Tasmanian State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural land 2009

Tasmania has had a rabidly pro-forestry Parliament for generations; at least rabid in terms of rhetoric!

But when it came to developing a State policy on the protection of agricultural land plantation forestry was the only primary industry specifically mentioned.

http://www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/policy/state_policies

Plantation forestry is the ONLY primary production that is specifically excluded from designated prime agricultural land in Tasmania.

Principles 3.10 and 3.11 of the Policy specifically discuss plantation forestry. Principe 3.10 provides a general exclusion of plantation forestry from Prime Agricultural Land, whilst 3.11 allows plantation forestry to be excluded from any other agricultural land.

What is the purpose of the Policy?What developments are affected?Where does the Policy apply?
To conserve and protect agricultural land so that it remains available for the sustainable use and development of agriculture, recognising the particular importance of prime agricultural land. ‘Agricultural use’ includes use of the land for propagating, cultivating or harvesting plants or for keeping and breeding of animals, excluding domestic animals and pets. It includes the handling, packing or storing of agricultural produce for dispatch to processors or markets and controlled environment agriculture and plantation forestry.Proposed non-agricultural use and development that is ‘discretionary ‘or ‘prohibited’ on land zoned either Significant Agriculture or Rural Resources in planning schemes or land adjoining these zones but with a different zoning.All agricultural land in Tasmania zoned either Significant Agriculture or Rural Resources in planning schemes

Prime Agricultural Land (PAL) is defined as land with Land Capability Classes 1-3, as discussed in the following website:

https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/agriculture/land-management-and-soils/land-and-soil-resource-assessment/land-capability

PAL comprises 108,000 ha or just 4.3% of Tasmanian private land.

So why specifically exclude plantation forestry from 4.3% of Tasmania’s private land?

Why not exclude mohair goats, walnuts or truffles as well? Why pick on trees?

For a rabidly pro-forestry Parliament this Policy makes no sense whatsoever.

If a farmer plants a tree on any of these 108,000 ha are they breaking the law? Will they be prosecuted?

I know lots of farmers say you can’t eat wood, but as the recent global timber shortage demonstrated, neither can you build houses out of vegetable waste!!

As I’ve said many times before the forest industry in Tasmania is struggling to build a future. It wants to encourage farm forestry, but the Government has put numerous hurdles in its path. This Policy is one such hurdle.

Another hurdle is the treatment of plantation forestry under the Forest Practices Code. Plantation forestry should be treated just like any other primary industry, subject to the same rules and regulations. Just like it is in New Zealand!

It’s called a level playing field, and allows farmers to make better investment decisions to improve their commercial performance.

Now I think about it, the only reason plantation forestry is specifically mentioned in this policy is a warning to politicians. Under current markets the only way forest plantations would be grown on prime agricultural land is if politicians intervened to distort and corrupt markets as they did during the Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) disaster.

But as the world continues to run short of timber and wood prices increase, this Policy will need to be reviewed. The Tasmanian Government will need to start encouraging farmers to grow trees instead of discouraging them.

Timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector – The Report

Back in June last year (2020) I wrote a submission to a Federal Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into plantation log supply constraints in Australia.

Here is the link to the inquiry including the final report and submissions:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Standing_Committee_on_Agriculture_and_Water_Resources/Timbersupply

As I noted at the time, the Terms of Reference for the inquiry were very typical for the forest industry in Australia, ie. the focus was all on the processors and “jobs”.

And the title for the final report says it all (what a f*****g joke!):

Aussie logs for Aussie jobs

Inquiry into timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector

Was the inquiry about supporting, encouraging and rewarding profitable tree growers?

Not on your life!

The primary focus of the inquiry was about protectionism and market manipulation.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy to support local processing of forest products, but not if it means denying growers the right to open, competitive, transparent markets. Making long term investments, like growing timber, is hard enough without Governments and industry slamming the door in your face.

And this Inquiry and this Report provide absolutely no comfort to existing and potential timber growers, that such market interference wont happen!

So what can I say about the Report?

At least the report is more honest about the current state of the forest industry in Australia than a lot of previous reports.

The picture is rather gloomy!!

The forest plantation sector in Australia is in decline, losing resource and becoming less competitive.

The focus of the report is on commodity wood (pine and hardwood woodchips), with no mention of high value appearance grade forest products.

If nothing else, I recommend reading the section on Farm Forestry which begins on page 59 of the Report. I don’t agree with everything it says, I do agree that there are significant issues, most of which are not being addressed.

One curiosity is the mention in the Report of a “National Farm Forestry Strategy”. Apparently the Federal Government is producing one, but if you Google “National Farm Forestry Strategy” nothing appears!! We have had these strategies before and they have all failed. Let us wait and see!

And the biggest issue for me is the culture and attitude of the forest industry itself, and the “head-in-the sand” attitude of the marketplace!

Happy reading!!

IST Tender Results 2020-21

Island Specialty Timbers (IST), the only source of competitive, transparent market blackwood log prices, conducted 10 log tenders during the year, making up for the shortfall last year due to the pandemic.

https://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au/

IST is a business enterprise of Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) which sources and retails raw material of Tasmanian specialty timbers from harvest or salvage operations conducted on State owned Permanent Timber Production Zone land (PTPZl).

You can read my previous annual tender summaries here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/?s=tender

Blackwood Results

2021 was a champagne year for blackwood!

2021 was the year that plain-grain blackwood sawlog broke the $1,000 per cubic metre price barrier!

Prices for good quality plain grain blackwood sawlogs have been sitting above $800 per cubic metres for the last few years, as seen in the chart below, but this year they broke through the price ceiling.

Premium plain grain sawlogs are what can be grown in blackwood plantations.

Will this result encourage Sustainable Timbers Tasmania/IST to put more blackwood sawlogs to tender?

Will this result capture the attention and imagination of Tasmanian farmers?

This year IST put 10 blackwood logs to tender, a total of 11.9 cubic metres, or 4.4% of the total volume put to tender for the year.

One log was unsold at tender, as was a 2 cubic metre pack of sawn blackwood boards.

Two logs had feature grain and sold between $1,250 and $1,300 per cubic metre.

The other 7 logs were plain grain, with prices ranging from $300 to $1,100 per cubic metre. Lower prices were paid for smaller logs and logs with defects (spiral grain, scars, branch knots).

Higher prices were paid for large, good quality logs.

All up the 8.14 cubic metres of plain grain blackwood logs sold for $4,259.

The following chart shows the average size characteristics of sold plain grain blackwood logs. The target sawlog for a blackwood plantation has a volume of 1.5 cubic metres and a small end diameter (SED) of around 50 cm.

Remember these are tiny log volumes sold into the small southern Tasmanian market. They represent mill door prices not stumpages.

As usual IST has a policy of minimising the amount of blackwood logs it puts to tender, despite the fact that around 10,000 cubic metres of blackwood are harvested from public native forests in Tasmania each year, and sold at “Government prices”.

Imagine if IST put 10 cubic metres of blackwood sawlog at each tender, to attract mainland and maybe even overseas buyers.

Imagine if Government forest policy was about profitable tree growers and not sawmill welfare.

Imagine what that change would do for the forest industry and Tasmania!

These positive blackwood log price signals should be resulting in more blackwood plantations being established, helping to build the industry and make Tasmanian farmers more profitable.

One hectare of well managed blackwood plantation has the potential to produce approx 300 cubic metres of premium sawlog after 30 – 35 years. At $1,000 per cubic metre that equates to $300,000 per ha in todays market.

How many Tasmanian farms have difficult corners, steep slopes and weedy areas that could be more productive growing quality wood?

General Results

Overall IST put 272 cubic metres of specialty timbers to tender in 2020-21 of which 252 cubic metres sold for total revenue of $262,700.

Last year Sustainable Timbers Tasmania sold 7,921 cubic metres of specialty timbers, so these competitive tender sales represent a mere 3% of specialty timber sales from public native forests in Tasmania.

The following chart shows the volume and price summary for all log tenders back to 2015. The price spike in the January 2021 tender was due to this tender being an all Huon pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii) tender.

The tiny volumes and wide variability in species and quality of logs that IST put to tender makes assessing trends over time difficult.

The next chart shows the average volume of the sold logs. Here there is a clear trend of diminishing log size. If it wasn’t for the occasional large eucalypt log IST throws into the tender mix, this trend of diminishing log size would be even more pronounced.

The following 2 charts show the above data summarised by year:

2020-21 was significant for a) the major increase in volume of specialty timbers put to tender, and b) a record unit price set for a single log at IST.

The record unit price of $5,300 per cubic metre was for a Black heart sassafras log at the March 2021 tender. The log was only 2.5 metres long with a volume of only 0.16 cubic metres, so total price was only $850!!

The highest price paid for a single log was at the same March 2021 tender where another Black heart sassafras log of 1.3 cubic metres sold for $5,570.

The main focus of IST tenders is black heart sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) which can command very high prices for good logs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atherosperma

However the tree is slow growing (500+ years to reach commercial size) and is restricted to rainforest and old growth eucalypt forest, so supplies of this species are dwindling.

Surprisingly the marketplace continues to support the plundering of Tasmania’s last ancient forests!

Five Year Review

Again it is important to recognise that this data represents tiny volumes sold into the small southern Tasmanian market. The results DO NOT represent the wider Tasmanian, Australian or international markets.

The results are also influenced by the fact that IST is NOT a commercial business. Like its parent Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, IST is NOT obliged to make a profit. These rare timber resources are brought to market at taxpayer expense.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

Looking at the annual aggregate results of the IST tenders three trends are apparent:

  1. the maximum price paid for quality wood is increasing; and
  2. the volume unsold at tender is decreasing. Whether this is due to a) IST becoming better at excluding logs that will not sell, and/or b) increasing demand for quality wood, is unclear. The fact that both the average and minimum prices paid remain steady indicates better log selection rather than increasing demand. Certainly the quality of product put to tender by IST varies enormously.
  3. the average price paid for quality wood has not changed over the last 5 years, remaining at around $1,000 per cubic metre.

The 7-year trend for plain grain blackwood logs is less clear, but the volumes are microscopic!

In general the prices paid for plain grain blackwood logs have been good, with indications in the last few years of solid price increases.

Since blackwood is the only Tasmanian specialty timber species that can be grown in commercial plantations, this is good news!

Will the Government and the forest industry make use of this valuable positive market information?

Almost certainly not!

Fraud by Nature

The Forestry Wars are well and truly back in their full Tasmanian community devastation.

The toxic rhetoric is raining down upon us as if the last 30 years meant nothing.

Here is a piece from The Mercury newspaper from Monday 24th May.

It is written by economist John Lawrence and relates to the State Government forest agency Sustainable Timbers Tasmania:

https://www.sttas.com.au/

Here is the article on John’s own website:

http://tasfintalk.blogspot.com/2021/05/whether-or-not-we-have-native-forest.html

John Lawrence wrote a similar more detailed piece for The Guardian newspaper 3 years ago. You can find it here:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

The fact that this article can appear in the main Tasmanian media, with $1.3 billion in taxpayers cash and assets stolen, and:

  • not a single question will be asked in the Tasmanian Parliament;
  • there will be no Royal Commission;
  • the Tasmanian Integrity Commission (https://www.integrity.tas.gov.au/) will never launch an enquiry;
  • there will be no police investigation;
  • no one will ever face prosecution;

tells us everything we need to know about Tasmanian politics and corruption in Tasmania.

It certainly tells us everything we need to know about the forest industry in Tasmania.

The fact that Australia’s two largest retailers of this stolen property, Bunnings Hardware and Mitre 10 Hardware, are in complete support of this fraud is just another disturbing feature of the forest industry.

https://www.bunnings.com.au/

https://www.mitre10.com.au/

So how do we end this?

There is no way to end this except endless protest!!

Unless Bunnings and Mitre 10 make a stand and stop supporting this fraud, things will only get worse.

2008 Taylor Solidbody Custom Koa/Blackwood

Back when I was reviewing Taylor Guitars blackwood models in chronological order I missed a rare gem!

Taylor has been researching and developing guitar electronics and pickup systems for many years.

This resulted in the Expression System 1 (ES1) in 2003 for Taylor acoustic guitars, followed in 2005 by the T5 hollowbody hybrid guitar in 2005, and the T3 semihollow body in 2009. Both the T5 and T3 models are still in production.

In 2007 the Taylor R&D had evolved to the point of developing pickups that suited solidbody guitars, so the decision was made to develop a range of solidbody electric guitars.

These were launched in 2008 with three models – Standard, Classic and Custom.

The initial Custom model had a Walnut top with Sapele body and neck(Wood & Steel Vol 54, p. 16).

The Custom model then quickly expanded to include a stunning Custom Koa/Blackwood model with a flamed Koa top and Tasmanian blackwood body and neck (Wood & Steel, Vol. 55, p. 18).

The Custom Koa model then changed to having a mahogany body and neck (Wood & Steel Vol 56, p. 33).

But as Taylor quickly discovered, breaking into the already crowded and conservative solidbody electric guitar market would be a long, hard battle.

On top of that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit the world economy sending guitar sales plummeting.

From what I can find on the internet, Taylor put little effort into marketing and promoting their solidbody guitars, with the result that only 45 of these Custom Koa/Blackwood beauties were built (Taylor Guitars, pers. com). They are rare premium electric blackwood guitars.

The solidbody Custom models only lasted 2 years!

The Standard and Classic models died out in 2013!

“On a related note, you may notice the absence of our SolidBody from this year’s line. That’s because we wanted to take this year to explore some new design ideas. We’ll be sure to share new developments as they unfold.”

And with that simple statement in 2014 Taylor declared the end of their brief venture into the solidbody electric guitar market.

Local Communities and the Forest Industry

This recent commentary from the forest industry demonstrates yet again the arrogance, contempt and feral attitude that the industry shows towards the Australian community:

The Murrindindi Shire in the Central Highlands of Victoria is Ground Zero for public native welfare forestry in Victoria. Not surprisingly the local Murrindindi community are getting increasingly agitated and concerned about the impact forestry is having on their lives and livelihoods.

https://www.murrindindi.vic.gov.au/Your-Council/Statement-on-the-Management-of-Central-Highlands-Forests

But the forest industry demonstrates nothing but contempt for the community’s concerns.

https://www.murrindindi.vic.gov.au/logging

The arrogance in the language of the Timberbiz commentary is nothing short of offensive!

If the forest industry loses the support of local communities then it only has itself to blame.

Treating local communities with such blatant arrogance and contempt will only hasten the isolation and decline of the forest industry.

Murrindindi Shire is close to the City of Melbourne, so many of the residents are not dependent on forestry welfare, hence the growing concern and criticism.

The Murrindindi Council are the elected representatives of the local community, a fact which the forest industry chooses to ignore.

As a forester I fully support the Murrindindi community in their right to show care and concern for their future.

As a forester I condemn the offensive attitude and language of the forest industry.

Going backwards!

There are many reasons why the forest industry in Australia is going backwards.

Here is just one small example:

PF Olsen is a forestry services company which started in New Zealand, but has also opened offices in Australia.

Here is their New Zealand website:

https://nz.pfolsen.com/market-info-news/

Notice the headings across the top of the page.

Now here is their Australian website:

https://au.pfolsen.com/

Notice the headings across the top of the page. How do they compare with the New Zealand website?

The Australian website contains nothing about Contractors & Suppliers nor about Market Information & News!

Why is that?

Are there no forestry markets in Australia?

Do tree growers in Australia not want access to uptodate market information?

Or is it because profitable tree growing is not the focus of the forest industry in Australia?

New Zealand has a real forest industry where the focus is on supporting tree growers to make sure they are as viable and profitable as possible. That way more farmers plant trees, the forest industry expands and has a successful future.

It is a successful simple industry model!

PF Olsen NZ is acutely aware of this and do their bit to ensure tree growers and the forest industry share a successful future.

Go to PF Olsen’s New Zealand website and check out their Market Info & News. It’s a great resource for NZ farmers!

Curiously PF Olsen Australia does not seem to share the same vision.

The focus of the forest industry in Australia has always been about supporting and subsidising domestic processors, at the expense of growers and the future of the industry.

Curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Please post a comment…

PS. If anyone can find a single Australian forest industry website that provides uptodate market information I’d love to know. Thanks.

Blackwood logs for sale

I just received this email about a sizable parcel of salvage blackwood that is currently avalable. Please feel free to contact Mark Smith – details below. If not sold the blackwood will be disposed of.

Good luck

Gordon

Hi Gordon

I received an enquiry from a landowner in the Ringarooma area, NE Tasmania who is clearing some native forest (stringy/white gum) under an FPP to put in a centre pivot and generating 500-800t of feature grade blackwood. 

I’m not finding a huge amount of interest but pass the opportunity onto you for your consideration.  Can you recommend any sawmillers or exporters across the north/northwest who might be interested?

Contact details:

Mark Smith

0419 381 075

ataylor@hotmail.com

Tree Alliance – MIS revisited?

https://www.treealliance.com.au/

Does anyone remember the Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) disaster of the 1990s?

It was the biggest corporate fraud in Australia’s history.

There was no Royal Commission and no one went to jail.

Billions of investor and taxpayer dollars disappeared, and thousands of Australian lives were ruined.

And the forest industry, which started the MIS schemes, refused to accept any responsibility for their actions!

It was a complete disaster!

And it had its beginnings in much the same way as the Tree Alliance is now starting off.

The forest industry has been very quiet the past 10 years as it has rebuilt from the ashes of the MIS disaster.

The MIS was a near-death experience for the forest industry. A few people made extraordinary wealth, but left the industry a smoking ruin.

Below is a list of those who support the Tree Alliance:

Supporters of the Tree Alliance:

The Tree Alliance aims to bring together a range of organisations to collaborate to achieve the tree planting and communication objectives. Current supporters include:

  • Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association
  • Tasmanian Agricultural Productivity Group
  • Tasmanian Timber
  • Tasmanian Forests and Forests Product Network
  • We Act
  • Climate Friendly
  • The Centre For Sustainable Architecture With Wood (University of Tasmania)
  • CSIRO
  • NRM South

Note that the above list contains no sawmillers, wood processors, log merchants,  exporters, or retailers. No one in the real forest industry supports the Tree Alliance!

Does that make you suspicious?

It should!!!

I wander through the Tree Alliance website and I see history repeating itself.

I see the forest industry (or at least public servants, scientists, NGOs and politicians) big-talking! Lots of promises and potential, just like the start of the MIS disaster.

BEWARE!

As I tell all my clients and those who make enquiries about growing blackwood:

“No one wants you to grow trees for future wood production!”

The real forest industry (including the marketplace) has not the slightest interest in your tree-growing dreams!

I get phone calls and hear stories of people who are bulldozing their trees they once planted and can now find no markets for!!

The Tree Alliance has all the features, promises and rhetoric of a giant fraud, just like the Managed Investment Scheme disaster.

BEWARE!

I support a real forest industry! New Zealand has a real forest industry; Australia does not!

In New Zealand the forest industry talks about prices, costs, supply, demand, markets, etc.; all those things that farmers understand and deal with every single day.

No one in the forest industry in Australia talks about such matters!

Looking at the Tree Alliance is like watching Dorothy and the Tin Man skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.

BEWARE!

Until the real forest industry (including the wider marketplace) WANTS a future I would steer clear of any hyper-marketing “forest industry” b***shit.

Cheers!

FSC Standard – Economically Viable

I just thought I’d rave a bit more about the ridiculous FSC Standard for Economically Viable.

Clearly the FSC is completely confused and conflicted about whether forestry is welfare or commerce, or is it money laundering?

So far I have found two different definitions of what the FSC means by Economically Viable. The first example comes from FSC UK:

Economically Viable

Economically viable forest management means that forest operations are structured and managed so as to be sufficiently profitable, without generating financial profit at the expense of the forest resource, the ecosystem, or affected communities. The tension between the need to generate adequate financial returns and the principles of responsible forest operations can be reduced through efforts to market the full range of forest products and services for their best value.

https://www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk/about-fsc/what-is-fsc/our-mission-and-vision

The second example comes from FSC Australia:

Economically Viable

The FSC certification standard requires that a forest management entity have sufficient financial resources to manage the defined forest area in conformance with the full scope of the standard.  The standard does not require that the certified forest is managed at a profit provided that other sources of working capital are available and sufficient to enable management in conformance with the standard.

https://www.scsglobalservices.com/news/scs-responds-to-questions-about-the-forestry-tasmania-fsc-forest-management-assessment

Both these examples demonstrate that no one at the FSC has ever studied Economics 101 – basic economic theory and principles.

So let’s discuss the FSC UK definition first:

Of the two definitions it’s the one I like the most; not perfect but at least heading in the right direction. Clearly the UK believes that forestry (growing trees for wood production) is a business, not welfare or money laundering. But the wording could be improved and simplified.

So here is my edit of the UK definition:

Economically viable forest management means that forest operations are structured and managed so as to be profitable. Any subsidies to the forest grower must be available equally to all forest growers within the same jurisdiction.

The rest of the words are pointless. If the forest management is Environmentally Appropriate, Socially Beneficial but it is not profitable then presumably the forest owner would not harvest any trees, ie. No need to seek FSC certification.

If the forest management meets all three Standards, then there is no need to reiterate the environmental and social standards within the economic standard as the UK definition has done. It is superfluous text!

Meet all three Standards = Achieve FSC Certification!

What is “sufficiently” profitable is a decision for the forest owner to make, based on available markets, etc..

If the forest owner is subsidised to manage the forest for wood production (which may be the case in some countries), then the FSC must ensure that all forest owners within that same jurisdiction have equal access to the same subsidies, ie. The FSC has a duty to uphold the principles of competitive neutrality within the forest industry, and not advantage one forest grower over another.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/10/17/competitive-neutrality-in-forestry/

Which leads me nicely to the Australian definition of Economically Viable.

The Australian definition of Economically Viable could be taken to be supportive of money laundering in the forest industry.

Within the Australian definition no profitability is required.

Any amount of money from any source (eg. Criminal activity) can be used to subsidise forest management, achieve economic viability and hence achieve FSC Certification.

In Tasmania that equates to robbing taxpayers to pay sawmillers.

If that definition does not open the gates to corruption and criminal activity I don’t know what would!

I would love to meet the economist that signed off on that definition of “economically viable”! A very “creative” economist indeed!!

Never mind the fact that the FSC supports both of the above contradictory Standards!!

If I was a farmer wanting to diversify my income and plant trees for wood production what would I think of the above Standards?

Would I be supportive of the FSC?

If I was a Tasmanian concerned about the continuing plunder of our public native forests, what would I think of the FSC? Would I have any confidence in Third Party Forest Certification?

I think the FSC has a long way to go to achieve any credibility.