Monthly Archives: February 2022

Through the Looking-Glass

Last Friday 18th February I attended a workshop run by Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) to review the current PFT Draft Strategic Plan.

I have been to these kinds of industry meetings before and am familiar with the conversations and outcomes.

I went along with no expectations.

Sadly I was not disappointed!!

Entering the workshop I felt very like Alice climbing through the looking-glass. I felt reality snap.

I looked around expecting to see the Mad Hatter. Thankfully the Minister had not been invited.

Having politicians at forest industry meetings is a guarantee that reality is absent.

In any forest industry meeting the elephants in the room always out numbers the humans. There are so many topics and issues that are deliberately avoided.

At the end of the workshop I was overwhelmed by the confirmation bias. People in the forest industry are still more or less thinking the same thoughts and saying the same things they were 40 years ago, despite the fact the forest industry is in critical decline.

As much as I tried to throw new ideas into the discussion they were for the most part heavily resisted.

It wasn’t all bad. Some new ideas are slowly creeping into the industry, but they are slow, and few and far between.

Just two examples will suffice here:

  1. The draft PFT Strategic Plan mentions the word “sustainable” four times, but the word “profit” (as in profitable tree growing) is completely absent. My push to have the word “profit” included in the Plan was strongly resisted.
  2. I suggested that Private Forests Tasmania should stop trying to be the voice of the private forest industry. I suggested that forest industry stakeholders should instead find their own confident voices, and it is PFTs task to support stakeholders, not speak for them. This idea too was resisted.

PFT has a total of 10 staff and a small budget, and yet the Strategic Plan is an overwhelmingly broad, wordy, complicated document. Instead of trying to achieve significant progress on a few things, PFT will make little progress on a very broad front.

There is nothing in the Strategic Plan for blackwood growers.

It’s a broken business model!

The Strategic Plan will be finalised based on feedback from the workshop, incorporated into the PFT Corporate Plan, which then goes to the Mad Hatter/Minister for signing.

You can find the current Corporate Plan here:

PS. Given that the current Strategic Growth Plan for the Tasmanian forest industry does not even mention Private Forests Tasmania, we can be sure that little progress will be made in the coming years.

Taylor Guitars says goodbye!

Eleven years ago when I started this blackwood cooperative dream I hoped that the international tonewood market would play a significant role in the resurrection of the shrinking Tasmanian blackwood industry, and particularly the American tonewood market. In the mid-2000s CF Martin and Taylor Guitars, two of America’s biggest guitar makers, had both started using Tasmanian blackwood on a limited basis, with Taylor bringing it online in 2016 in their 300 series.

Unfortunately CF Martin’s strategy with blackwood failed in the marketplace, and Taylor Guitars have now taken a different road.

No doubt the international profile of Tasmanian blackwood as a premium tonewood has expanded enormously over the last 10 years, thanks largely to the support of Taylor Guitars.

I had hoped that Taylor Guitars would play a more active role in Tasmania as they are doing in the Cameroon. For many years Taylor Guitars were singing blackwoods praises.

Alas no!

With Taylor Guitars taking on their Urban Wood initiative, and with Acacia melanoxylon being a common planted tree in California, Taylor Guitars are now sourcing their blackwood locally, as announced in the latest Wood & Steel vol. 102 magazine.

Many Taylor guitars made with blackwood have featured blackwood from Australia, but we’ve mostly ceased using wood from there and have been using the same species planted here in California, which comes out of urban landscapes as those trees die or become a danger. Yes, even though we don’t market it like we do Urban Ash, many of our blackwood guitars are now from an urban landscape; in fact, most of them are now. Here, people call them black acacia, and they’re called Tasmanian blackwood or Australian blackwood when they come from Down Under.

I can understand why Taylor has chosen to pursue their Urban Wood initiative. It makes enormous sense from many business and environmental points of view.

But it leaves Tasmania with yet another missed opportunity.

The forest industry in Tasmania is so conflicted, politicised and toxic it is virtually impossible to attract overseas investor interest. The risks here are just too great. Buyers come here to plunder not to plant!

So we must say goodbye to Taylor Guitars and thank them for their support over the last 18 years.