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:
- 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!
- Forestry Tasmania must be managed on a fully commercial basis with profit as its primary objective. No other business model will work.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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………