Monthly Archives: July 2017

Special Timbers Welfare State

TSSMP

A mere 7 years after the last special species management plan was produced by Forestry Tasmania in 2010 comes another attempt at failed forest policy in Tasmania.

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/forestry/special_species_timber_management_plan

This new Plan will open up 420,000 ha of pristine public native rainforest and oldgrowth for taxpayer funded plundering by the special timbers industry. This includes 225,000 ha of rainforest and oldgrowth in conservation reserves.

The Plan is essentially a help-yourself DIY approach to public forest management, with an Open Season on the last of Tasmania’s rainforest and oldgrowth.

After the Executive Summary the Plan begins by trying to tell us how important the special timbers industry is; total industry employment, total value, etc.

It’s like the Government telling us that Centrelink is a commercial business not welfare.

The Tasmanian Government believes in Welfare State Forestry, even whilst in competition with private tree growers! So profitability, good commercial management and responsible forest management are out the door.

This draft Plan is not a business plan.

This draft special timbers management plan begins with the premise that Tasmania’s last remaining oldgrowth and rainforests exist to be plundered…….at taxpayers expense……for the exclusive benefit of a handful of local woodworkers!

This draft special timbers management plan does not begin with the premise that Tasmania’s premium timbers should be sold into competitive open markets to help fund schools, roads and hospitals.

Nor does the Plan even consider whether these forests are more valuable left untouched.

In 2010 the special timbers industry was formally admitted into Tasmania’s Welfare State. This new draft management plan now takes that Welfare State to a whole new level of plunder, waste and welfare.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing.

This Plan represents the exact opposite. It’s a disaster for current and potential private blackwood growers.

The draft Plan is open for submissions until 9am Monday 28 August 2017. Submissions can be sent directly to the Department of State Growth by emailing: specialspecies@stategrowth.tas.gov.au

The Plan will become law once it is signed and gazetted by the Minister.

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IST Tender Results 2016-17

ist

http://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au

Back in December last year I wrote my first report summarizing all tender results for Island Specialty Timbers given that IST itself provides little market information.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/12/13/island-specialty-timbers-tender-results/

So here is my half yearly update and financial year summary of their tender results.

A separate report looks specifically at IST blackwood tender results, given that blackwood is the only specialty timber species for which this information might have some use for market and investment purposes. No one is going to invest money based on the tender results for the other specialty species, which are too slow growing to allow for profitable investment.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/06/12/ist-blackwood-log-tender-results-2016-17/

Six-monthly update

The last 6 months have seen 4 IST tenders with total volume of 83 cubic metres of specialty timbers put to tender of which 58 cubic metres were sold, and total revenue of $49,100.

Financial year

The 12 months to June 2017 saw IST conduct 8 tenders with total volume of 166 cubic metres of specialty timbers of which 107.5 (64%) cubic metres sold for total revenue of $114,300.

This 166 cubic metres represents about 1% of the annual harvest of special timbers from Tasmania’s public native forests. The rest is sold at Government prices on long term sales contracts.

For harvesting the 166 cubic metres of special timbers in the year Forestry Tasmania received an additional $14,000 from Tasmanian taxpayers as compensation.

Compare this with the 3,000 tonne of specialty timbers auctioned by the Western Australian Forest Products Commission every year:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/05/01/special-timbers-in-western-australia/

IST2017pricechart

The above chart shows the log volumes and average unit prices paid per tender.

The price spike for December 2016 reflects a tender of 7 Huon pine lots.

The highest unit price for the year was a small black heart sassafras log of 0.49 cubic metres that sold for $5,100 per cubic metre!! This is an extraordinary price for such a small log.

The highest total price paid for a log was for a Huon pine log of 1.75 cubic metres that sold for $5,160.

These results show that when subject to competitive forces even the little southern Tasmanian special timbers market can afford to pay very good prices for quality logs.

Three species attracted strong demand and high prices over the year, these being black heart sassafras, huon pine and banksia with average log prices over $1,000 per cubic metre. Celery top pine sold for an average price of $630 per cubic metre. All of these species take 400-1,000+ years to reach maturity so I suspect even these prices are cheap.

Black heart sassafras made up 25% of the successful tendered volume but made up 44% of the sales revenue. Blackwood, the dominant special timber, made up 7% of the successful tendered volume but only 5% of the revenue. Huon pine made up 20% tendered volume and 11% revenue.

Black heart sassafras, blackwood, myrtle and wattle comprised 15%, 24%, 16% and 20% respectively of unsold log volume.

The low volume and variable quality of products tendered by IST makes it difficult to draw conclusions from these results, except to repeat that quality wood is worth big money.

Remember these prices are equivalent to mill door log prices, so harvesting and transport costs are theoretically included in the prices.

And don’t forget these public native forest specialty timbers come to you courteously of an $86.27 per cubic metre direct taxpayer subsidy.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/11/13/special-timbers-subsidised-charade-continues/

Tasmanian taxpayers certainly have abundant generosity (and deep pockets) when it comes to the forest industry.

Unintentional path dependence: Australian guitar manufacturing, bunya pine and legacies of forestry decisions and resource stewardship

Bunya-Mountains-Bunya-Pines

Back in July last year I wrote about two academics from The University of Wollongong, NSW (Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren) who came down to Tasmania as part of a project they are working on concerning the guitar industry and its response to changes in the tonewood market.

At that time they had just published the first paper from their research:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/07/10/resource-sensitive-global-production-networks-gpn-reconfigured-geographies-of-timber-and-acoustic-guitar-manufacturing/

They have now published a second paper which looks specifically at the Australian industry and its use of Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii).

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00049182.2017.1336967?journalCode=cage20

Once again like the first paper, this is not an easy paper to read, containing dense academic text.

Being a forester I was already aware of the history of Bunya pine, and the trial plantings made by the Queensland Government in the early to mid 20th century on public land.

New to me was some of the history about the use of native timbers in the local guitar industry, particularly Maton and Cole Clark. Bunya pine is a major sound board tonewood for these two companies.

But the article makes clear that both these companies are now relying on the old Government Bunya trials for their supply, and the future of those trials is clearly subject to the whims of political fortune. The pressure to clear the Bunya trials and replant with the faster growing more profitable Hoop Pine is always there. Future Bunya tonewood supply hangs by a thread unless alternative supplies can be established.

BunyaPineS

Maton and Cole Clark are clearly struggling to secure and control their future tonewood supply.

It’s a complex and difficult challenge. Not the least of the challenges is that Bunya takes 60+ years to reach a size that allows soundboards to be sawn from the logs.

Unfortunately the article provides few clues as to how the problem can be resolved.

Long term thinking and commitment is needed.

Both of these companies appreciate that relying on Governments for their timber supply doesn’t work.

What we need here is a business model that encourages farmers/landowners to plant tonewoods for both commercial return and non-commercial planting. This will involve the collaboration and support of many players, especially Maton and Cole Clark. These companies are too small to have the resources to grow their own tonewoods.

Perhaps a “Tonewood Alliance” is needed to get the ball rolling?