The recent release of the Forestry Tasmania Annual Report 2014 provides me with yet another opportunity to highlight the continuing destruction of Tasmania’s special timbers industry (including the blackwood industry).
My critique will be limited to special timbers. I will leave it to others to highlight the many other unresolved issues. Special timbers are discussed on pages 26-27 of the report. It starts off:
Special timbers are an integral part of the Tasmanian brand. They are used to produce high-value furniture and craftwood products, and include blackwood, blackheart sassafras, myrtle, silver wattle and celery top pine. These timbers are just so incredibly high value they must be taxpayer subsidised (at the expense of our health and education systems).
Total special timbers production for 2013/14 was 9,199 cubic metres which represented a miniscule 0.9% of total public native forest production by Forestry Tasmania. And for this morsel special timbers dominates State forest policy (and Parliamentary time) like no other issue.
A curious addition to this year’s report is the inclusion of a chart showing detailed historical special timbers production back to 2003/04 (p. 26). This chart is not referenced at all in the text. Why is it in the Report?
The chart does include four years worth of previously unavailable production data from 2003 to 2007. Only 9 years worth of detailed special timbers production data still remain publically unavailable.
The chart is of limited value as it does not show special timbers production in relation to either sustainable yield, or the RFA/STMS supply target. Therefore in order to improve public understanding and debate I have added the new historical data (including estimating blackwood production by measuring directly off the chart) to my chart of special timbers mismanagement (note the 9 years of missing blackwood production data). If anyone can see in this chart the relationship between planned versus sustainable versus actual production they clearly have a better imagination than I.
As noted in a previous blog, the overcutting of the public native blackwood resource continues apace but FT don’t mention this at all.
The Report tells us that a review of the special timbers resource on Permanent Timber Production Zone land is currently underway, but doesn’t say when this review will be completed or if it will be published. The Report completely avoids any discussion of the planned harvesting of special timbers from Tasmania’s reserves and conservation areas, and the impact this will have on the forest industry and on the broader community.
The Report notes the completion during the year of the blackwood sawlog resource review, noting the new sustainable blackwood sawlog supply of 3,000 cubic metres per year. For my scathing review of this document go here:
And also see the above discussion re. historical data and imagination.
Island Specialty Timbers
For the very first time in an annual report the performance of Island Specialty Timbers (IST) gets a mention. On page 27 we learn that:
- A total of 1,531 cubic metres of specialty timbers were sold through the three IST outlets;
- 136 cubic metres of this (of which only 16.1 cubic metre was blackwood) were sold through the public competitive tender process to ensure that the best possible prices were obtained.
- The tendering program continued to receive strong interest;
- The highlight for the year being an 87-centimetre diameter blackheart sassafras log that sold for $5,000 per cubic metre.
I’m happy to be corrected but I reckon this is the very first time that a good product sales result has ever been trumpeted by FT in its annual report, even if they have treated it as a minor footnote, and this information about a single sassafras log has almost no market significance whatsoever.
What we didn’t learn:
- The financial performance of IST. How much did the 1531 and 136 cubic metres sell for? How much is the Tasmanian taxpayer subsidising the specialty timbers industry through IST? Somehow I doubt that 1500 cubic metres of sales would have brought a profit.
- What impact did the open competitive tender prices have on the administered pricing system used by FT for the bulk of its special timbers sales? If there was no impact then what exactly is the purpose of the tender system?
- Why were only 9% of the total sales done through the tender process, when the whole business is being subsidised by taxpayers? Why not 50% or even 100%?
In the current difficult financial times when we are sacking Tasmanian teachers and nurses, why must Tasmanian taxpayers continue to subsidise the special timbers industry? Why can’t the special timbers industry be run as a fully commercial, profit-driven business? What in fact does “high-value” or “special” mean at Forestry Tasmania?
The complete absence of information and discussion in the Annual Report around the commercial management and performance of special timbers is pretty symptomatic of Forestry Tasmania’s culture and its many problems.
Forestry Tasmania continues to demonstrate a complete lack of interest in commercial management and performance.
They don’t even have the integrity to tell Tasmanian taxpayers how much they are deliberately subsidising the special timbers industry.
As an example of open honest transparent stakeholder engagement I continue to identify significant opportunities for improvement from Forestry Tasmania in their reporting.
Can anyone please tell me why this complete disaster continues to get Parliamentary approval and support?