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Tasmanian Blackwood Growers

More concerns for the public blackwood resource

Here’s an extract from an email I recently received from another forest industry employee.

My guess is that Forestry Tasmania will cease to exist within a few years. I ……… know something of the [public] resource that is left in the North West and it’s not much. Available mature [eucalypt] resource has been largely logged and most of what is left is either not economic or has been locked up. High quality [eucalypt] regrowth sawlog resource has mostly been logged. What FT has available is mostly younger regrowth that is too young for sawlog, most of which is earmarked for Ta Ann. The blackwood resource is limited and I suspect has 5 years left at current harvest rates.

That’s 5 years of public blackwood sawlog resource remaining to be harvested before it’s all over. This certainly correlates with my own expectations of the available public resource.

The end of the blackwood industry as we know it.

AFS and FSC Certification will count for nothing under the current scenario.

As part of the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement Forestry Tasmania is currently undertaking a special timbers resource review which is due for release later this year. It is not known whether this review will include blackwood. Given the increasing uncertainty about the public blackwood resource, the resource review report will have to be very convincing in its detail and analysis. The last blackwood resource review in 1999 was anything but convincing and detailed. The fact that Forestry Tasmania has been harvesting blackwood well above the sustainable yield since the last review is just one of many points of concern.

As I’ve said before the transparent process of regularly planning, executing, managing, reviewing and reporting the sustainable blackwood sawlog production from public native forest is clearly not up to scratch, and is certainly not worthy of FSC certification.

The growing uncertainty about the sustainability of the Tasmania’s blackwood industry is cause for concern. But questions about the sustainability of the resource may be over-shadowed by more immediate issues such as the State election in March, and now the dire state of the State Government budget. Post-election the new incoming Government will have no option but to make major cuts to Government spending. Schools and hospitals will be obvious targets. But there will be no more hand-outs for the forest industry. Non-performing assets like Forestry Tasmania will be told in no uncertain terms to ship-up or shape-out. Forestry Tasmania may be forced to abandon its “non-profit, non-commercial” special timbers activities even before the resource review is finished!

It’s going to be another very hard year for the forest industry.

The only future for the blackwood industry is to focus on private growers. There is a small existing resource that can be utilised, but the focus must turn to rebuilding the resource base on private land with a dedicated growers cooperative. Engage private land owners to learn to manage and grow more blackwood. A key part of this strategy must be greater market and price transparency.

The only other option is that we all disappear into the dusty pages of history, and let the New Zealand farmers take our blackwood heritage and industry.

PS. Meanwhile the forest industry in New Zealand just keeps going from strength to strength – absolutely unstoppable!



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