Monthly Archives: May 2015

UNESCO calls for changes to Tasmania’s draft World Heritage Management Plan to prohibit logging and mining


In the ABC News yesterday:

So the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is now questioning the policies of the Tasmanian State Government.

In Paris overnight, UNESCO’s WHC urged the draft plan be changed. An initial review cited concerns that the plan appeared to create potential for logging operations and mining activity in the World Heritage Area.

An article by Vica Bayley on Tasmanian Times provides more details:

The draft decision of the World Heritage Committee, for consideration at its [forthcoming] June meeting, represents a damning rejection of the Tasmanian Government’s proposed management of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area.

The draft decision identifies ……. prohibiting logging and mining via upgraded conservation tenure as key actions that need to be taken.

Informed by expert reports from the Committee’s advisory bodies, the draft decision …. urges … that commercial logging and mining are not permitted within the entire [WHA] property, and that all areas of public lands within the property’s boundaries… have a status that ensures adequate protection (p. 56).

The draft Committee decision can be found at: (1.8MB pdf file).

Pages 54 and 56 of the document are the most relevant.

It appears that Tasmania’s special timbers industry is fast running out of options, at least in terms of access to a taxpayer subsidised public forest resource. The World Heritage Committee will not accept special timbers logging within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Here are some of my previous stories about the Draft Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan:

Curiously the ABC news article says that the Tasmanian tourism Industry supports the draft Plan, when in fact the Tourism Council’s own submission is extremely qualified in its support, with strong opposition to the logging and mining proposals in the Plan.

So when will Tasmania get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry?

Forestry Tasmania job losses: the house of cards crumbles

FT logo

Forestry Tasmania, Australia’s major blackwood grower, appears to be in free fall. Following on from this recent blog: it appears we are seeing the final act of this decades-long fiasco.

After years of poor financial management and performance and decades of political intrigue and community conflict, the last remnants of the Government business appear to be crumbling.

As the recent blog discussed, there is no road to recovery for Forestry Tasmania. These is just the next round of job losses.

The Smithon office in the north-west, where most of the blackwood is grown and harvested, is to lose 50% of its staff. But stakeholders in Australia’s iconic blackwood industry are completely in the dark. There is no transparency in any of this. All we know is that FT are cutting costs, and their biggest cost is staff.

Whatever happened to the Stakeholder Engagement Policy?

Whatever happened to the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy?

Do any of these corporate initiatives have any purpose or meaning?

It seems not! Perhaps they’re just window dressing when the need suites the occasion (like an FSC audit).

The impact of staff cuts on forest management and operations has not been made public.

So much for sustainability and certification! It’s business.

If you can’t make a profit then you aren’t sustainable!

Will this be the end of Australia’s iconic blackwood industry? Or will the industry finally turn to private blackwood growers for its future?

When is Tasmania going to get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry based on profitable tree growing?

Leonardo Guitar Research Project


I recently became aware of this great research project that is happening in Europe in response to the deforestation and the rapidly diminishing supply of traditional quality tonewoods from the world’s tropical rainforests.

This project should benefit Tasmanian blackwood growers as the global momentum to find/develop sustainable and profitable quality tonewood supplies increases.


The main goal of the Leonardo Guitar Research Project is to study, demonstrate and communicate the possibilities of building acoustic and classical guitars from non-tropical woods. We want to improve global expertise in the craft and adapt it to economic and ecological needs.

The first results from their research were recently published.


All blind tests show that guitars made from non-tropical wood species were equally preferred for sound quality as those made from tropical wood. Non-blind tests show a strong fallback in sound appreciation experienced by non tropical wood guitars.


The need for the use of tropical wood in acoustic and classical guitar building seems to be a myth because blind tests have clearly proven that non-tropical woods can be used to make guitars whose tonal quality is fully equal to that of their tropical counterparts.

The fallback in sound appreciation experienced by non-tropical wood guitars in the non-blind tests, strongly suggests that preference is heavily influenced by preconceptions about what guitars should look like and about what exactly constitutes a tonewood.

All of which is great news. We don’t need to buy rosewood, mahogany or cocobolo guitars thinking that they make the best sounding guitars.

But we do already know that Tasmanian blackwood is an internationally recognised quality, sustainable, profitable non-tropical tonewood. We are just waiting for the market to come to Tasmania!

Having shown that these alternative non-tropical woods can make great guitars the next steps in this project should be:

  • Make the guitars more visually appealing to make the consumer choice easier;
  • Determine which woods are available in sustainable, commercial quantities. FSC certified sources would be even better. Surely the aim is to get the large manufacturers to start using these timbers;
  • Marketing! I would imagine a range of 100% FSC Certified, non-tropical guitars on display at NAMM and Musikmesse would attract significant attention.
  • Investigate sustainable non-tropical woods from other regions such as Tasmanian blackwood!!!

One of the objectives of the LGRP is to develop a network/database linking customers with luthiers, with growers and suppliers of sustainable, non-tropical tonewoods. While the current focus of the project is on common European woods there is every opportunity to expand this to other temperate zones.

Watch this space!

For Sale – Martin OM-42 AND OM45 Tasmanian Blackwood Limited Edition

Martin OM42

I wouldn’t normally put something like this on the website but this is a Tasmanian blackwood icon. This is currently for sale on Ebay. A very rare, prized guitar!

Or direct from the seller Willcutt Guitars, Lexington Kentucky, USA:

Somewhere between 8 and 15 of these were built by CF Martin in 2011 depending upon which website you believe. This is how one respected website describes this guitar:

A fine sounding clear guitar, balanced, and the nice figured Tasmanian blackwood, heavier than Koa provides the best projection ever.

An absolute Tasmanian treasure!

I wish CF Martin would consider using Tasmanian blackwood again!

And now I find this other Tasmanian blackwood Martin guitar currently for sale:

A Martin OM-45 Tasmanian Blackwood from 2005. A stunning creation with highly figured Tasmanian blackwood (a relative of Hawaiian koa) and extensive abalone pearl trim; tasteful torch inlay on the headstock; engraved gold-plated tuner buttons; label signed by C.F. Martin IV.

This is essentially the same model as the above but with more bling for your buck.

Again another super premium guitar from CF Martin. Only 29 of these were made.

Two incredible rare Tasmanian icons currently on the market.


OM42 Tasmanian blackwood headstock (L) compared to OM45 Tasmanian blackwood headstock (R)

Apart from the odd custom order (such as this Martin O-18 the only other Martin guitars that feature Tasmanian blackwood that I’m aware of were 10 D-42’s built in 2010, as shown on this website:

I’m not sure why Martin guitars don’t use Tasmanian blackwood more often. These guitars seem to get a lot of praise and attention in the marketplace.