Category Archives: Commentary

Insanity …

LogTruck

http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/insanity-1/

Here’s an excellent article by economist Graeme Wells on the failures and incredible waste of past and present Government forest policy in Tasmania. It makes for sober reading.

Unfortunately Tasmania’s political system only exacerbates the problem.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry?

Tasmanian Government Response to the Strategic Growth Plan

MACSGP2017

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/149438/Tasmanian_Government_Response_To_Growth_Plan.pdf

The Tasmanian Government has released a statement outlining its response to the forest industry Strategic Growth Plan, which I previously reviewed:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/05/08/a-strategic-growth-plan-for-the-tasmanian-forests-fine-timber-and-wood-fibre-industry/

The Response keeps the focus of forest policy firmly on a public forest resource and a failed, self-declared bankrupt public forest manager.

Any transition to profitable private tree growers is completely out of the question.

Absolutely nothing has changed!

The bulk of the Response is about what the long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer will continue to do for the forest industry.

The continuing wanton waste of taxpayer’s money on the forest industry is beyond belief! The forest industry has access to the Treasury piggy bank like no other industry in Tasmania!

It now appears certain that the Tasmanian taxpayer will take over responsibility for funding the construction and maintenance of all thousands of kilometres of forestry roads on public land. This is a direct contravention of competitive neutrality.

Remember there are private forest growers who receive none of these taxpayer benefits.

Finally on to special timbers discussed on page 4 of the Response.

As part of the continuing forest industry gravy train, the Tasmanian taxpayer is throwing money at a propaganda initiative to tell us about the benefits of continuing to plunder the last of Tasmania’s oldgrowth and rainforests for the benefit of a handful of venerable craftspeople.

Tasmanian Special Timber Woodcraft Sector Community, Market Awareness and Engagement Program Funding

Funding of $115 000 has been provided to the Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance for the development and implementation of a Tasmanian Special Timber Woodcraft Sector Community, Market Awareness and Engagement Program. This program will support the implementation of the Special Species Management Plan.

It is all so sad, pathetic and predictable.

Forestry in Tasmania continues to be nothing but waste, politics, and conflict.

Many Tasmanians seem more than happy with this outcome.

As a forester I find the situation incomprehensible.

40 years of this nonsense and it just goes on and on….

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Not in the foreseeable future that is for certain!

NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap 2016

NSWFIR

http://www.crownland.nsw.gov.au/forestry/industry-roadmap

This Roadmap was released by the New South Wales (NSW) State Government in August last year.

Yet another forest industry taskforce, yet another forest industry plan.

Do I really want to review it? Just a cursory glance tells me it is another Dead Plan Walking.

Come the next change of State Government this Plan will be history.

The Roadmap has “4 Pillars”. They are:

  1. Regulatory modernisation;
  2. Balancing supply and demand;
  3. Community understanding and confidence;
  4. Industry innovation and new markets.

Nothing there about profitability or commercial performance.  Tree growing in NSW remains a community service. NSW farmers will be pleased about that!

So what are some of the glaring errors and omissions of the Roadmap?

  • The NSW Forest Industries Taskforce, just like the Tasmanian Forestry Advisory Council, is comprised of only forest industry representatives. This Roadmap is a 100% political document. In contrast the Victorian Forest Industry Taskforce includes a range of community representatives;
  • The complete lack of profitable tree growers;
  • The commercial management and profitability of NSW Forestry Corporation (the State’s largest tree grower) is completely ignored;
  • Transparent competitive log markets are completely absent. Apparently the price of logs is completely irrelevant to the future of the forest industry;
  • The complete absence of costings and a budget for the Roadmap. How much is THIS plan going to cost the taxpayer? Haven’t they payed the forest industry enough already?
  • The NSW Government will aim to improve community acceptance of the forestry industry as a sustainable and renewable industry” (p.11). What a terrible statement to make. It sounds like something Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, would say. More industry propaganda in other words.
  • There is no mention at all about improving the profitability of the industry – either growers or processors.

One of the issues that is highlighted for me by the Roadmap is the fact that plantation regulation is so completely different across all Australian States. Australian plantation owners cannot compete on a level playing field, even within Australia, because the regulations around plantation establishment and management differ significantly between States. No doubt this is also true with most primary industries.

Does the Roadmap have anything useful to say?

About the only useful thing the Roadmap says is that the Government will move to put both private and public forest growers on the same regulatory playing field. It is certainly curious how competitive neutrality continues to get such a low priority in the forest industry. As for commercial performance that continues to be completely ignored.

Here are three vital reports that the Roadmap completely ignores:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/tag/impediments-to-investment-in-long-rotation-timber-plantations/

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/38031/farm-forestry-strategy-nsw.pdf

I also note that the NSW Department of Primary Industries website no longer includes forestry as a primary industry. Clearly NSW farmers are just not interested.

This Roadmap is 14 pages of tedious political/industry marketing hype and nonsense.

I’ve read it all so many times before over many decades. This is nothing more than the continuation of failed forest industry policy. All around Australia the forest industry exists in a perverse parallel universe, where commercial performance is irrelevant and taxpayer subsidies are vital.

When will NSW get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Special Timbers in Western Australia

FPCSTA

Forest Products Commission (FPC) of Western Australia (the Government forest agency) puts all special timbers that come from Crown land and State forest to public auction. The objective is not for the Forest Products Commission to maximise revenue (unfortunately that is not one of their corporate objectives), but to be impartial in terms of who gets access to the limited resource, and attempt to ensure some kind of fair market price is paid. I’m guessing much of this because the FPC actually tells us very little about their special timbers operations.

http://www.fpc.wa.gov.au/timberauctions

http://www.fpc.wa.gov.au/speciality-timbers-go-under-hammer

There are generally four auctions per year, the first for 2017 is this Saturday the 6th of May. Over 100 lots are to be auctioned this Saturday totalling over 1,000 tonnes of specialty woods.

Here’s the auctioneers website:

https://www.auctions.com.au/auctions/2017/05/06/wa-log-burl-burl-slices-craft-packs-and-slabs-auction.html

Western Australia doesn’t have a Special Timbers Management Plan. Whatever wood is salvaged from other activities on Crown Land and State forest is what special timbers are available and that’s it.

There are no taxpayer subsidies (that I can see anyway) and no logging of parks and reserves just to pander to the wood craft people.

In 2016 FPC auctioned approximately 3000 tonnes (approx. 3,000 cubic metres) of specialty timbers. That’s 150 truckloads of specialty timbers. Compare that with just 200 cubic metres tendered by Island Specialty Timbers/Forestry Tasmania last year.

The FPC is reluctant to talk about their specialty timbers operations, apart from announcing the auction dates. Here is the sum total of what the last FPC Annual Report had to say:

Local buyers bid keenly for a variety of Goldfields timbers for musical instruments, wood turning projects and unique pieces of furniture. Wood from this region is difficult to access, and bidders at the auction were impressed by the bold colours and patterns found in the timber.

Also on offer was a selection of South West native forest specialty feature timbers including marri, blackbutt and sheoak.

That’s it!!

Just some motherhood statements!!

No discussion about sales highlights, market conditions, total volume sold or total revenue.

If the FPC wanted to engage with stakeholders and the general public this would be a great opportunity. Apparently not!!

Like Forestry Tasmania the Forest Products Commission is not run as a commercial business but as a community service to achieve political objectives. Being a profitable tree grower is not the vision of either of these public forest managers.

Remember the only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growers and public auctions are a great way to maximise profitability and create greater market transparency.

A Harvest Result to Confound the Experts

Here’s another great little story from the latest New Zealand Tree Grower (Vol 38/1 p. 19) journal that will be of interest to farmers.

www.nzffa.org.nz

Harvest result to confound the experts NZTG 38-1

The story follows from my other recent blog:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/03/01/good-news-story-great-returns-from-small-blocks/

The story isn’t about blackwood, but it illustrates what commitment, good management and planning can achieve on a farm even with a commodity wood like Radiata pine.

Every year for the past 27 years the Wilson family have planted and managed 1 hectare of pine plantation on their farm near Otorohanga, North Island NZ. The farm is obviously close to markets and on easy ground so harvest and transport costs are minimised.

The recent first harvest of 1 hectare of well managed pine plantation netted the Wilson family $NZ57,700.

All up they now have 27 hectares of well managed pine plantation on their farm, and good annual income in perpetuity (markets permitting). Now if they want they could replant another hectare each year so that in 27 years time they are harvesting 2 hectares per year.

This is an excellent example of how to incorporate wood production into your farming business.

Yes it takes time for trees to grow, but that time will pass regardless of whether the trees are planted or not. And as the Wilsons now discover their commitment and hard work will pay a handsome annual dividend.

Your farm may not allow 1.0 hectare to be planted every year for 30+ years. Or it might have difficult terrain or greater distance to markets.

You could make a planting every 2 years, or every 5 years. Most farms have areas that are not being used as part of the main productive activity, whether its grazing, cropping or dairy, due to size, location, slope or drainage. These areas could be used for growing valuable wood products.

Eventually, as the Wilsons discovered, you end up with a regular handsome dividend from your work and commitment.

Bunnings enters the war zone as the forestry deception continues

Bunnings.jpg

Australian hardware giant Bunnings has waded into the Tasmanian forestry war zone as more troops line up on both sides of the escalating conflict.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-05/bunnings-will-not-stock-timber-from-areas-logged-under-tas-plan/8419226

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/bunnings-wood-suppliers-wont-be-sourcing-their-product-from-soon-to-be-reopened-forests/news-story/97582af4856db9afff95f1f0438df3b5

The only way any of this makes any sense is if it is considered a political ruse, a deception.

What if the Government only wants to open up the 430,000 ha of public native forest to allow taxpayer-funded, destructive, unsustainable special timbers harvesting of our last remaining oldgrowth and rainforest?

The Government knows that by itself such an idea will get little public support.

But within the context of the “threat” of large-scale industrial forestry, a “compromise position” of special timbers harvesting becomes much more palatable.

Almost acceptable!

The Tasmanian community are being played for fools once again.

The fact that FIAT (the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania) opposes the Law but supports the special timbers provisions within the Act indicates that at least some of the forest industry are aware of the deception.

It’s all just a game.

As I said previously the Tasmanian Government has no plan to rebuild the forest industry. Nobody has a plan to rebuild the Tasmanian forest industry.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing and there are no profitable tree growers in current Government or industry policy.

Completely toxic – Tasmanian State Election 2018

BarnettDenmanHodgman

L to R: Tasmanian Resources Minister Guy Barnett, wooden boat builder Andrew Denham, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman.

Tasmania is due for its next State election by March 2018 but we are already in campaign mode. Battlelines are being drawn and as many battlegrounds opened up as the politicians can handle.

The forest industry is an old campaign warhorse. This old nag has been dragged onto every election battlefield for the past 35 years. Up until the 2014 election it was with the support of the forest industry.

But times have changed.

It’s all about logging public native forests; an issue that for a number of reasons (economic, social, political and environmental) is now completely toxic in Tasmania.

At least some sections of the forest industry now recognise the enormous cost of last 35 years of “forestry wars” to both the industry and the Tasmanian community.

The last 3 years have seen the new Liberal State Government dismantling the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement (TFA), which was a landmark agreement between the forest industry and conservationists developed over many years of often difficult negotiation.

The media is already full of campaign stories. Major sections of the forest industry are in open opposition to State Government policy as the Government ramps up its campaign:

Forestry plan set for logjam as industry group prepares opposition campaign

Sawmill boss warns against return to Tasmanian ‘forest wars’, says wood may go unclaimed

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania wants more information on State Government logging plan, not convinced it will be good for the industry, conservationists are strongly opposed

Ruth Forrest MLC calls for proof of demand to unlock forest

But sections of the special timbers community and the Special Timbers Alliance have come out in support of Government policy:

Tasmanian special timbers sector affirms support for Liberals’ forestry plan

Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance

Pro-forestry advocate wants showdown with the Greens at 2018 Tasmanian election

The next few months will also see the release by the Government of a draft Special Species Timber Management Plan that is perfectly timed to fuel the divisive election campaign.

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

How do we build a healthy profitable forest industry within this hostile context?

An angry, divided community/electorate is what the Government wants. How else can they hope to win the election?

The Tasmanian community is not given any opportunity to resolve this dispute amicably. Thirty five years of forestry wars have left the forest industry and the community bitterly divided. The political system exacerbates the problem and the forest industry lacks leadership.

When will the forest industry and the Tasmanian community realise that politics and politicians will never solve the industry’s many problems?

When will the Tasmanian community realise that if it wants a forest industry for the future then a vote at the ballot box every 4 years is not enough?

Rural communities especially need to take the initiative. The future of the forest industry is with profitable private tree growers. The New Zealanders do it. Tasmanians need to do it too.

It’s going to be a long and bitter election campaign with the Tasmanian community the big losers.

The next 12 months will do the Tasmanian blackwood industry and the Tasmanian community no good whatsoever.

Google News already knows that the forestry wars have recommenced!

GoogleForestry

People thinking of buying or promoting Tasmanian specialty timbers or specialty timber products sourced from public native forest need to think carefully about what their support does for this conflict and the Tasmanian community. Farm grown timber is a safer alternative.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?