Farmers and forestry


Yet another recently discovered private blackwood plantation.

It’s a common mantra in the forest industry in Australia that Australian farmers are reluctant to plant trees as a commercial crop.

For many years I believed this mantra and attributed it to the lack of support from the forest industry, markets and governments. Many government and industry reports have made similar findings.

The fact that the forest industry believes that transparent competitive markets, log prices and a level playing field are irrelevant to its future, doesn’t help.

However I recently had a revelation that undermines this mantra.

Driving around southern Tasmania I am always discovering new blackwood plantations on private farmland, and it suddenly dawned on me – Tasmanian farmers want to grow commercial blackwood, the evidence is everywhere!

I know of dozens of private blackwood plantations in southern Tasmania alone. In northern Tasmania there must be hundreds.

Virtually all of these plantations are small and have failed.

They have failed for a range of reasons:

  • Poor site selection;
  • Poor establishment;
  • Lack of timely management and commitment;
  • Stock and wildlife damage;

But I believe the major reason for the failure of these hundreds of private plantations is the lack of support and engagement (and demonstrably commercial behaviour) by the forest industry and the State government.

The government agency Private Forests Tasmania offers extension services to Tasmanian farmers, but clearly, after 45 years, this isn’t enough.

Private Forests Tasmania by itself cannot provide enough support, encouragement and motivation to turn this demonstrable passion for commercial blackwood into a success story.

And especially right now we have State government policy deliberately undermining any hopes of private commercial blackwood growers with the anti-commercial Special Timbers Management Plan:

Tasmanian farmers clearly demonstrate a passion for growing commercial blackwood, even within the context of decades of toxic, destructive forest politics and policy.

If only we could turn this passion into a success story.

4 responses to “Farmers and forestry

  1. G’day Gordon
    There’s less than 100 statewide. About 70 were established in 1980-82 with the assistance of grants from the old forestry commission. I inspected some 40-50 sites that still existed by 2004, many down south, plus NE and NW Tas. Most failed, PFT has an internal report I did for them. Failure mainly due to browsing and lack of weed control.

    • Hi Stu,

      Many I have visited and seen have been established in the last 10-15 years.

      The passion of Tasmanian farmers still exists.

      It’s just not getting the support it needs.

      PFT by itself can’t overcome the toxic forest politics and the apathy of the forest industry.

      It’s a shame your report was not made public.

      Does Tasmania want a future for its blackwood industry?

      It seems to me that it does not! Despite the passion of Tasmanian farmers.

      Very sad.


  2. Gordon, how many of those younger plantations you refer to are commercial undertakings (pruned and thinned for future sawlog) as against landcare plantings such as that in your photo. There are only 2 reasonable examples of plantation blackwood in Tas that I know of, Abbotsham (35 yrs) and Claude Rd (20 yrs). All the plantings in the early 80s were supported by industry, grants provided to encourage landowners and silvicultural regimes provided that weren’t too far off the mark. The fact they failed wasn’t due to a lack of support. Browsing control and weed control are essential to establishment and most failed at this point. Only a few sites ever got to the point of having trees that could be pruned and thinned.

    • Hi Stu,
      I’m only referring to blackwood plantings that were clearly planted with the intention of growing commercial sawlog. I’m not talking about landcare or aesthetic plantings.

      Commercial plantation blackwood can be grown in Tasmania. There are enough successes to demonstrate this.

      That industry and farmers have not learnt from the failures and continued on the road to success is the point I’m making.

      Failure is inevitable in life. It’s what you do with failure that counts. Do you learn from it or do you walk away?

      In my 40 year career I’ve never seen sawmillers or log merchants out there championing Tasmanian farmers to grow commercial blackwood – ever.

      My other point is that the passion for blackwood in the community still exists. But it’s like a refugee in a war zone.


      PS. The photo does in fact show a commercial planting. It was planted with the intention of growing commercial blackwood sawlog. The owner told me so.

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