Monthly Archives: February 2015

Salvaged Timber?

Salvaged Timber Sign_s

I discovered this small inconspicuous sign in a business I recently visited in Hobart. I found the sign rather curious. Other customers also found the sign curious.

The sign says a great deal about the mixed, confused emotions and morals, and acute sensitivity that surround the special timbers industry in Tasmania.

The business, like many in Tasmania, features Tasmanian timber in the shop fittings.

So is the sign an explanation or an apology?

I’m not sure.

Or perhaps it is a statement of pride.

If so it leaves me confused.

Here’s what I think the sign is saying:

A patch of old growth native forest in North West Tasmania was clearfelled to feed the industrial forestry business model that dominates Tasmania. After the industrial clearfelling operation was completed, a second smaller operation recovered some craftwood from the site including the 400-year-old Myrtle stump. The logging coupe was then burnt and resown to native forest. Or perhaps the coupe was converted to plantation. The harvesting duo (industrial and craft) then moved on to the next old growth forest logging coupe to repeat the cycle of sin and redemption.

Is that what the sign is about? Sin and redemption!

It’s a pretty standard story about the fate of Tasmanian old growth forest.

Most people regard the clearfelling of Tasmanian old growth forest as unacceptable practice in the 21st century.

But somehow the idea of “salvaging” after the industrial clearfelling has finished attracts some crumb of virtue.

Why? Where is the virtue?

For the past 40 years the Tasmanian special timbers industry only existed because it was a minor subset of the industrial forestry business model. It needed the industrial harvesting to continue for its own existence.

But to improve its status and product differentiation from those industrial loggers the special timbers industry adopted the word “salvage”.

“Are’t we good people! We help save all that good special timber that would have been wasted.”

No that’s not quite true now is it?

Yes there has been plenty of waste. That’s to be expected when dealing with a low value commodity. But to call the special timbers craftwood operation a virtuous salvage is specious indeed.

No virtue attached at all.

Just a marketing con.

The old growth forest in North West Tasmania is gone. Where is the virtue in that?

But the market now believes the virtuous salvage story and continues to buy these special timbers.

So perhaps the sign could just as well read:

This timber veneer was harvested from a 400 year old Myrtle stump as part of an old growth forest clearfelling operation. It comes from North West Tasmania. The site was subsequently burnt, cleared and converted to eucalypt pulp plantation.

It would be just as informative and a lot more honest!

By the way what did happen to the 400-year-old Myrtle tree that sat upon the stump? Where did it end up?

A second point is that the word salvage should automatically imply to the reader there is no notion of sustainability. It’s a cleanup operation, that’s all! But in the forest industry you will sometimes see the phrase sustainable salvage being used. I don’t think so. Another marketing con job.

Now is there such a thing as genuine virtuous timber salvage?


The Hydrowood operation on the west coast comes close. Unfortunately it is wrapped up in the wrong marketing spin.

Dead, dying and storm-damaged trees can also be honestly salvaged. They do this under strict Government supervision and competitive tender on Crown Land in New Zealand:

And private property in Tasmania:

But a craftwood harvest that is part of regular industrial old growth forest clearfelling operations does not classify as salvage in my books. And certainly has no virtue!

Finally now that Gunns has gone industrial forestry in our native forests is looking pretty sick. But never mind, the mouse has now become the lion. The (public native forest dependent) special timbers industry now dominates and controls old growth forest policy in Tasmania, with the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area firmly in its sights. It will be wrapped up in a glossy “strategy” and the language of virtue, but don’t be fooled.

Customers need to understand the consequences of their purchase decisions.

Ask for special timbers that are grown on private property. Let’s give Tasmanian farmers the clear message that they can grow and supply the profitable, sustainable special timbers market.

What do you think?

Post your comments.

Deloraine Stringfest is for farmers

Stringfest has a heavy music/artist focus but don’t let that stop you! Come and sell your existing trees and learn how to grow tonewoods so that Stringfest has a sustainable future.

Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative

Stringfest Logo

The 2015 Deloraine Stringfest will be on the 20-22 March.

The new Deloraine Stringfest website is now online.

This website will be updated as the program for the 2015 festival develops over the coming months. Check it out!

Stringfest is for sawmillers, foresters, luthiers, wood merchants, retailers, artists and people who just appreciate beauty, craft and music; and that’s a mighty big audience!

But I believe it will be Tasmanian farmers who eventually become the real heroes of the Deloraine Stringfest.

The men and women who make the 30+ year commitment and investment, who have the interest and passion, to plant and grow the trees that eventually become the tonewoods and the instruments.

Without these people Stringfest (and the tonewood/luthier industry) has an uncertain future.

Sell your existing trees

At this year’s Stringfest there were tonewood merchants displaying and selling their timber. But they were also buying! They were…

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Rise and Rise of Crony Capitalism….

and the Destruction of the Tasmanian Community!

You can’t live in Tasmania without this book and the story it tells having a deep impact. If you are in anyway connected with the forest industry in Tasmania the impact is magnified tenfold. The book was recently released and is a timely reminder that Tasmania has significant political, commercial and social issues that remain unresolved.

The decade 2003-2013 saw Tasmania in a state of virtual civil war with Gunns Ltd at its epicentre.

The book has little to do with growing commercial blackwood apart from the fact that it details the corrupt hostile commercial, political and social context in which my dream of a blackwood growers cooperative is trying to become a reality.

Am I wasting my time? As a forester this book makes for sad, depressing reading.

If we can’t turn Australia’s number one premium appearance grade timber species into a commercial opportunity then it is due to a profound failure of policy, business and politics.

And as the author so clearly articulates in the Afterword of the book Tasmania continues to head in the wrong direction. Power and corruption continue to dominate the island State.

A fabulous read. Highly recommended!


Buy the book directly from the publishers:

The book is also available on Amazon:

and hopefully at Book Depository:

Kids in the Candy Store


Some people may ask why I promote Taylor Guitars so much.

The answer is very simple!

They clearly love Tasmanian blackwood and are keen to promote it.

And so am I.

They are one of the few manufacturers in the blackwood market who heavily promote Tasmanian blackwood. It’s a very positive message and I’m more than happy to piggyback on their efforts.

(Plus I’m a guitar play and I love guitars. What could be more perfect than that?)

I only wish I could find some commercial or custom furniture makers who had a similar attitude and approach. Is there anyone out there??

Anyway on with the story…

Here’s a great interview between Acoustic Letter’s Tony Polecastro and Andy Powers from Taylor Guitars. The video is titled How to Build Expensive Guitars with Tony Polecastro & Andy Powers and is part of a 3 part series of interviews between Polecastro and Powers. The video is about Tony and Andy starting from scratch to design and build 2 custom guitars. The whole video is interesting but if you want to cut to the chase where the Tasmanian blackwood comes in then scroll to the 4.10 minute mark of the video.

Polecastro asks Powers what he would do to build his perfect guitar. So Powers walks off ……. and comes back with Tasmanian blackwood.


You do know that this blackwood was supplied to Taylors by Bob MacMillan at Tasmanian Tonewoods don’t you?

Watch and enjoy!

Now here’s the review of the Custom Brazilian Rosewood GS (Grand Symphony) guitar from the first half of the above interview:

And now here’s Tony Polecastro’s  review of the Custom Tasmanian blackwood GC (Grand Concert) 12-fret guitar from the interview:

All up it’s a great little story (and a beautiful guitar).

A very positive message about Tasmanian blackwood moving onto the international stage as a premium timber.

Now for the bigger challenge.

How do we get the blackwood industry up and running and away from the politics and conflict that has all but smothered the forest industry here in Tasmania?

I need help with this! Anyone??

Forestry Tasmania and the Economic Regulator

FT logo

The Government’s willingness to breach the spirit of national competition policy by its use of State resources to prop up Forestry Tasmania whilst imposing austerity on broader sections of the Tasmanian community has struck a discordant note with many of the affected. If prices charged by Forestry Tasmania were required to fully cover costs [never mind the idea of actually making a profit] then it would be required to cease its unprofitable native forest harvesting.


A willingness by the affected to pursue remedies and solutions has precipitated this note.


Competitive neutrality complaints are handled by the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator (OTTER) pursuant to the Economic Regulator Act 2009 .

This blog by Tasmanian finance and economics commentator John Lawrence came out before Christmas, but it drives home the continuing failure of policy and corporate governance that is the hallmark of Government Business Enterpises such as Forestry Tasmania.

The fundamental lesson remains that Governments should not be in the business of competing with private business. Forestry is a business and there are many private tree growers who are being disadvantaged by Government policy and action.

One of the many failures in all of this is that farmer representative bodies such as the TFGA fail to bring the Government to account. If the Government opened a public service-run dairy, sold milk at below cost and then sacked teachers and nurses to help pay for it, the TFGA, dairy farmers and the rest of the Tasmanian community would be marching on Parliament. But for some reason forestry is different. Disadvantaging dairy farmers is out of the question but apparently disadvantaging private tree growers is perfectly acceptable behaviour amongst the farming community. It is very curious!

Another failure, as John Lawrence highlights, is that the so called Economic Regulator is a toothless tiger that spends more time licking the hands of politicians than biting their ankles.

It is certainly curious that Forestry Tasmania, the one Government agency that clearly competes with the private sector (unlike gas, electricity and water), is completely off the Regulator’s radar. Coincidence? I doubt it!

So forestry industry workers enjoy complete Government protection whilst front line services such as nurses and teachers continue to lose their jobs. And forestry markets remain completely distorted and corrupted by Government policy.

When will Tasmania wake up? When will farmers and private tree growers rally of the lawns of Parliament House and demand reform?

Draft TWWHA Management Plan Representation

Tasmanian State forest industry policy continues to be highly politicised, divisive, destructive and costly to taxpayers.

The Draft Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan is just such a case in point with the plan by Government to start logging the WHA for special timbers. I wouldn’t care if it was gold or diamonds. The idea is just rubbish.

Here’s my submission to the Plan review. It’s not at all complementary. I could have said a lot more but this will do for beginners.



Dear Project Team,

Special Species Timbers

As a forester and member of the forest industry for the past 35 year my representation is entirely confined to the issue of special species timbers harvesting as it is mentioned in the DTWWHAMP.

I will make my representation as clear and concise as possible since the issue of special timbers in Tasmania is so hopelessly clouded by confusion, passion and misguided policy and ideology.

It’s time for Tasmania to get real! Forestry (including special timbers) is business. It’s about commerce and profits. It is not community service or the provision of Centrelink services. And it is certainly not about wedge politics and crony capitalism.

1. The first mention of special timbers in the DTWWHAMP is on page 28. Special timbers harvesting is listed as an allowed activity in Conservation Areas and Regional Reserves.

So why is special timbers harvesting listed as a sustainable use in Conservation Areas, but only a controlled use in Regional Reserves? How are sustainable use and controlled use defined? Why the difference in use between the two reserve types? What other natural resources besides special timbers can be used in these reserve classes, or are special timbers the only resources available for use?


Reserve Class Purpose of Reservation


Conservation Area The protection and maintenance of the natural and cultural values of the area of land and the sustainable use of the natural resources of that area of land including special species timber harvesting.
Regional Reserve Mineral exploration and the development of mineral deposits in the area of land, and the controlled use of other natural resources of that area of land, including special species timber harvesting, while protecting and maintaining the natural and cultural values of that area of land.


2. The second mention of special species timbers is on page 74 where the zones where special species timber harvesting is allowed are listed – all zones except Visitor Services Zones.

Activity Visitor Services Zone Recreation Zone Self-Reliant Recreation Zone Remote Recreation Zone
Extraction of special species timber (in regional reserves and conservation areas only. Not including Huon pine salvage from the Gordon River area) Prohibited Permitted by authority or a licence issued by the Minister in accordance with the NPRMA Permitted by authority or a licence issued by the Minister in accordance with the NPRMA Permitted by authority or a licence issued by the Minister in accordance with the NPRMA


3. The third and final mention of special species timbers in the DTWWHAMP is in section 3.6.2 on page 81 where the main discussion on special timbers harvesting is located.

3.6.2 Huon Pine Salvage and Special Species Timber

The salvage of Huon pine from the shoreline of Macquarie Harbour pre-dates the declaration of the TWWHA. The activity is permitted under a longstanding arrangement between the PWS and Forestry Tasmania. Most of the timber originates from the Gordon River and is sourced from trees that were cut down many decades ago during the height of the pining activities in the western rivers that are now in the TWWHA. Salvage operations, which occur mostly in response to flooding in the Gordon River catchment, make an important contribution to supplies of this rare and valuable timber, and are important for the economy of the region. Only commercial salvage is permitted and it must be in accordance with the PWS-Forestry Tasmania agreement, which is reviewed every five years. Salvage operations will be considered by the RAA process and any other applicable assessment and approval process.

The objectives of regional reserves and conservation areas, as set out in Schedule 1 of the NPRMA, provide for the harvesting of special species timber. Special species timber is defined within the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forestry Industry) Act 2014 and includes blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii), celery-top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius), sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum), huon pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), silver wattle (Acacia dealbata) and timber of any other species or timber with particular properties as may be prescribed through the associated regulations. Extraction of special species timbers will be considered through the RAA process and any other assessment and approval process or applicable legislative process.


Over 50% of section 3.6.2 discusses in the most general terms the current salvage of Huon pine from the shores of Macquarie Harbour. A number of unsubstantiated claims are made about this resource and its importance/significance. No supporting data is provided. These operations are undertaken in accordance with some PWS-FT agreement document. This agreement document is not referenced nor is it available to the public. Why not?

The remaining 100 words of section 3.6.2 tell us that special timbers harvesting is provided for under Schedule 1 of the NPRMA, and will be considered through the RAA and any other assessment and approval process as required!! Relevant special species available for harvesting are listed, along with any other species or timber with particular properties.

It is difficult to imagine a more opened ended and uninformative a statement as this. It serves no practical purpose whatsoever.

The 2014 Forestry Tasmania Draft Forest Management Plan provides us with a bit more information about special timbers management in Tasmania:

“The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act requires the Minister for Resources to cause a special species management plan to be made before October 2017. The special species plan will specify the land to which it applies, the supply level of each species of special species timber in relation to the land, and take into account the management of conservation and cultural heritage values of the land.

Forestry Tasmania indicates its planned annual supply of special species timbers in its Three Year Wood Production Plan, which is updated annually. Forestry Tasmania’s future management of special species timbers from PTPZ land will be informed by the special species management plan when it becomes available.” Forestry Tasmania will not be involved in any way with any special timbers harvesting outside the PTPZ.

In other words special timbers management in Tasmania is in chaos! Forestry Tasmania is scaling down its special timbers commitments in line with its diminished capacity to supply. And a Special Species Management Plan won’t be available until the next Tasmanian State election in 2017!

The DTWWHAMP contains no statement of Government special timbers policy, no guarantees of any assessment, management or performance standards at all. Nothing but silence. It appears that this major change in TWWHA management is to be taken entirely on trust.

In summary the DTWWHAMP tells us virtually nothing about the existing special timbers salvage that does occur in the WHA, and tells us even less about the planned expansion of special timbers logging in the TWWHA. Given the bitter, long and ongoing conflict in Tasmania around the so-called commercial management of public native forests the special timbers provisions within the DTWWHAMP are entirely inadequate.

The subject of special timbers harvesting is of such enormous significance to the future of Tasmanias Wilderness World Heritage Area it is worthy of an entire chapter in the DTWWHAMP in its own right it.

As an absolute minimum if special timbers logging must go ahead (against all logic and reason) it should not proceed until the management plan and harvest operations have received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification, to guarantee forest operations are of the highest possible standards (as befitting a World Heritage Area) and meet with clear majority community support.

Completely inadequate is the only way to describe the special timbers provisions of the DTWWHAMP. Not at all worthy of the high standards of the World Heritage Convention. A thorough and complete rewrite is recommended.


Yours sincerely,


Dr. Gordon Bradbury

Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative.

Destructive anti-commercial policies continue at FT

After an absence of a year the Forestry Tasmania 2013/14 Annual Report belatedly includes data on the mill door log value (MDLV) of the various product classes sold including special timbers (Appendix 2 – Supplement to table 3.1). This together with other data in the annual report has allowed me to update a chart I originally published in this blog in June 2013.

As most readers will know Forestry Tasmania places a very low priority on commercial matters like getting the best possible price, and making a profit. It is difficult to understand FT’s approach to issues such as sales processes, pricing, markets, costs, supply and demand. None of these issues are discussed in their annual reports. What little information is available shows that good commercial management is absent at Melville St. By behaving in this reckless manner Forestry Tasmania is undermining the profitability and livelihood of all existing and potential future private tree growers and destroying the very industry it is supposed to be supporting. Such is the inevitable outcome of crony capitalism.

Of course Forestry Tasmania is aided and abetted in this behaviour by legislation and politicians that support crony capitalism.

Remember that Forestry Tasmania is by far the largest grower/supplier of premium quality special timbers logs in Tasmania/Australia. But it is not the only existing or potential future grower!


The updated chart shows total special timbers and blackwood sawlog harvest for the past 9 years. 2006 was the first year that Forestry Tasmania published Mill Door Log Value data. For some reason no MDLV data were published in 2013.

As can be seen, blackwood makes up the majority of the special timbers harvest from public native forests in Tasmania. The chart also shows the total special timbers mill door log value (effectively what the sawmillers paid for the logs delivered to their mill). I have then calculated the average MDLV ($/m3) by dividing the total value by the total volume, effectively the per cubic metre royalty paid.

As can be seen the average MDLV is effectively a straight line with a gradient of 3.1%. In other words the price paid by sawmillers for these premium timbers is fixed in line with long term inflation. In other words their value does not increase in real terms – exactly the same real price today as 9+ years ago. That’s what I call a great deal!

In 2013/14 the average special timbers MDLV was $132 per cubic metre. That value includes all the administration and overhead costs, plus the costs of harvesting and transport to the mill. One can only guess what the effective stumpage price was, maybe $40 per cubic metre!! What a joke!!

The other obvious trend in the chart is that special timbers log prices are not affected in any way by market conditions – supply, demand, costs of production, etc. For example the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 had absolutely no impact on prices.

And finally the trend in special timbers revenue over the last few years suggests that 2014/15 will see revenue drop below $1 million. We have no idea what the costs are in special timbers management and harvesting because Forestry Tasmania does not provide separate accounts for these “non-profit” activities.

But it doesn’t matter because Forestry Tasmania sends the special timbers bill to the Tasmanian taxpayer! 10,000 cubic metres (or 500 truck loads) of some of the world’s best timbers sold for a song, AND teachers and nurses lose their jobs. Does anyone care? Apparently not!

Is it any wonder that many Tasmanians regard Forestry Tasmania as an albatross around the neck of the community?

Despite the fact that Forestry Tasmania deliberately operates its special timbers operations at a loss, it:

  • Fails to provide separate financial statements for these operations;
  • Fails to provide any commercial management model and objectives that might identify limits to costs and losses;

The Tasmanian community is left with an unmanaged out-of-control special timbers liability. And the situation is going to get worse with the proposed logging inside the World Heritage Area!

Deloraine Stringfest 2015

Just a reminder that the second Deloraine Stringfest is only 7 weeks away. Here’s your opportunity to come and see a genuine successful private commercial blackwood plantation growing tomorrows tonewoods. No logging of Tasmanian World Heritage Areas here! Call me (m. 0428 754 233) to reserve your seat on the bus.

Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative

Planning is underway to include a visit to a successful private blackwood plantation as part of the Deloraine Stringfest in March 2015.

This is a magnificent blackwood plantation with plenty of unique features and lessons to learn. There are plenty of opportunities to repeat this same success on farms across northern Tasmania.

Come and find out whether growing commercial blackwood is for you.

Transport will be by bus so places will be limited.

This is your chance to see and learn the art of growing commercial blackwood.

The visit will be on the Sunday the 22nd of March (Stringfest runs from 20-22 March 2015). The bus will depart Deloraine at 9.00am and be back in Deloraine by about 12.30pm. Hopefully we will have about 1-1.5 hours onsite to learn and discuss issues around successfully growing Tasmanian blackwood in plantations.

Come and see the tonewood of the future.

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