An item in the Tasmanian weekend press reminded me that Tasmania’s biggest wood-based festival is returning in 2019.
The Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) has become a major event on many boat/yacht owners calenders.
What began in 1994 has now become a major national and international festival.
For a small island State at the bottom of the world a wooden boat festival makes perfect sense for Tasmania, with its dual heritage of boats and forests.
The problem is, like so many other wood-based festivals, the AWBF is completely silent on the issue of where the wood comes from.
Tasmania has a heritage of renowned boating timbers such as King billy pine, Huon pine and Celery top pine. The problem is that these timbers come from very slow growing trees from ancient rainforests that are now mostly gone or are in conservation reserves.
Some Huon pine and Celery top pine continues to come from hydro lake salvage, but this is a finite resource.
Last year the Tasmanian government enacted a management plan that allows the harvesting of rainforest timbers from conservation reserves that were established specifically to protect rainforest under the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement:
Given Tasmania’s decades long forestry wars, hosting a major wood based festival is a significant achievement. The AWBF could easily have become the focus for community conflict over the management of our public native forests.
This could still happen given current Government policy.
Given the context perhaps the AWBF Committee believes that having no policies on timber sourcing and forest management is the safest strategy.
When skating (sailing?) on thin ice it’s best to be cautious!
Also no doubt the wooden boating community is itself deeply divided over timber sourcing and forest management issues. Attempting to develop policies around these issues could tear the wooden boating community asunder. Goodbye AWBF!
But avoiding these issues is not a sustainable strategy. Sooner or later the matter will come to a head. A community demonstration at the AWBF around Government policy and rainforest logging may be all that is needed to precipitate a policy crisis.
Supporting the continued taxpayer-funded plunder of Tasmania’s rainforest and oldgrowth forest is not an option for the AWBF.
Given its enormous popularity the AWBF could become a powerful positive force for good forest management.
What is the future of boating timbers?
I’m no expert.
Many people rate Cupressus macrocarpa and related species as good for boat building. These are fast growing species ideal for the Tasmanian climate. The AWBF could develop policies that support farmers growing boating timbers.
They could be local Tasmanian growers or they could come from overseas.
The point is that the AWBF would have a positive vision for its future.
The AWBF currently has its head in the sand (sawdust?) on timber sourcing and forest management.
But it can’t last forever!!