged blackwood – unique but how valuable is it?



The Ultimate (Australian) Timber Price List


Now here is a timber price list to get the heart racing.

Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliata) was once the premium appearance grade timber species in Australia. From the first days of European invasion to about the time of the First World War (140 years), this timber was chased from every pocket of rainforest up and down the east coast of Australia.

Many books have been written about this species and its history/exploitation. One fine example is:

John Vader (1987) Red Cedar: The Tree of Australia’s History. Reed Books, Sydney, NSW.

Much research and many attempts have been made to try and domesticate the species for growing in plantation. But the dreaded Cedar Tip Moth is a powerful and persistent enemy.

Australian Red Cedar is now commercially extinct, but limited quantities are sometimes available from salvaged trees.

It is a curious price list in that prices per cubic metre remain unchanged at between $8,000 and $10,000 per cubic metre for thicknesses up to 50mm.

Even for a rare and much sought-after timber these prices are not that extraordinary.

This flat pricing structure is typical of salvage timber where the price does not reflect the cost of growing the trees. Salvage timber is just a case of whatever comes along, big or small, long or short. There is no incentive/reward to the grower to replant.

But once you get into the large sizes, prices up to $17,100 per cubic metre definitely get the heart racing.

No wonder so much effort has been made trying to grow this tree commercially.

After the First World War the supplies of Australian Red cedar dropped dramatically and Tasmanian blackwood became Australia’s premier appearance grade timber species. It too is now on the verge of becoming commercially extinct due to overcutting of the public blackwood resource and decades of poor forest policy.

At these prices I’m surprised there is not more interest from investors and landowners in growing premium timber.

Isn’t this a business/investment opportunity going begging?

Will prices for Tasmanian blackwood soon resemble these prices for Australian Red Cedar?

For more information on blackwood and other timber price lists see:


Calling all furniture makers!

My friend and fellow forester Rowan Reid has posted this on his Bambra Agroforestry Farm Facebook page. It’s a call I heartily support and encourage.

The furniture industry is the heart and soul of the blackwood industry.

For the future of the industry it’s well and truly time for the furniture industry to get behind and support farm grown Tasmanian blackwood.


To fine furniture makers in Victoria (Please SHARE if you are friends with a local furniture maker)It's time to look…

Posted by Bambra Agroforestry Farm on Tuesday, November 17, 2015




Two blackwood growers


Two blackwood growers discussing the finer points of blackwood silviculture and markets.

Look at those magnificent blackwoods behind. Thanks guys!!


And 6 long metres of well managed premium Tasmanian blackwood sawlog.

The work is done and now it’s time to sit back and watch the quality and the money grow.

Blackwood in Western Australia!

It was one of those surprise phone calls.

Hi! I’m calling from Margaret River in Western Australia. I’ve got a blackwood plantation.

Now I’ve been to WA a few times and through Margaret River (MR) a few times. I thought I knew the country pretty well and I never dreamed of blackwood growing there. Other parts of the South West perhaps but not around MR. It’s mostly dry scrubby Jarrah/Marri country with a bit of taller Karri scattered about.

But as the phone conversation developed it became clear that something unique was happening. I certainly couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Can you send me some photos? I asked.

A few days later the photos arrived in the email.


Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is not native to Western Australia.

Here is a 0.7 ha blackwood plantation containing 900 trees, unthinned and pruned to just 1.8 metres. But the great form and the growth rate of these blackwoods shows there is potential for growing commercial blackwood at MR. The plantation is about 20 years old. The largest tree is 60cm diameter with 26% of the trees greater than 30 cm. The arithmetic mean diameter is 25.6, whilst the quadratic mean diameter is 26.6cm.

What’s more, the current basal area is 45 square metres (67 square metres per ha equivalent)!! This is a very productive site for blackwood.

If this plantation had been thinned and pruned on time it would now contain 140 trees well on the way to commercial maturity. That’s equates to about 210 cubic metres of premium blackwood sawlog at harvest.

So what can be done with this plantation in its current state?

I don’t regard this plantation as a failure. Quite the opposite. This is a brilliant first step on the way to success.

Having clearly demonstrated the potential of the site for growing commercial blackwood, a way needs to be found to salvage what value we can from the current crop of trees and gradually convert the plantation into a well managed profitable commercial blackwood plantation. There is even the opportunity for expansion.

Those dead branches in the photo potentially represent compromised wood quality. Some of these trees will need to be cut open so we can see what’s inside.

Luckily MR has a thriving wood craft industry so some of this wood will hopefully make its way to the craft market. MR also has a healthy firewood market so the thinnings from the plantation can be readily sold.

Stay tuned as we follow the progress of this extraordinary blackwood plantation in Western Australia.




For a 20 year-old unmanaged blackwood plantation that is an amazing sight!

PS. I need to emphasize that the extraordinary form of these blackwoods is not due to the close spacing of the trees in this plantation. That is a common belief that is not supported by science. Whatever the cause of this example of consistent good form (genetics, environment or GxE) it is very unusual. The usual recommendation to achieve good form in commercial blackwood is i) good site selection, and ii) pruning!! Tree spacing has only a small impact on blackwood stem form.