The Wooden Boat Festival and the Tasmanian Forestry Wars

AWBF

As I’ve written previously on this website, to have a wood craft festival in the 21st century that ignores the issue of where the wood comes from, who grows it, fails to express concern for the future of the world’s forests, or demonstrate support for private tree growers, seems to me to be the equivalent to denying climate change.

But such is the situation with the Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) which is on this weekend in Hobart, Tasmania.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/10/08/the-australian-wooden-boat-festival/

The fact that most wood craft festivals in Australia behave in a similar manner is no excuse.

To date the AWBF has managed to avoid being caught up in the long running Tasmanian Forestry Wars, but the events of the last 5 years have changed that.

In 2014 the Tasmanian State election was waged yet again on a battle for the forests. The new Liberal Government scrapped the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement that had been negotiated between the forest industry and the community.

Forest areas that had been earmarked for reservation were opened up for future logging against the advice of the forest industry and the market.

The new Liberal Government then sought, with the support of the wooden boat community, to open up the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) for logging. This move was blocked by UNESCO.

The TWWHA can still be logged, but UNESCO would remove the area from the World Heritage Register.

In 2017 the Tasmanian State Government released the Tasmanian Special Species Management Plan. This Plan allows for the logging of special species timbers, including so called boat timbers, within Tasmania’s Conservation Areas. This logging is to happen at taxpayers expense, with no accountability and no transparency.

These Conservation Reserves were established under the 1996 Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement explicitly to protect rainforest and oldgrowth from logging, even although Tasmanian legislation allows for logging with Conservation Reserves (this IS Tasmania after all).

The new Special Species Management Plan explicitly uses “market demand” and events such as the Deloraine Craft Fair and the Australian Wooden Boat Festival as justification for opening up Tasmania’s Conservation Reserves for rainforest and old growth logging.

That Management Plan has now been in effect for 18 months with zero transparency or accountability. We have no idea what areas have been logged or how much taxpayers money has been wasted.

You can read my critique of this travesty of a Management Plan here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

The fact that some people within the wooden boat community are in full support of this appalling situation needs to be highlighted.

The AWBF is a large successful festival which could be a force for change and for good.

Instead the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is now in line to become another battleground in the long running destructive Forestry Wars.

And the toxic Tasmanian political system will guarantee that the AWBF is used as a weapon to achieve short term political gain. We have seen it all before!

The Future

In the 21st century the AWBF needs to explicitly state its policy on forests, wood sourcing away from public native forests.

Currently the AWBF has no policies on these issues.

Instead the AWBF sits in silence working to ensure that Tasmanian rainforests and oldgrowth remain available for logging.

The State Government will of course threaten that to stop rainforest logging will endanger the AWBF.

The State Government will of course assert that rainforest logging is sustainable (whilst providing zero evidence/transparency/accountability).

In what perverted universe is the harvesting 500 to 1,000 year-old trees sustainable? Based on this very same logic Tasmania will resume logging Huon pine at some point!

It’s time to bring the Australian Wooden Boat Festival into the 21st century. Otherwise pressure must be brought upon the AWBF sponsors to review their support for the event.

Here’s a list of the major sponsors:

https://www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au/about-us/partners/

People attending or participating in the AWBF need to realise they are supporting the Tasmanian Forestry Wars and the continuing plunder of our rainforests and Tasmanian taxpayers.

It’s time to stop!!

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Tasmanian blackwood makes it to the top of the Taylor tree

taylor ps tb1

The latest Taylor Guitars Wood & Steel magazine (Vol. 93 2019 Winter, p. 28) shows us that Tasmanian blackwood has finally made it to the peak of Taylors model range.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/wood-and-steel

Fifteen years after introducing Tasmanian blackwood into their limited production and three years after introducing blackwood into their regular production in the 300 series models, Tasmanian blackwood is now included in Taylor’s top-of-the-line Presentation Series (PS) models.

The Presentation Series are an annual limited edition series of guitars that feature premium woods and premium appointments.

Our Presentation Series celebrates the finest in materials and craftsmanship detail. This year we’re thrilled to introduce the wood pairing of figured Tasmanian blackwood and Adirondack spruce to the collection. Tonally, we love blackwood — it’s loud, responsive and warm, yet with a clear focus. The sets we’ve selected boast a beautiful blend of variegation, figure and grain structure reminiscent of Hawaiian koa, featuring golden-brown and dark amber ribbons of color. Together with a top of creamy Adirondack spruce, this guitar is no mere showpiece; its dynamic voice is ripe for the picking (or strumming). Or, if you prefer the rich, dark variegation of a sinker redwood top, the option is yours. We’ve also shifted from a beveled armrest to our radius contouring, which ensures comfort for players of all sizes. Our elegant suite of aesthetic appointments saves the understatement for other models, tracing the lines of the guitar with sparkling paua and other eye-catching ornamentation, including our intricate Nouveau fretboard/ peghead inlay. From every angle, these guitars deliver stunning aesthetic appeal.

Tasmanian blackwood Presentation Series models to become available are: PS12ce, PS12ce 12-Fret, PS14ce, PS16ce, PS56ce, PS18e.

These guitars are so new they haven’t yet made it onto the Taylor website. Stay tuned!

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/features/series/presentation

Prices for Presentation Series guitars start around $US9,000. These are top-shelf guitars for people with deep pockets.

Even despite the inevitable “koa’s poor cousin” comparison, Taylor are obviously confident they are making progress getting Tasmanian blackwood accepted into world guitar markets.

Congratulations Taylor Guitars!!

For Tasmanian farmers to get their product into the top of the market should be an occasion for recognition and celebration.

Unfortunately that is not how wood markets operate.

Is this extraordinary market achievement resulting in more Tasmanian blackwood being planted by Tasmanian farmers?

Surely it should!

Utilising market forces (price, supply, demand, achievements, etc.) to help drive the future of the blackwood industry should be the backbone of industry and Government policy.

Unfortunately market demand just helps the Tasmanian Government/Parliament justify logging native blackwood forest in our Conservation Reserves.

Thankfully this is not where Taylor Guitars source their blackwood timber, which comes from Tasmanian Tonewoods salvaged from Tasmanian farms.

https://tasmaniantonewoods.com/

But in the opaque world of the global timber trade politics and greed often confound good intensions.

So here’s the take home message:

Tasmanian blackwood timber achieves another major international market milestone (thanks Taylor Guitars!!!), but no Tasmanian farmer will learn anything about this achievement, let alone be moved to invest in planting blackwood for the future.

Are you beginning to understand the problem we face?

Some of the best private native blackwood forest I’ve ever seen

IST 0515 log 16

I recently visited a property in North East Tasmania after the owner asked me to come and assess his blackwoods.

What I saw was 8 ha of some of the best private native blackwood forest I’ve ever seen.

The owner had only recently bought the property and was wondering what to do with the blackwoods.

Although the forest is unmanaged it has obviously been logged in the past and even now contains some first class blackwood sawlogs ready to be harvested, with plenty of good quality young trees coming on.

The forest clearly has tremendous blackwood growing potential, with opportunity to increase the commercial productivity 10-20 fold with some active management.

And what’s more the owner seems genuinely keen.

If we had 50 properties like this we could double the total blackwood production in Tasmania.

The problem is we have Government and industry policy that does not support and encourage profitable private blackwood growers.

Recent Island Specialty Timbers log tender results have shown good quality plain-grain blackwood logs achieving (mill-door equivalent) prices up to $900 per cubic metre for individual logs.

What would the market pay for 10 truckloads of such logs?

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

Would the industry and the market support and encourage landowners to do this?

Certainly the Tasmanian Government has absolutely NO intention of supporting and encouraging landowners to grow commercial blackwood.

One possible scenario could have this north east landowner harvesting 200 cubic metres of premium blackwood sawlog every five years in 30 years time, with no major investment and a small amount of annual labour input.

At $900 per cubic metre that equates to $180,000 every five years from those 8 ha of blackwood forest.

So far this landowners enquiries into the market have not been encouraging.

It is truly amazing how hard log merchants and sawmillers work to discourage tree growers and hence destroy their own future. It has been this way for generations!

If the forest industry is to have a future it requires a complete cultural change – nay a revolution!

I’m looking forward to helping this landowner achieve a positive outcome for his native blackwood forest.

If anyone wants to help support this landowner please contact me.

PS. In the 2017 Private Forests Tasmania “Tasmania Primary Wood Processor Directory” there are 15 processors listed as buying blackwood logs from private growers. Are any of these processors interested in supporting this NE blackwood grower? Or are they all just thinking about themselves and tomorrow?

As I’ve said before selling timber is easy! Getting people to grow timber is way more difficult. Who’s for the challenge???

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT)

fiat2019

https://www.fiatas.com.au/

When the Liberal Party won the 2014 Tasmanian State election and scrapped the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), which basically represents the Crown sawmillers and which has dictated forest policy in Tasmania for generations, was left bloodied, bruised and depleted.

For the last 4 years the FIAT website has not been updated at all, reflecting the disintegrating condition of public native forestry in Tasmania.

And now I go to their website and find this!

The FIAT website used to have all sorts of forestry propaganda.

Now the FIAT website is reduced to a single16 word sentence!!

THAT’S IT!!

Clearly public native forestry in Tasmania is at crisis point!

FIAT might think they are “committed” but history clearly shows nothing but decades of forest industry conflict and wreckage.

As I have been saying for many years the only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable private tree growers and no one in the industry in Tasmania (including FIAT) has any interest in such a future.

This sad pathetic plea from FIAT feels very much like a last desperate gasp.

I have been a professional forester in Tasmania for the past 40 years. For it to come to this is very sad indeed, but so utterly predictable…

 

Blackwood retail price update

I reported on this Tasmanian blackwood retailer previously:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/06/07/another-blackwood-timber-price-list/

Once again the best way to represent this price list is to sort the boards by volume per linear metre. There are still price anomalies that are not due to differences in size or grade.

This sawmiller/retailer specialises in Tasmanian “specialty timbers”.

These timbers obviously come from Tasmanian public native forest, which as everyone should know by now, comes to market at great cost to Tasmanian taxpayers, the plundering of the last of our oldgrowth and rainforest, and the logging of our Conservation Reserves.

These facts don’t seem to worry many people. This retailer has plenty of support.

Welcome to the Tasmanian forest industry!

sjt2-18pl

These are retail prices for kiln-dried and dressed blackwood. This price list includes select, feature and bark-edge grades – can you spot the difference in price between the grades?

The prices which last time were north of $8,000 per cubic metre have dropped back. Obviously the local market is not prepared to pay that kind of price at the moment. Otherwise blackwood prices have remained stable over the past 12 months.

That Tasmanian blackwood timber can command these prices but is not grown commercially in Tasmania is one of life’s many mysteries.

It could also be called a failure of Government and industry policy, and a failure of the marketplace.

Cheers!

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival

AWBF

An item in the Tasmanian weekend press reminded me that Tasmania’s biggest wood-based festival is returning in 2019.

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) has become a major event on many boat/yacht owners calenders.

https://www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au/

What began in 1994 has now become a major national and international festival.

For a small island State at the bottom of the world a wooden boat festival makes perfect sense for Tasmania, with its dual heritage of boats and forests.

The problem is, like so many other wood-based festivals, the AWBF is completely silent on the issue of where the wood comes from.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/02/13/all-about-the-wood-nothing-about-the-growers/

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/02/19/maleny-wood-expo/

Tasmania has a heritage of renowned boating timbers such as King billy pine, Huon pine and Celery top pine. The problem is that these timbers come from very slow growing trees from ancient rainforests that are now mostly gone or are in conservation reserves.

Some Huon pine and Celery top pine continues to come from hydro lake salvage, but this is a finite resource.

Last year the Tasmanian government enacted a management plan that allows the harvesting of rainforest timbers from conservation reserves that were established specifically to protect rainforest under the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

Given Tasmania’s decades long forestry wars, hosting a major wood based festival is a significant achievement. The AWBF could easily have become the focus for community conflict over the management of our public native forests.

This could still happen given current Government policy.

Given the context perhaps the AWBF Committee believes that having no policies on timber sourcing and forest management is the safest strategy.

When skating (sailing?) on thin ice it’s best to be cautious!

Also no doubt the wooden boating community is itself deeply divided over timber sourcing and forest management issues. Attempting to develop policies around these issues could tear the wooden boating community asunder. Goodbye AWBF!

But avoiding these issues is not a sustainable strategy. Sooner or later the matter will come to a head. A community demonstration at the AWBF around Government policy and rainforest logging may be all that is needed to precipitate a policy crisis.

Supporting the continued taxpayer-funded plunder of Tasmania’s rainforest and oldgrowth forest is not an option for the AWBF.

Given its enormous popularity the AWBF could become a powerful positive force for good forest management.

What is the future of boating timbers?

I’m no expert.

Many people rate Cupressus macrocarpa and related species as good for boat building. These are fast growing species ideal for the Tasmanian climate. The AWBF could develop policies that support farmers growing boating timbers.

They could be local Tasmanian growers or they could come from overseas.

The point is that the AWBF would have a positive vision for its future.

The AWBF currently has its head in the sand (sawdust?) on timber sourcing and forest management.

But it can’t last forever!!

The end is nigh!

Bunnings

The public native forest market is shifting quickly.

Wesfarmers, the parent company of Bunnings Hardware and Officeworks, yesterday announced they will only stock FSC certified products by 2020.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-17/vic-forestry-industry-at-risk-of-collapse/10255128

This means both Vicforests and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania will cease to exist.

Neither of these State Government forest agencies are likely to achieve FSC certification before then. Bunnings is a major customer for both these agencies products.

In less than a week since its launch the new National Forest Industries Plan has been dealt a mortal blow!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/09/17/national-forest-industries-plan-2018/

Six weeks ago Bunnings gave warning that it was living up to its policies and making a stand against poor forest management practices in Australia:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/08/04/bunnings-finally-takes-a-stand/

All around Australia public native forest management is in crisis.

Stand by for some serious fireworks!