Seasons Greetings

Well another year comes to a close. It’s time to wish everyone a happy and safe festive season, and a bright and prosperous new year; and to reflect on the year past and the year ahead.

2013 saw the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement Act passed through the State Parliament but with no funding support for the blackwood growers cooperative. But the TFA provides little comfort for anyone including the forest industry.

2013 also saw the sad passing in March of New Zealand blackwood scientist and advocate Ian Nicholas following a brief illness. He will be missed. But Ian managed to leave one final fantastic legacy for blackwood growers in the online video “Blackwood in New Zealand”. For existing blackwood growers or farmers wanting to find out about growing commercial blackwood this is a brilliant resource. Thankyou Ian!

2013 also saw the record-breaking prices for blackwood logs at Island Specialty Timbers tenders. Firstly at the August tender where a record price of $2,750 per cubic metre was set. This was followed by the October tender where the record was reset at $2,900 per cubic metre. Extraordinary results and indicative of what the market is prepared to pay for premium blackwood.

2014 promises to be yet another turbulent destructive year for the forest industry in Tasmania, with the State election in March looking to undermine the TFA and reignite political and community tensions. 2014 also promises progress with FSC Certification for Forestry Tasmania, to cement in place a failed business model for the forest industry and taxpayer support for years to come. It will also see progress perhaps on the public special timbers resource and even more politics and stupidity. Oh what fun!

In 12 months time the forest industry in Tasmania will be in even greater crisis than it is already. That is a very easy prediction to make.

Despite the lack of official support for the blackwood coop, modest progress continues. There continues to be a steady stream of enquiries from farmers/landowners and others. It comes as no surprise to me that more enquiries come from the mainland than Tasmania. Whenever anyone in Tasmania thinks of trees or forestry they immediately think of politics, conflict and failed MIS schemes. Mainlanders happily do not suffer from this affliction.

Progress was made during the year with a small but growing number of successful blackwood plantations. Their stories can be read here. Highlights include the successful first thinning at the Carrabin plantation, and the discovery and visit to the Robertson plantation in NSW. These plantations demonstrate the potential for commercial blackwood as a farm investment. Yes there is still much to learn, and there will be failures and disappointments as we continue to discover where and how we can and can’t grow commercial blackwood. But the number of successes will increase and the failures decrease as our knowledge and understanding continues to grow.

New Zealand blackwood farmers move gradually towards their first significant harvests in the next few years, with many of them actively coordinating to build markets, processes and infrastructure.  By 2020 New Zealand will be producing more blackwood timber than Australia. I can only hope that their success will attract interest from Tasmanian farmers.

Looking back 2013 has been a big year. 2014 promises to be another big year full of forestry chaos and hopefully progress with the blackwood coop. It would certainly help me to find a benevolent sponsor or a business model that provided me with some income. In the mean time I will soldier on.

Thanks to everyone for your support this year. See you in 2014.

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