Category Archives: Commentary

Tasmanian Forest Products Association – a new beginning?

Hayes

It seems many people are hoping that the new Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) will offer the forest industry a chance for a new beginning. I have to say after 40 years in the industry that seems unlikely.

But never mind! As someone famous once said “There is always hope!”

Here are a few of my thoughts about what the TFPA is facing and what the challenges are (in no particular order):

  • The biggest issue facing the REAL forest industry is the WELFARE forest industry – everyone who works or depends upon public native forest wood. Public native forestry generates bad media like there is no tomorrow. It starves the real forest industry of oxygen!

It’s not as if the real forest industry has been working hard to create positive media, but they don’t stand a chance whilst the public and marketplace perception is dominated by WELFARE forestry.

Public native forestry is the stinking albatross around the industry’s neck!

  • The TFPA needs to think differently, speak differently and project a completely new message to the community. Speak and behave like you mean “business”. Whatever you do, do not keep repeating the tired boring messages of the last 50 years!!

You need to get the farming and broader community onboard.

The community is not your enemy!

This means keeping a visible and significant distance from politicians. In Tasmania that will be difficult! Tasmanian politicians are like leeches. They climb up our legs and bleed us.

If the community sees you playing politics, you are dead!

  • Cutting down trees, sawing up or chipping logs has always been the easiest part of the forest industry. The hardest part is getting people to plant, grow and manage trees for future wood production! That means the focus of the industry must be on PROFITABLE TREE GROWING! And it must be a planned, collective approach to expand and grow the industry. Individual businesses cannot do this.
  • The forest industry in New Zealand is one of the most successful in the world. We can learn much from them.
  • Competition, level playing fields and market transparency are fundamental to the future of the industry! Numerous reports have been saying this for decades! JUST DO IT!!!
  • If you adopt any of the above ideas you will come under intense pressure from your mainland colleagues who regard all of these ideas as anathema. Nevermind! Stay strong! Someone has to break the cycle of failure that has cursed our industry.

All of the above makes for a very long hard road ahead for the TFPA.

But the only alternative is extinction.

We are in the fight of our lives.

Tasmanian Forest Products Association

Hayes

Bryan Hayes, Forico CEO

The forest industry remains quite for months and then BANG! News stories everywhere!!

This article appeared in the media the other day:

https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/6767207/new-forestry-body-to-represent-industry-plagued-by-conflict-and-old-issues/?fbclid=IwAR1nZ_BpPTnxqz7EalGl-006syfKk1J3EQ-g6OzAG8ebcwg6km0tvL26n-g

The article formally announced the death of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmanian (FIAT) and the formation of yet another forest industry representative body, the Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA). Tasmania is now back to having two forest industry representative bodies, the other being the taxpayer-funded Tasmanian Forest and Forest Products Network (TFFPN).

https://www.tffpn.com.au/

The TFPA as yet has no website. Hopefully soon!

I’m not sure where the TFGA sits in all this confusion:

https://tfga.com.au/farming-enterprises/forestry

Do they represent forest growers? Its hard to understand!

If Tasmanians are confused this is perfectly understandable. The forest industry in Tasmania remains deeply conflicted and divided.

The main theme of the article is to give Tasmanians very rare insight into the history of the forest industry; the truth being that for the past 20-30 years the forest industry has been very deeply divided!!

Driven by ego, power and greed; and as the article says “doing things the same way over and over is not a good strategy”. Who would guess?

Tasmanians have never had this insight into the inner workings and conflict within the forest industry. This is indeed a rare moment in Tasmanian history.

Few people in Tasmania were aware of this. Most Tasmanians thought the issue was “The Greenies”, when in fact the story was more complex.

“We want to depoliticise the conversation, we want to speak with an apolitical voice … take in the balance of social, economic and environmental concerns.”

Mr Hayes said the task ahead was enormous, particularly taking into account years of highly political activity within the industry and with professional protesters.

“There’s that old saying, herding cats …” he joked.

“But I hope it is able to act like a glue to bind the industry together.

“It’s going to be a long road.”

A long HARD road ahead!! Has anyone in the Tasmanian forest industry spoken with such candour before?

Not in my 40 year career as a forester!

Never mind!

The Tasmanian forest industry remains deeply conflicted and divided – between the taxpayer-sucking forest-destroying welfare forestry people, and those who believe that growing wood is a commercial activity.

My limited dealings with Mr Hayes have been very positive. Can he bring the peace and resolve to this long bitter divisive destructive period in Tasmanias history?

Time will tell.

Good luck Bryan herding those Feral Welfare Cats !!!

PS. Note to Bryan: You know I’m going to give you guys a hard time but you wouldn’t expect otherwise would you??

National Forest Strategy for Australia 1986

A trip down memory lane (another dead end street!)

NFSA1986

In purging my bookshelves recently I came across this publication. As I understand it this was the very first National Forest Industry Strategy/Plan for Australia.

It was 1986 and the forestry wars were well underway in many parts of the country. They still are!!!

It was 1986 and the forest industry was dominated by State Governments who ran the industry as a rural welfare program. They still do!! The privatisation of Government softwood plantations was still a few years away.

It was 1986 and the Hawke/Keating Government had been in Canberra for 3 years with an enormous reform agenda that would ultimately lead to the sale of Government plantations and the corporatisation of State Government businesses including forest agencies.

Significant change was coming to the forest industry, but from reading this strategy you wouldn’t know it.

The 1986 NFSA was a simple document running to a mere 17 pages (10 pages if Appendices are excluded).

The Strategy contains almost no background or supporting information, but despite this absence 34 recommendations are crammed into its few short pages.

There is no budget. There are no deadlines. There are no measureable, objective performance criteria. No one is held accountable or responsible.

There is a recommendation to review the Strategy every 5 years! That never happened despite the fact that the Hawke/Keating Government would be in power for another 10 years!

The Governments own reform agenda made much of the Strategy redundant.

Thirty four years have passed since this Strategy appeared. Much has changed in the forest industry in that time, and yet many things remain the same.

Dozens of other forest industry plans, strategies and reports have been written in the intervening 34 years. Most of them remain on library shelves collecting dust just like the 1986 Strategy.

The 1986 Forest Industry Strategy really did set the standard for forest industry dusty, dead end streets.

The forest industry in Australia remains in limbo land; unable to decide whether it is welfare or commercial.

My copy of this important historical document shall be returned to the bookshelf to collect dust for a few more decades.

Market for Plantation Grown Wood: Where we’re at and where we’re going

marketreport

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au/home/home_articles/market_for_plantation_grown_wood_where_were_at_and_where_were_going

Mr Andrew Morgan from SFM Forest Products calls this a Market Report!

https://www.sfmes.com.au/

I call it a load of fluffy woolley nonsense!

A total waste of time!!

Sorry Andrew but you deserve a complete bucketing for that mess!

Never mind the total absence of any objective market data (of which SFM Forest Products would have an abundance), the overall sentiment of the article is that the forest industry is full of risks and uncertainties. Better to put your money in a poker machine!!

Does the article inspire anyone to plant a tree for the future?

No way!

The forest industry continues to treat Tasmanian farmers as idiots, and Mr Morgans “Market Report” is a classic example.

By way of comparison here are two forest industry websites in New Zealand

http://www.laurieforestry.co.nz/Monthly-Newsletter

Monthly market reports with real numbers, and hard data!!

And this one is even better…

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

The New Zealand forest industry treats the farming community as essential partners in the industry, with complete and total respect. The focus of the industry in NZ is profitable tree growing. It’s a unique and successful approach.

You wont find a single forest industry website in Australia that looks anything like these.

There are dozens, hundreds of other people out there in the forest industry and the broader marketplace that could be providing regular vital market information to farmers to encourage and support them to plant trees, but all these people, without exception, refuse to do so! Such is the culture within the industry.

I’ll give you ½ mark for trying Andrew and I expect a much better attempt NEXT MONTH!

Market failure & responsibility

thelmalouise

One of the major realisations I have made over the past 10 years is the complete failure of forestry and timber markets to take any responsibility for their own future.

Here is just one recent example:

Good Day Dr. Gordon Bradbury,

Hope you can introduce some seller or loggers milling Tasmania Blackwood Logs or lumber etc,

Sir we are Hong Kong based company and looking for looking for Tasmanian Blackwood logs 40cm plus in diameter to import if possible,  1-2×40′ containers, CIF Incheon, South Korea.

Will appreciate if you could send us your complete offer with certificate (FSC/PEFC),, provide some photos for checking the quality and shape on logs, lumbers and veneers, MOq, terms of payment, terms of inspection, estimated delivery time, yard location etc.

Thank you so very much for your kind help

Kind Regards

I get regular emails and SMS messages from people wanting to get their hands on cheap blackwood.

When I try to engage these people in my quest, which is to get the market to take responsibility and support, encourage and reward Tasmanian farmers to grow quality wood for the future, I get excuses of why they cannot help!

Here is one of my standard questions I ask these people:

Q: Do you care about the future of YOUR industry/business?

A: Moan, complain, apologise, blame others, too busy, etc., etc., etc…

Is the forestry/timber market so short-sighted, corrupt and stupid that it is willing to destroy its own future?

It would appear so!!

Log traders, furniture makers, craftspeople, luthiers, cabinet makers, architects, builders, retailers, festival organisers,etc.

Every one of these professions/trades seems to have no interest in their own future.

I don’t know of any other primary industry in Australia that has such a fatalistic attitude. Every other primary industry, beef, sheep, poultry, dairy, vegetables, fruit, grain, etc. all keep their growers uptodate, supported and informed with all the relevant information they need to keep these industries running smoothly and efficiently.

Not the forestry/timber market!

Yes forestry has long investment periods and some other unique characteristics, but this means that the market has to work that much harder to ensure its future.

Having plundered the worlds forests the forestry/timber market seems determined to do a “Thelma and Louise” and accelerate over the cliff to extinction.

And for those log merchants wanting cheap blackwood, all the existing resource in Tasmania is committed. Most of it comes for public native forest for the domestic welfare forestry sector. A small amount is salvaged from private property.

Here’s another way of looking at the issue. How many companies are there in Australia and around the world that use Tasmanian blackwood timber or would like too? Dozens? Hundreds? How many of these companies actively support and encourage the growing of Tasmanian blackwood? My guess! None!! Ziltch!!

I’m happy to be proven wrong.

Very few Tasmanians are planting blackwood for the future and the major reason is the careless attitude of the marketplace. The marketplace has a death wish!!

People I speak to who are interested in planting blackwood I tell them the truth – no one wants you to grow quality blackwood timber for the future. Nobody! No one will support or encourage you. In fact many people are actively working against you!

Why commit to a 30+ year investment growing quality timber when the marketplace couldn’t care less?

Planting Timber Forests on Australian Farms – a Reaction

NextGeneration

This recently published article in the University of Melbourne journal Pursuit caught my eye:

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/planting-timber-forests-on-australian-farms

The article provides a very brief overview of the Next Generation Forest Plantation Investment Project:

https://blogs.unimelb.edu.au/nextgenplantations

The Project itself covered a great deal of ground and hence there is a great deal of reading material in the 10 separate reports and supporting documents.

Trying to distil all this material down into a digestible take home message is a challenge in itself. And it depends upon the intended audience. I’m not sure the article succeeded, with too much focus on “new business models”.

As I’ve been writing for many years, the forest industry in Australia is in serious trouble on just about every level. Many of the problems faced by the industry are of its own making.

Past attempts to reset the industry and plan a way forward have largely focused on what Governments and taxpayers can do for the industry. Not surprisingly vast sums of money have been wasted, for little if any gain. Often the outcome has been disastrous!

One could say that confidence within the Australian forest industry is at an all time low.

Back to The Project and the article….

The positives:

  • A focus on farm forestry and a recognition that this IS the future of the forest industry (many others in the industry strongly disagree with this sentiment);
  • A recognition that the forest industry itself needs to change its attitudes and behaviour towards the broader rural community (this is a very rare admission!);
  • A recognition that the forest industry itself needs to take control of its own future and not expect Governments and taxpayers to do the job;
  • Within Report 10 of the Project is a list of 11 recommended actions which the forest industry itself should do to support more commercial tree investment on rural land. This is very rare indeed!

The negatives:

  • The Project covers too much ground! The forest industry just doesn’t have the resources to deal with half of the recommended Actions, even if it wanted too. And I expect half the industry just isn’t interested.
  • The article focuses on “new businesses models”, as if this is the keystone to all of the forest industries problems and potential. The article fails to convince me. I see other issues being more pressing and significant.
  • Where to next? With an enormous list of recommended actions the Report provides no clues to how any of these actions are to be implemented or by when. Will this Project become yet another forest industry dust collecting exercise?

About the best statement in the article is this:

The industry recognises that creating opportunities from more commercial trees on rural land will require them to change the way they interact with rural landowners.

That is a unique and extraordinary statement.

Meanwhile there is no evidence that the industry does in fact recognise the need for change.

So would the average Australian farmer be convinced by this article (assuming they even hear about this project)? I doubt it.

They would see the focus on “new business models” and assume it was Managed Investment Schemes (MIS) Mark 2, designed to take their money and land and rip them off yet again.

As far as the farming audience goes, the article has the wrong message.

So dear reader, tell me what you think of the article?

Are you brave enough to wade into all the Project Reports?

Happy  reading!

PS. Farm forestry has been promoted in Australia since the 1960s with very little progress over the last 50+ years. Has anyone in the forest industry ever asked the question – what are we doing wrong?

Tasmania’s forest conflict has been quiet for years, but that could all be set to change in 2020

Wedgeforest

This article was in the news media recently:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-09/tasmania-to-refocus-on-forestry-in-2020/11844326

It says so much about how dysfunctional Tasmania has become.

I especially like the quote from Kate Crowley from the University of Tasmania:

“The sad thing is that it seems so old-fashioned and that we’ve moved past it, but maybe Tasmania’s never going to move past adversarial politics and maybe the forest peace process was always doomed because of that.”

I completely agree with this sentiment!

Tasmania is now utterly addicted to Wedge Politics. Our political system depends upon Wedge Politics for its survival!!

There is no other option in Tasmania but community division and conflict!!

But now in addition to public native forestry, we now have fish farms and tourism added as weapons to the arsenal of Wedge Politics in Tasmania. The tourism and fish farm industries have readily taken on the confrontational rhetoric of wedge politics; more than happy to divide and destroy the Tasmanian community.

Yes Ms Crowley! There will be no peace in Tasmania. Our politicians and business leaders are working to ensure that!!