Monthly Archives: August 2014

Continuing into the abyss

With resolute determination, precision and predictability the Tasmanian forest industry continues its long, slow, painful journey towards extinction with the dismantling of the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement 2013.

And despite numerous promises by the State Treasurer and the State Resources Minister to not continue using scarce Tasmanian taxpayers money to subsidise the logging of public native forest, that is exactly what has been announced for yet another year.

With no plan for the forest industry and no plan to change Forestry Tasmania into a fully commercial profitable Government Business Enterprise, there is now little hope for the future of the industry.

With the forestry wars resuming it is unlikely Forestry Tasmania will gain FSC certification. Not that it matters. Either way no one but the Chinese will buy Tasmanian forest products; and the Chinese will only buy if the Tasmanian taxpayer pays for the harvesting and transport.

It’s pretty much all over! There is nothing left but a whole lot more pain for the community to endure.

It’s now just a case of watching the last remaining customers close business – the sawmills, the furniture factories, the craft shops and retailers.

This is economic and commercial mismanagement that the Tasmanian economy can well do without. Private forest growers are just overwhelmed by the tidal wave of negative political and market sentiment.

New group looks to become Fonterra of forestry

Here’s a great story for all those 14,000 New Zealand farm forest growers with plantations coming due for harvesting. If this is successful it will revolutionise the already very successful New Zealand forest industry. Forestry is New Zealand’s third largest export earner after dairy and meat. Last year’s total forestry exports were worth $NZ4.3 billion.

Yesterday a new forestry company, United Forestry Group, targeting owners of small forests in New Zealand was launched. Its cornerstone shareholder is a joint venture between international timber marketer Pentarch, which is headquartered in Melbourne and has been operating in New Zealand for more than 10 years, and a Chinese conglomerate, Xiangyu Group. The company’s offering small forest owners (there are around 14,000 forests under 1000 hectares which account for just over a third of New Zealand’s plantation resource) benefits similar to the pastoral sector’s co-operatives such as Fonterra in marketing and economies of scale.

It is believed production from New Zealand’s small forest growers over the next 20 years could be worth $NZ30 billion.

I wonder if the United Forestry Group will form sub-groups to offer these services to growers of other species besides Pinus radiata, such as blackwood? New Zealand blackwood growers would really benefit from such a service.

Those New Zealanders really do understand what forestry is all about.

I will be following this story closely over the coming years to see how it develops and keep readers informed. It’s good to have a good news story.


Important market update


Not many people would regard the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014 currently before Tasmania’s Legislative Council as anything other than an act of belligerence.

The Bill provides privileged treatment for the so called special timbers industry. It effectively puts the special timbers industry above the law, subject to no effective planning, regulation or control.

The Bill gives anyone (excluding Forestry Tasmania) the opportunity to harvest special timbers from reserves, conservation areas and other public forest.

The Bill gives no consideration to commercial matters, profitability, sustainability or good forest management.

This will likely produce a special timbers free-for-all as everyone scrambles to take all the special timbers accessible from the existing road network, legally or otherwise. Never mind the land tenure, have ute and chainsaw – will harvest. Tasmanian sheds will be overflowing. A belligerent Government may well turn a blind eye.

This situation is already generating a swift, negative reaction from the Tasmanian community and the broader market. A consumer boycott of Tasmanian timbers including blackwood is almost inevitable.

This just arrived in the letterbox today so the community reaction is underway.

Special Timbers Protests

Special timbers events such as the Wooden Boat Festival and the Deloraine Stringfest will be particularly hard hit by the negative reaction.

The problem for my business is the there is no way for the market to distinguish between special timbers from private growers, and that harvested from public forest under this new legislation, or simply stolen.

Everyone in the special timbers industry will be significantly impacted, from sawmillers to merchants, craftspeople, and furniture and guitar makers all the way through to retailers.

The broader forest industry runs the very real risk that this issue wont be quarantined to just the special timbers industry, but will impact on the broader forest industry market. After all:

Forestry = politics = Tasmania!

Continuing to treat the special timbers industry as a taxpayer-funded sacred cow with free-reign to the public forest resource is guaranteed to turn very ugly. This has every chance of becoming Tasmania’s next forest industry disaster.

It will discourage existing and potential private special timbers growers from investing in the future of the industry. It is difficult to understand why the Government wants to destroy the iconic special timbers industry.


Deloraine Stringfest 2015

Planning is underway to include a visit to a successful private blackwood plantation as part of the Deloraine Stringfest in March 2015. Transport will be by bus so places will be limited. Your chance to see and learn the art of growing commercial blackwood. Details to follow.


More Taylor Guitars promotion of Tasmanian tonewoods

Here’s Taylor Guitar’s Master Luthier Andy Powers promoting the new limited edition models featuring Tasmanian blackwood and black heart sassafras. Great video! Go Tasmanian tonewoods!


Yet another forestry advisory council & another forest industry plan. Is anyone counting?


Tasmania gets yet another forest industry council, and another industry plan to add to the vast collection of previous plans and strategies gathering dust down at the State library. I thought the RFA was the forest industry plan to end all plans. Clearly I was mistaken.

At least FIAT head Terry Edwards understands that a broad balance of membership is essential for the advisory council to be anything more than a straight political play. Full credit to Mr Edwards for coming out and saying so.

I don’t hold great hopes for anything new coming from this group. At most the Council and Plan will expire at the next State election and be replaced by the next New Council and Plan. This has been the trend for the past 40 years both in Tasmania and elsewhere around Australia.

For what it’s worth here’s my five points to build a successful forest industry for Tasmania:

  1. The Tasmanian forest industry will never succeed while it is dominated by Forest Tasmania and the politically-driven community service/employment program/charity business model. Forestry is business not politics!
  2. Forestry Tasmania must be managed on a fully commercial basis with profit as its primary objective. No other business model will work.
  3. As New Zealand clearly demonstrates, a successful forest industry is all about the growers, not the processors. Tasmania needs a large number of private commercial, profit-driven tree growers, both industrial and farm-based, with the focus on the private tree growers and not Forestry Tasmania.
  4. The existing forest industry processors (sawmillers, exporters, furniture makers, etc.) must engage strongly and directly with all growers to encourage and reward profitable tree growing. Once tree growing is accepted within the community as a legitimate profitable land use then the processors will have a commercial future. The processors will have to compete and struggle to survive but that is exactly what private enterprise does best.
  5. As has been found with other agricultural commodities, Tasmania does not compete terribly well on price. We are a small, high-cost producer a long way from markets. Forestry is no different. Forestry must focus on growing to meet high quality, high-value, niche markets. Blackwood fits this description perfectly.

I don’t expect anyone in the new advisory council to take any notice of this, not even the TFGA and PFT, so I expect the forest industry will continue to decline. But I can at least hope………

The incomplete history and current practice of unsustainable blackwood mismanagement

Having spent some time in the library I can now add a bit more detail to the chart that summarises the history of the public blackwood and special species timber resource management over the last 25 years.

Between 1995 and 2007 Forestry Tasmania published no data on the annual harvest of blackwood sawlog. The next best available data is the total special species sawlog harvest data. Knowing that blackwood comprises the majority of the special species harvested it is clear that blackwood harvest during this time was well above the sustainable level set in the 1999 blackwood resource review. This has been blatant overcutting of the resource; all of it legal and approved by successive Tasmanian Governments and Parliaments.

The contrast between the recent blackwood sawlog resource review sustainable yield estimate and the 2015-17 Three Year Harvest Plan clearly shows that the overcutting of blackwood will continue.

Tasmania’s iconic blackwood industry is heading for extinction.

Incomplete history 2

Chart notes:

  1. The 1991 Forest and Forest Industry Strategy (FFIS) set a blackwood supply target of 10,000 m3 of blackwood sawlogs per year.
  2. The 1997 Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) reaffirmed the FFIS blackwood sawlog supply target.
  3. The Forestry Tasmania 1999 Review of the sustainable blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) sawlog supply from Tasmanian State forest calculated the Statewide sustainable yield of blackwood sawlog at 8,500 m3 of blackwood sawlogs per year. The figure for just the BMZ was 6,800 m3 of blackwood sawlogs per year, with the remainder coming from the rest of the State.
  4. The Forestry Tasmania 2010 Special Timbers Strategy (STS) continued to reaffirm the supply target of 10,000 m3 of blackwood sawlogs per year until 2019.
  5. The Forestry Tasmania 2013 Review of the Sustainable Sawlog Supply from the Blackwood Management Zone (BMZ) recalculates the blackwood sawlog sustainable yield at 3,000 m3 per year. Production of blackwood sawlog from public forest outside the BMZ is expected to be negligible.
  6. The 2015-2017 Forestry Tasmania Three Year Wood Production Plan shows the harvest of blackwood sawlog will continue at 10,000 m3/year, in blatant disregard for the revised blackwood sawlog sustainable yield.

Taylor Guitars put Tasmanian tonewoods on display


Major American builder Taylor Guitars have just released their 2014 (northern) Autumn Limited Edition guitars featuring beautiful Tasmanian tonewoods, including five Tasmanian blackwood models and three models featuring blackheart sassafras. The series also includes a selection of models featuring Acacia koa which is a tree native to the Hawaiian Islands.

These timbers were supplied to Taylor Guitars by Robert Mac Millan of Tasmanian Tonewoods.