Special Species Timber Management Plan Update #1


Continuing on from my previous blog:


and the invitation from Minister Paul Harriss to participate in the Special Species Timber Management Plan, I was contacted by Mr Blair Freeman from the consulting firm Indufor. We ended up talking for about an hour over the phone.

Here are some brief comments:

A survey form was sent out by Indufor to selected members of the special timbers industry to provide critical information with regard to industry preferences, demand for wood, drivers of demand and sensitivity of customers to market change.

SST Market Demand Survey Sawmillers

My one comment about the survey form was the obvious omission from the survey of any opportunity for stakeholders to make comments on strategic, political or policy issues. If special timbers stakeholders had any questions or concerns about any of these issues then the Minister and the Special Timbers Sub-Committee of the Ministerial Advisory Council are just not interested!

If logging the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area at taxpayers’ expense is of any concern to stakeholders the Minister Paul Harriss doesn’t want to know about it!

So much for accurate and relevant information!

Given that just about all of my comments relate directly to strategic, political and policy issues around special timbers I found the survey form frustrating. Luckily Mr. Freeman anticipated my frustration and instead we opened up the conversation to address broader issues.

I see my business as being in direct competition with the Government/Forestry Tasmania. And I’m not short of criticism of my competitor.

Putting aside for one moment the political/policy issues, the one primary objective of the proposed Special Species Timber Management Plan should be to clearly demonstrate that growing and harvesting special timbers is profitable within normal competitive, transparent market processes.

The primary purpose of the Plan should not be to demonstrate the existence of a resource, nor of demand, nor analyse current employment or the characteristics of the special timbers marketplace. These issues are completely irrelevant without the fundamental commercial foundation of tree-growing profitability.

Value-adding begins in the forest or plantation and not at the sawmill or the furniture factory.

As far as I’m aware no study is being conducted into the profitability of growing special timbers as input into the proposed management plan. Using the “horse and cart” analogy, this proposed Management Plan will say much about the cart and tell us nothing at all about the horse! Just like the 2010 Special Timbers Strategy.

Mr Freeman indicated in our conversation an awareness of the politically-charged nature of their assignment, and Indufors limited ability to influence the outcome. Why they chose to take the job in the first place is an interesting question.

As I say on (too?) many occasions I think Tasmanian blackwood has a great future as an iconic profitable, farm-based industry; but not until we get the politics and ideology out and get the policy settings working properly.

Thanks to Mr. Blair Freeman for his time and interest. Good luck!

Only another 2 years before the Management Plan is completed/released.

Stay tuned!

Forestry Tasmania fate in balance


And the slow wheels of bureaucracy/Government continue….


but apparently all will soon be revealed. Based on past experience one assumes these reforms will only make the situation worse, but time will tell. Time for another cup of tea will we wait some more..

Originally posted on Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative:



[The fate of] Forestry Tasmania hangs in the balance, with its chairman telling staff the company’s immediate future is entirely in the government’s hand.

In an email sent to Forestry Tasmania staff yesterday, chairman Bob Annells [pictured above] responded to mounting concerns that the cash-strapped company may be dissolved and folded into a government department.

[“folded into a government department” What an absolutely terrible idea! What Government department would it fit into? And what would be the point? It would fix none of the existing problems, and create even more new problems. A classic case of duck shoving!]

This article in today’s The Examiner tells us that things are pretty grim at the Government forest management agency.

While no official announcement has been made it now seems clear that FTs application for FSC Certification has been rejected. FSC auditors SCS Global were due to deliver their report last month.

View original 250 more words

An invitation to participate in the Special Species Timber Management Plan

stsmp email

This email arrived in my inbox on Friday from Minister for Resources Paul Harriss. This may be interesting. Or else it will be the same old stuff we’ve seen before – or worse!!

I am not holding out much hope.

But I do pity the poor consultants who sign up for these jobs. Imagine helping to justify logging the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area at taxpayers’ expense whilst we are sacking teachers and nurses. How on earth do you keep any sort of professional integrity or reputation in all of that?

I’m looking forward to having a discussion with “Mr Blair Freeman or one of his team”. I wonder if they understand that forestry is a business not a division of Centrelink Australia?

This management plan is not due to be completed/released before 2017 in time for the next State election.

One thing is absolutely guaranteed. This management plan will not contain any discussion of commercial issues. Nor will it consider the possibility of Tasmanian farmers growing special timbers.

The idea that Tasmanian farmers are already growing and harvesting special timbers, and would likely grow more if given the right market signals, will be completely ignored in this management plan.

The fundamental assumption will be that special timbers can only come from taxpayer-subsidised Tasmanian public native forests.

In other words it will not be a business plan but a glossy political/marketing document, like the 2010 Special Timbers Strategy.

I shall keep you informed as this proceeds.

Cole Clark Fat Lady 2 – all Tasmanian blackwood

Cole Clark is the “outsider” of the Australian commercial guitar world.


They are new(-ish), innovative and untraditional.

In this age when the acoustic guitar market seems to go from strength to strength, makers are exploring everything new and everything old in order to supply the ever-growing market. All-mahogany and all-koa guitars were popular in the 20’s and 30’s, and they have recently made a big comeback.

So the idea of an all-blackwood guitar seems pretty straight forward to me. It should become an Aussie classic model!

But until recently they have been one-off custom makes.

Now Cole Clark of Melbourne is offering a range of all-blackwood models.

This is farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood!

They are quite understated in appearance, which to my mind fails to capitalize on blackwoods natural beauty. But it’s a great beginning. I hope they sell well.

Here’s a recent review by Cranbourne Music.



I hope one day to write a story that begins at the farm and finishes with the performer/artist. That would be a great story!

Tourism Council sees the light


The Tourism Industry Council Tasmania (TICT) is to be congratulated!

They understand the lessons of the last 30 years and the damage that a highly politicised forest industry has done to the economy of Tasmania.

They don’t want that to continue, especially if it directly threatens an important tourism brand/image.

In their submission to the Draft Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) Management Plan the TICT makes explicitly clear their concerns about the economic, social and political risks of opening up large areas of the World Heritage Area to special timbers logging.


Page 14 of the TICT submission gives a nod of appreciation to the historic importance of the special timbers sector “as an important part of the Tasmanian retail tourism sector, and the contribution it makes to the Tasmanian visitor experience.”

The TICT also “supports a vibrant, sustainable and responsible specialty timber sector in Tasmania.”

But the TICT soundly rejects any notion that “vibrant, sustainable and responsible” equates to logging the World Heritage Area, threatening the image and integrity of the Tasmanian Wilderness brand, or casting Tasmania into another bitter decade of political and community conflict.

The “TICT does not support further extraction of timber from the TWWHA beyond the practices already permitted under the current Management Plan,” ie. Huon pine salvage on Macquarie Harbour.

The public-native-forest-dependent special timbers industry has never been sustainable. It has never had a business plan. Since 2010 it has been explicitly managed by Forestry Tasmania as a non-profit, non-commercial activity with significant costs being deliberately made against the Tasmanian taxpayer. Teachers, nurses and other front-line public services are being cut back whilst the special timbers industry enjoys preferential treatment.

Post-TCA the future of the public-native-forest-dependent special timbers industry is largely unknown except:

  • It will continue to be taxpayer subsidised;
  • It will continue to be highly politicised;
  • It will involve logging the TWWHA;
  • It will not gain FSC Certification;
  • A new special timbers strategy (not a business plan) will not be available until 2017;

With all of these current uncertainties and the lessons of the last 30 years the TICT is perfectly correct in wanting to avoid another damaging conflict around public native forest management; especially when it directly threatens our tourism image.

And as someone trying to establish a commercially focused, profitable, farm-based special timbers business the proposed logging of the World Heritage Area represents a direct threat to my business.

It is well past time for the forest industry to be run on a proper commercial basis in Tasmania.

The next step

The next step in the development of the [TWWHA Management] Plan is the consideration of the representations. To provide for transparency and accountability in finalising management plans the Act establishes a process for review of public representations involving the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC).  The Director of National Parks and Wildlife (the Director) will review all representations received and prepare a report which includes a summary of all representations, the Director’s opinion on the merit of each representation and whether modification of the management plan is required.

The Director will forward copies of all representations received, together with the Director’s report, to the TPC who will advertise the representations and the Director’s report for public viewing.  The TPC may hold hearings on the representations.  The TPC will review the representations and the Director’s report and the results of any public hearings held and will prepare a report to the Minister. The TPC’s report to the Minister will be published.


Stringfest 2015 Review


The Deloraine Stringfest is over for another year. Being a stallholder at Stringfest gives you a restricted view of the festival since so much happens at other venues around the town and in the main street.

The Community Hall where the luthiers, tonewood merchants and others such as myself hang out can seem a lonely place at times. That was my impression on Saturday, the main day of the Festival, with far fewer people than last year. A common comment was that there are too many other events on that weekend. The crowds picked up Sunday morning and I met a few interesting people, picked up some useful information and perhaps even some new blackwood growers.

I love the busking and the random spontaneous music making. I think that is also a special feature of Stringfest. It’s almost a BYO instrument event!

Clearly it will take Stringfest some years to get established and create a unique identity and following. It will take a big commitment and effort by the Deloraine community to make it a success. But it will be worth the effort!

Stringfest is a unique vision.

The focus on the musical performers is great, but Stringfest will never compete with the other established music festivals. The key to success for Stringfest I believe will be attracting a broader audience with the performers as well as the luthiers, tonewood merchants and tonewood growers.

In 2014 there were 4 tonewood merchants at Stringfest. None of those merchants returned this year, being replaced instead by 2 new tonewood merchants. I’m not sure how many tonewood merchants Tasmania can support but I suspect it is less than the current number if anyone is to have a hope of making a decent living from it.

But keeping tonewood merchants at Stringfest will be difficult. Whilst not many of us can afford a custom made guitar, at least the luthiers have merchandise that will sell, and it certainly attracts plenty of interest. Tonewood merchants however occupy a very restricted market, so Stringfest offers them little in the way of financial reward, unless we get to the point where bigger guitar companies start coming to Stringfest. While that’s not beyond the realms of possibility it is still a few years away.

So we need new ideas on how to make the non-performing side of Stringfest more useful and engaging for both the participants and the audience.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Field trips to a blackwood plantation;
  • Presentations on growing blackwood (and other tonewoods);
  • Tonewood merchants are both a) selling tonewood, and b) looking to buy logs from farmers/landowners. What are some things that tonewood merchants can do to attract both types of customers?
  • A tonewood auction.
  • A farm-grown log auction.
  • A log-sawing demonstration;
  • Luthier talks and demonstrations? Eg. the effect of tonewood on tone; how to refret a guitar; different soundboard bracing patterns; etc..
  • A restringing booth! Bring your guitar/instrument in for a health check and restring (byo or buy strings);
  • Craft-made guitar straps – these could be leather or other material;

I think the luthiers, merchants and growers themselves need to take ownership of their participation at Stringfest and be more creative.

How can we better link the performing and non-performing sides of Stringfest? Artists/luthiers on stage road testing a range of local guitars of different designs, sizes, shapes and tonewoods?

Finally my thanks and appreciation to the organisers and volunteers, and the Deloraine community, who make Stringfest happen. I think it is a fantastic idea and a great model.

I will be back again in 2016 to give the Festival my fullest support.

Plant a guitar!

Deloraine Stringfest & World Heritage Area logging


This was going to happen sooner or later. But the Deloraine Stringfest is now becoming associated with Tasmanian State Government forest policy and the logging of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). This is courtesy of the Premier Will Hodgman and his press release associated with the recent launch of the 2015 Stringfest.


We want to ensure craftsmen like Daniel can continue to create instruments from Tasmanian timbers, which is why we are committed to rebuilding the forest industry.

As many people know, State forest policy now includes the planned logging of special timbers including Tasmanian tonewoods from the TWWHA. See my recent blog:




Daniel Brauchli certainly doesn’t support current Government forest policy, but the Premier seems happy to risk damaging the reputations of our craftpersons and artists.

The proposed logging of the TWWHA will become yet another divisive and destructive episode in the long running Tasmanian forestry wars.

Last year at Stringfest 2014 the elephant in the room was the ongoing supply of tonewoods to sustain the festival. That elephant was a mere calf.

This year the elephant has grown considerably into a cow elephant. The prospect of the Festival becoming associated with the logging of tonewoods from the TWWHA will see the elephant become a rampaging bull. It will destroy the Festival.

The Deloraine Stringfest depends on attracting major performing artists. Once the Festival becomes associated with TWWHA tonewoods, no major (and many minor) artists will want to be associated with the Festival.

End of Festival!

By all means please come along and enjoy the 2015 Deloraine Festival, but spot the elephant hiding in the room, or wandering the streets of Deloraine with deliberate intent.

It may even be hiding behind me. Come and look!

The Deloraine Stringfest is a fantastic festival, but given the highly politicised and conflict-driven nature of forestry in Tasmania, the future of Stringfest hangs in the balance.

Stringfest has now become a political weapon. The reputations of those associated with the Festival are now at risk.

Say “No” to World Heritage tonewoods!

[Come along and talk to me about conflict-free, farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood.]