2015 The Year in Review

santa2015

It’s time to wish everyone a safe and happy festive season, and to recap on another year in the Tasmanian special timbers industry.

Another year with little progress getting Tasmanian farmers growing commercial blackwood, or in getting the various players in the blackwood market to open up and help rebuild the blackwood industry.

The forest industry continues to be overwhelmed by negative sentiment and politics.

The Good:

Stringfest

The Deloriane Stringfest 2015 was a quieter affair than 2014. The promise and potential of 2014 just didn’t seem to carry on this year. Still waiting to see if it’s on again in 2016.

Leonardo Guitar Research Project

A great project run by a group in Europe looking at promoting the use of non-tropical woods in guitars.

Time will tell what impact the project will have on the blackwood tonewood market.

Timber price lists

I was initially unwilling to investigate retail timber prices, but once I started……

Retail timber prices are hard to find on the internet. Few companies advertise their prices. Nevertheless retail pricing provides many interesting insights into why the forest industry is in such trouble.

Firstly is the general lack of transparency in timber pricing. Secondly is the frequent lack of relationship between price and the cost of growing the wood – the “cost of time”. And thirdly is the impact of the “salvage” and “public native forest” prices that undermine attempts at profitable tree growing.

One major outcome from my investigations is to highlight the high prices for premium timber. Select blackwood at $7,500 per cubic metre must provide some interest and incentive to existing and potential blackwood growers! The downside is other retailers selling the same wood for $2,500 per cubic metre. The latter is a guaranteed way to destroy the blackwood industry.

I will continue my retail price investigations in 2016. Stay tuned!

Blackwood in Western Australia

This was the great surprise for the year. Finding that commercial blackwood can be grown successfully in Margaret River in Western Australia is nothing short of a small miracle. Hopefully 2016 will see this story develop further.

Hydrowood

I’m putting the Hydrowood project into the positive list as I’m hoping it will provide much needed market profile, transparency and tradability. It provides an opportunity for the special timbers industry to demonstrate some commercial muscle. Yes there are downside risks with the project, not the least of which will be flooding the market with premium blackwood.

The first Hydrowood tender put 21 cubic metres of premium blackwood logs onto the market, with the plain grain logs selling for an average $625 per cubic metre! This was an excellent result for the first tender and attracted a great deal of interest.

The next 12 months will be very interesting indeed!

 

The Not So Good:

World Heritage logging and the TWWHA Management Plan Review

The push by both major political parties in Tasmania to open the WHA to taxpayer-funded special timbers logging has been the main story for 2015.

It’s completely insane but this is Tasmania!

The UNESCO delegation recently visited Tasmania to get the local picture. No doubt they left here wondering what strange pathology inflicts this island state.

From what I’ve heard through my contacts I doubt whether UNESCO will support logging the WHA.

It will be entertaining to see how the politicians attempt to rescue their integrity.

(Yet another) Special Timbers Management Plan

The State Government (not Forestry Tasmania) is putting together yet another Special Timbers Management Plan to add to the other ST plans already on the shelf down at the State library. And like all the previous plans it will be a complete folly.

But wait! It’s not due to be released until 2017!! Just in time to ensure special timbers becomes a State election issue.

Groundhog Day in the Tasmanian special timbers industry!

Everything Forestry Tasmania

The Government forest agency and the public native forest resource continue to be the centre of forest policy, conflict and waste in Tasmania. They are the fundamental focus that drives the industry into decline.

Forestry Tasmania is bankrupt, selling what few remaining assets it has and dumping staff as quickly as possible. But the political rhetoric is all about building/saving the industry.

The sooner this charade ends the better it will be for Tasmania.

FSC certification

Forestry Tasmania’s application for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification process has been a sham from both FT and the auditors point of view. Apparently engagement, transparency and deadlines are completely irrelevant in the FSC process. A year has passed with absolutely no word from either FT or the auditors (SCS Global Services). It’s pathetic!

Conclusion

I can’t imagine a more hostile political and business environment for a forest industry than in Tasmania. On almost a weekly basis the Tasmanian media broadcasts to the world how dysfunctional our politically driven forest industry really is.

Lack of Leadership

One of the main failings of the forest industry in Tasmania is the lack of leadership.

FIAT has traditionally “represented” the industry but the organisation is dominated by sawmillers and wood processors. There is no one representing private forest growers; and private growers have very different interests to wood processors.

The TFGA, as the major farming lobby in Tasmania, occasionally wades into the forestry debate but with no policy platform they more often than not shoot themselves and private growers in the foot.

So politicians and sawmillers are left to dominate the forestry debate.

The forest industry in Tasmania won’t develop until private tree growers have a strong, independent voice.

The only way to have a successful forest industry is for tree growing to be transparently profitable. No other business model will work.

Crystal ball

One really doesn’t need a crystal ball to see what 2016 will bring. Every day is Groundhog Day for the forest industry in Tasmania.

Forestry Tasmania will most likely fail in its first attempt at FSC Certification. This will result in much agitation, shouting and finger-pointing in State Parliament and sections of the community.

UNESCO will most likely reject the proposal to log the World Heritage Area, leaving the State government with a Special Timbers Management Strategy and no wood resource. That should be interesting!!

And what of blackwood as a commercial opportunity in 2016?

There is not a lot of cause for optimism that I can see. Mostly another year of forest industry politics and nonsense.

So dear readers I trust you have a safe and happy festive season. See you all in 2016.

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