Category Archives: Commentary

Tasmanian State Policy on the Protection of Agricultural land 2009

Tasmania has had a rabidly pro-forestry Parliament for generations; at least rabid in terms of rhetoric!

But when it came to developing a State policy on the protection of agricultural land plantation forestry was the only primary industry specifically mentioned.

http://www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/policy/state_policies

Plantation forestry is the ONLY primary production that is specifically excluded from designated prime agricultural land in Tasmania.

Principles 3.10 and 3.11 of the Policy specifically discuss plantation forestry. Principe 3.10 provides a general exclusion of plantation forestry from Prime Agricultural Land, whilst 3.11 allows plantation forestry to be excluded from any other agricultural land.

What is the purpose of the Policy?What developments are affected?Where does the Policy apply?
To conserve and protect agricultural land so that it remains available for the sustainable use and development of agriculture, recognising the particular importance of prime agricultural land. ‘Agricultural use’ includes use of the land for propagating, cultivating or harvesting plants or for keeping and breeding of animals, excluding domestic animals and pets. It includes the handling, packing or storing of agricultural produce for dispatch to processors or markets and controlled environment agriculture and plantation forestry.Proposed non-agricultural use and development that is ‘discretionary ‘or ‘prohibited’ on land zoned either Significant Agriculture or Rural Resources in planning schemes or land adjoining these zones but with a different zoning.All agricultural land in Tasmania zoned either Significant Agriculture or Rural Resources in planning schemes

Prime Agricultural Land (PAL) is defined as land with Land Capability Classes 1-3, as discussed in the following website:

https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/agriculture/land-management-and-soils/land-and-soil-resource-assessment/land-capability

PAL comprises 108,000 ha or just 4.3% of Tasmanian private land.

So why specifically exclude plantation forestry from 4.3% of Tasmania’s private land?

Why not exclude mohair goats, walnuts or truffles as well? Why pick on trees?

For a rabidly pro-forestry Parliament this Policy makes no sense whatsoever.

If a farmer plants a tree on any of these 108,000 ha are they breaking the law? Will they be prosecuted?

I know lots of farmers say you can’t eat wood, but as the recent global timber shortage demonstrated, neither can you build houses out of vegetable waste!!

As I’ve said many times before the forest industry in Tasmania is struggling to build a future. It wants to encourage farm forestry, but the Government has put numerous hurdles in its path. This Policy is one such hurdle.

Another hurdle is the treatment of plantation forestry under the Forest Practices Code. Plantation forestry should be treated just like any other primary industry, subject to the same rules and regulations. Just like it is in New Zealand!

It’s called a level playing field, and allows farmers to make better investment decisions to improve their commercial performance.

Now I think about it, the only reason plantation forestry is specifically mentioned in this policy is a warning to politicians. Under current markets the only way forest plantations would be grown on prime agricultural land is if politicians intervened to distort and corrupt markets as they did during the Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) disaster.

But as the world continues to run short of timber and wood prices increase, this Policy will need to be reviewed. The Tasmanian Government will need to start encouraging farmers to grow trees instead of discouraging them.

Timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector – The Report

Back in June last year (2020) I wrote a submission to a Federal Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into plantation log supply constraints in Australia.

Here is the link to the inquiry including the final report and submissions:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Standing_Committee_on_Agriculture_and_Water_Resources/Timbersupply

As I noted at the time, the Terms of Reference for the inquiry were very typical for the forest industry in Australia, ie. the focus was all on the processors and “jobs”.

And the title for the final report says it all (what a f*****g joke!):

Aussie logs for Aussie jobs

Inquiry into timber supply chain constraints in the Australian plantation sector

Was the inquiry about supporting, encouraging and rewarding profitable tree growers?

Not on your life!

The primary focus of the inquiry was about protectionism and market manipulation.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy to support local processing of forest products, but not if it means denying growers the right to open, competitive, transparent markets. Making long term investments, like growing timber, is hard enough without Governments and industry slamming the door in your face.

And this Inquiry and this Report provide absolutely no comfort to existing and potential timber growers, that such market interference wont happen!

So what can I say about the Report?

At least the report is more honest about the current state of the forest industry in Australia than a lot of previous reports.

The picture is rather gloomy!!

The forest plantation sector in Australia is in decline, losing resource and becoming less competitive.

The focus of the report is on commodity wood (pine and hardwood woodchips), with no mention of high value appearance grade forest products.

If nothing else, I recommend reading the section on Farm Forestry which begins on page 59 of the Report. I don’t agree with everything it says, I do agree that there are significant issues, most of which are not being addressed.

One curiosity is the mention in the Report of a “National Farm Forestry Strategy”. Apparently the Federal Government is producing one, but if you Google “National Farm Forestry Strategy” nothing appears!! We have had these strategies before and they have all failed. Let us wait and see!

And the biggest issue for me is the culture and attitude of the forest industry itself, and the “head-in-the sand” attitude of the marketplace!

Happy reading!!

Local Communities and the Forest Industry

This recent commentary from the forest industry demonstrates yet again the arrogance, contempt and feral attitude that the industry shows towards the Australian community:

The Murrindindi Shire in the Central Highlands of Victoria is Ground Zero for public native welfare forestry in Victoria. Not surprisingly the local Murrindindi community are getting increasingly agitated and concerned about the impact forestry is having on their lives and livelihoods.

https://www.murrindindi.vic.gov.au/Your-Council/Statement-on-the-Management-of-Central-Highlands-Forests

But the forest industry demonstrates nothing but contempt for the community’s concerns.

https://www.murrindindi.vic.gov.au/logging

The arrogance in the language of the Timberbiz commentary is nothing short of offensive!

If the forest industry loses the support of local communities then it only has itself to blame.

Treating local communities with such blatant arrogance and contempt will only hasten the isolation and decline of the forest industry.

Murrindindi Shire is close to the City of Melbourne, so many of the residents are not dependent on forestry welfare, hence the growing concern and criticism.

The Murrindindi Council are the elected representatives of the local community, a fact which the forest industry chooses to ignore.

As a forester I fully support the Murrindindi community in their right to show care and concern for their future.

As a forester I condemn the offensive attitude and language of the forest industry.

Going backwards!

There are many reasons why the forest industry in Australia is going backwards.

Here is just one small example:

PF Olsen is a forestry services company which started in New Zealand, but has also opened offices in Australia.

Here is their New Zealand website:

https://nz.pfolsen.com/market-info-news/

Notice the headings across the top of the page.

Now here is their Australian website:

https://au.pfolsen.com/

Notice the headings across the top of the page. How do they compare with the New Zealand website?

The Australian website contains nothing about Contractors & Suppliers nor about Market Information & News!

Why is that?

Are there no forestry markets in Australia?

Do tree growers in Australia not want access to uptodate market information?

Or is it because profitable tree growing is not the focus of the forest industry in Australia?

New Zealand has a real forest industry where the focus is on supporting tree growers to make sure they are as viable and profitable as possible. That way more farmers plant trees, the forest industry expands and has a successful future.

It is a successful simple industry model!

PF Olsen NZ is acutely aware of this and do their bit to ensure tree growers and the forest industry share a successful future.

Go to PF Olsen’s New Zealand website and check out their Market Info & News. It’s a great resource for NZ farmers!

Curiously PF Olsen Australia does not seem to share the same vision.

The focus of the forest industry in Australia has always been about supporting and subsidising domestic processors, at the expense of growers and the future of the industry.

Curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Please post a comment…

PS. If anyone can find a single Australian forest industry website that provides uptodate market information I’d love to know. Thanks.

FSC Standard – Economically Viable

I just thought I’d rave a bit more about the ridiculous FSC Standard for Economically Viable.

Clearly the FSC is completely confused and conflicted about whether forestry is welfare or commerce, or is it money laundering?

So far I have found two different definitions of what the FSC means by Economically Viable. The first example comes from FSC UK:

Economically Viable

Economically viable forest management means that forest operations are structured and managed so as to be sufficiently profitable, without generating financial profit at the expense of the forest resource, the ecosystem, or affected communities. The tension between the need to generate adequate financial returns and the principles of responsible forest operations can be reduced through efforts to market the full range of forest products and services for their best value.

https://www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk/about-fsc/what-is-fsc/our-mission-and-vision

The second example comes from FSC Australia:

Economically Viable

The FSC certification standard requires that a forest management entity have sufficient financial resources to manage the defined forest area in conformance with the full scope of the standard.  The standard does not require that the certified forest is managed at a profit provided that other sources of working capital are available and sufficient to enable management in conformance with the standard.

https://www.scsglobalservices.com/news/scs-responds-to-questions-about-the-forestry-tasmania-fsc-forest-management-assessment

Both these examples demonstrate that no one at the FSC has ever studied Economics 101 – basic economic theory and principles.

So let’s discuss the FSC UK definition first:

Of the two definitions it’s the one I like the most; not perfect but at least heading in the right direction. Clearly the UK believes that forestry (growing trees for wood production) is a business, not welfare or money laundering. But the wording could be improved and simplified.

So here is my edit of the UK definition:

Economically viable forest management means that forest operations are structured and managed so as to be profitable. Any subsidies to the forest grower must be available equally to all forest growers within the same jurisdiction.

The rest of the words are pointless. If the forest management is Environmentally Appropriate, Socially Beneficial but it is not profitable then presumably the forest owner would not harvest any trees, ie. No need to seek FSC certification.

If the forest management meets all three Standards, then there is no need to reiterate the environmental and social standards within the economic standard as the UK definition has done. It is superfluous text!

Meet all three Standards = Achieve FSC Certification!

What is “sufficiently” profitable is a decision for the forest owner to make, based on available markets, etc..

If the forest owner is subsidised to manage the forest for wood production (which may be the case in some countries), then the FSC must ensure that all forest owners within that same jurisdiction have equal access to the same subsidies, ie. The FSC has a duty to uphold the principles of competitive neutrality within the forest industry, and not advantage one forest grower over another.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/10/17/competitive-neutrality-in-forestry/

Which leads me nicely to the Australian definition of Economically Viable.

The Australian definition of Economically Viable could be taken to be supportive of money laundering in the forest industry.

Within the Australian definition no profitability is required.

Any amount of money from any source (eg. Criminal activity) can be used to subsidise forest management, achieve economic viability and hence achieve FSC Certification.

In Tasmania that equates to robbing taxpayers to pay sawmillers.

If that definition does not open the gates to corruption and criminal activity I don’t know what would!

I would love to meet the economist that signed off on that definition of “economically viable”! A very “creative” economist indeed!!

Never mind the fact that the FSC supports both of the above contradictory Standards!!

If I was a farmer wanting to diversify my income and plant trees for wood production what would I think of the above Standards?

Would I be supportive of the FSC?

If I was a Tasmanian concerned about the continuing plunder of our public native forests, what would I think of the FSC? Would I have any confidence in Third Party Forest Certification?

I think the FSC has a long way to go to achieve any credibility.

An invitation to join the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

HI Gordon,

I’ve been reading your newsletter. Have you thought about joining your group up to FSC?

I’m in the environment chamber and on the board. Happy to talk about it if you are interested.

Cheers

I recently received this invitation to join the Australian branch of the FSC.

I’m making my reply to this invitation public because I believe the public and the marketplace need to better understand what is happening within the forest industry.

Hi XXXX

Thanks for the invitation for the Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative to join the FSC.

Twenty years ago I had hopes that the advent of the FSC would see major reform within the Australian forest industry.

Today I have no such illusions!

The fact that Bunnings/Officeworks will help shut down public native welfare forestry next year is indirectly due to the FSC, but otherwise the industry and the wood marketplace are utterly moribund.

Harsh words I know, but after a 40 year career that is the only conclusion I can come too.

The FSCs standards for “economically viable” are a joke. No they are worse than a joke! They are completely offensive and destructive to the future of the industry:.  

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/05/13/fsc-supports-illegal-forestry-in-australia/

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/10/17/competitive-neutrality-in-forestry/

Because of this “Standard”, private forest growers have no hope. Because of this “Standard” my Group has no future. How can it when annual taxpayer subsidies to public native welfare forestry are fully supported by the FSC and PEFC? Private growers don’t get FSC/PEFC approved annual taxpayer subsidies!!

Growing trees for wood production is a commercial activity. It is not welfare!

Should I join the FSC to help drive change within the FSC?

If Greenpeace resigned because it could not achieve meaningful change within the FSC what chance would I have of doing so?

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/03/30/greenpeace-leaves-the-forest-stewardship-council-fsc/

Greenpeace is right! Third party certification without transparency is a waste of time. It becomes a form-filling, label-sticking exercise of little value.

So why would I join an organisation like the FSC that deliberately seeks to undermine private forest growers?

Taxpayer subsidised welfare forestry and profit-driven commercial forestry cannot coexist in the same marketplace.

It’s that simple!

The FSC supports welfare forestry and therefore undermines commercial forestry.

It’s that simple!

If the FSC wants to support and encourage farm forestry in Australia then it needs to change its assessment standards.

It’s that simple!

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Bradbury

VicForests ‘hamstrung’

https://www.gippslandtimes.com.au/story/6836029/vicforests-hamstrung/

This article appeared in a regional newspaper back in July.

Very few people would have read it. Even fewer people would have understood it or appreciated the wisdom (even if misinterpreted).

Vicforests is the State government forest agency in Victoria, Australia tasked with logging public native forests.

https://www.vicforests.com.au/

For the past 50+ years it has been the focus of increasingly bitter community opposition.

The article mostly expresses the opinions of Gary Featherston, a professional forester and apologist for public native forestry.

Mr Featherston wishes us to believe that public native forestry is “hamstrung” by its political masters.

But what Mr Featherston describes is nothing more than the chaos of politically driven public administration. Every day the objectives change according to the winds of politics. Every day the chaos increases!

The chaos of public administration is bad enough in areas like education and health. But when it comes to pseudo-commerce like public native forestry the chaos takes on a whole new meaning!

Up until the 1990’s forestry in Australia was a Government run welfare scheme. Native forest and plantations were managed to provide jobs in regional Australia.

Today only NSW and WA have Government owned plantations. Today most timber grown and sold in Australia is privately owned. Profit is the motive! As it should be!!

And yet industry and Government policy in Australia is still focused on subsidising sawmillers/wood processors; ie. Policy is still focused on welfare.

Vicforests is not “hamstrung” as Mr Featherston wants us to believe!

Vicforests (and public native forestry around Australia) is the very embodiment of 19th century ideology well past its useby date.

Vicforests can never be divorced from the chaos of politics.

Politics is the permanent enduring Achilles Heel of public native forestry.

The future of forestry is in profitable private forest managers and growers, and until Australia recognises that fact we will continue on this endless cycle of conflict, stupidity and waste.

Timber processor alarmed over ‘massive amount’ of softwood exported to China

A large truck carrying neatly piled wood logs enters a large yard with thousands of large wooden logs.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-02/softwood-resource-exported-to-china-amid-log-supply-insecurity/12617994

Here we are. Sawmillers who have spent generations being on the Government payroll are now complaining about having to exist in a global competitive market.

With the sale of Government pine plantations, the new plantation owners are free to sell their logs to whoever they like, including customers who are prepared to pay more than domestic customers/sawmillers.

Imagine that! Competition and free trade in the forest industry. Who would have guessed?

This is a classic forest industry sob story, about poor hard-done-by sawmillers who can’t compete in a global marketplace.

The softwood industry is no longer part of the Welfare Forestry System in Australia, except in Western Australia and New South Wales, where Governments have yet to privatise their plantation estates.

I just love the pity-me language:

Our forefathers planted the trees — they were planted with a plan to create jobs into the future. It wasn’t about growing wood for Asia.”

A classic example of Trees-as-Welfare, not Trees-as-Commerce. The idea of growing trees to make a profit is anathema to these poor folk.

These sawmillers are demanding welfare not trees!

They are unwittingly demanding the destruction of their very own businesses and industry.

Clearly the Green Triangle Forest Industry Hub (GTFIH) is not the cohesive single-minded group that their website wants us to believe:

http://gtfih.com.au/

Tensions between growers and processors are running high!

The GTFIH has a plan to plant 50,000 ha of new plantation over the next 10 years. That definitely won’t happen with stories like this in the media.

Who would want to plant trees knowing you cannot trade in an open competitive market? Nobody that’s who!!

Unfortunately the article does not talk about prices and markets, or any idea of the growers side of the story.

And as for an industry Code of Conduct, that would be the final nail in the coffin for the already struggling forest industry in Australia.

What other primary producers in Australia face a more hostile political environment than tree growers? I can’t think of any! Happy to have your comments!

Anyone growing trees for wood production in Australia, whether plantation or native forest, should be very worried right now. Your investment is about to be destroyed by your politicians.

What a total mess the industry is!!

“Let’s fast track that plan!”

FastTrack

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/special-reports/more-trees-will-grow-jobs-economy/news-story/8b4fd3b46144584213fd106525ee0d6e

That’s forest industry speak for “hand over the taxpayers money now” and more political protection and subsidies please.

This is a typical piece of forest industry windy hyperbole; full of bluster, promise, and foreboding. I’ve been reading this kind of rubbish all my long forestry career.

The forest industry cannot convince Australian farmers to include commercial treegrowing in their business models.

Why?

Because the forest industry in Australia has zero commercial credibility!

So who then is the audience for this article?

None other than Governments and politicians of course.

This article is not written for the farming community.

As usual the forest industry talks about growing demand and supply shortages but fails to talk about markets, costs, prices and profits.

Forest policy in Australia has always been about loggers, sawmillers and processors – regional jobs.

Forest policy in Australia has never, ever been about profitable tree growers.

This article talks about regional jobs and communities, and deliberately avoids any mention of profitable tree growers.

Saving regional jobs – ie. Welfare forestry – is a major focus of the forest industry.

But welfare forestry is a dead end; a road to failure.

The only truism in this article is “we need to grow the plantation estate significantly and strategically”.

If forestry markets are so positive as this article wants us to believe, then why isn’t the marketplace responding and farmers planting trees? Surely that is the way markets work is it not? More demand triggers higher prices triggers more supply etc, etc.. Classic economics!!

But Australia does not have a forestry market. There is no relationship in Australia between wood supply, demand, price, cost and profit. None!

And that is the result of deliberate industry and Government policy.

The end result is that the forest industry has no commercial credibility and farmers don’t plant trees.

And the forest industry has no clue whatsoever how to fix this problem except write blustering rubbish like this.

Bunnings and the Forest Industry Extremists

Bunnings

https://ausfpa.com.au/media-releases/bunnings-short-sighted-decision-will-cost-aussie-jobs-and-lead-to-environment-destroying-imports/?fbclid=IwAR0jgN7DidmkyPHn2LjzQwbXjN-ccbWDJYxgEi7LWoeVBxb_–z16rK-SDk

Am I surprised?

No not really!

The exaggerated rhetoric and chest beating of the forest industry extremists is utterly predictable.

Is Bunnings short sighted?

Absolutely not.

They have long-standing company policies that seek to improve the ethics and legality within its supply chains.

Bunnings has for many years been supportive of Vicforests efforts to gain FSC certification, but after numerous attempts Vicforests has failed to achieve what so many other forest managers have.

https://www.vicforests.com.au/

In 2018 Bunnings announced that come 2021 they would only sell FSC certified wood products.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-17/vic-forestry-industry-at-risk-of-collapse/10255128

Vicforests has had plenty of opportunity to prove its credentials. It has failed!

The Federal Court ruling in May was a “last straw” which Bunnings could not ignore.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-27/leadbeaters-possum-federal-court-rules-vicforests-logging-breach/12292046

https://www.fedcourt.gov.au/services/access-to-files-and-transcripts/online-files/friends-of-leadbeaters-possum-v-vicforests

Vilification

The vilification by the AFPA of Bunnings and the Victorian community who care about THEIR forests, is downright reprehensible.

It does the greater forest industry no good whatsoever.

Will there be job losses?

Absolutely!!

But the WELFARE FOREST INDUSTRY must face its Waterloo.

And the longer the battle rages and the more vehement the rhetoric, the worse the damage will be.

The AFPA is clearly determined to maximise the damage.

Will Bunnings actions lead to greater forest destruction overseas?

This is more disingenuous rhetoric from the AFPA.

Australia has legislation that specifically prevents the importation of illegal timber. You can read about it here:

https://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/policies/illegal-logging

If Bunnings is only selling FSC certified wood products, how does that lead to greater illegal forest destruction overseas? The logic doesn’t work!!

With this rhetoric the AFPA is implying that Australians do NOT care where their timber comes from, whilst Bunnings is showing us that Australians do care!

Another implication is that the AFPA believes that the FSC supports illegal destructive logging. I wonder what the FSC has to say about that??!!

Exactly who is the AFPA trying to offend??

None of this exaggerated hostile rhetoric does the forest industry any good whatsoever.

Contempt of Court

Instead the AFPA would rather push the boundaries of Contempt of Court by suggesting that the Federal Court is being misled or in error in its judgement.

Dangerous ground indeed!!

Bunnings is to be commended for having a social conscience and sticking to it despite the political heat.

If only more Australian businesses were like minded. I’m thinking here especially of Australias other hardware empire Home Timber & Hardware:

https://www.homehardware.com.au/

which so far seems to have little sense of corporate responsibility.

https://www.metcash.com/corporate-social-responsibility/responsible-sourcing/

Come 1st January 2021

Bunnings revised its timber policy to require all native forest timber products to be independently certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) or equivalent standard by the end of 2020. Officeworks and Bunnings both recognise FSC® as the leading forestry certification scheme due to its high environmental and social standards for responsible and sustainable forest management, as well as its chain of custody processes and balanced governance structure.

https://sustainability.wesfarmers.com.au/our-principles/sourcing/suppliers/

Come 1st January 2021 Bunnings and Officeworks will add the NSW Forestry Corporation and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania to its list of proscribed suppliers

https://www.forestrycorporation.com.au/

https://www.sttas.com.au/

since neither of these Government forest agencies have achieved FSC certification.

There is much change and pain ahead.

I only wish the forest industry would adopt a more positive approach.

I am not hopeful!