Category Archives: Private Forests Tasmania

Farmers and forestry


Yet another recently discovered private blackwood plantation.

It’s a common mantra in the forest industry in Australia that Australian farmers are reluctant to plant trees as a commercial crop.

For many years I believed this mantra and attributed it to the lack of support from the forest industry, markets and governments. Many government and industry reports have made similar findings.

The fact that the forest industry believes that transparent competitive markets, log prices and a level playing field are irrelevant to its future, doesn’t help.

However I recently had a revelation that undermines this mantra.

Driving around southern Tasmania I am always discovering new blackwood plantations on private farmland, and it suddenly dawned on me – Tasmanian farmers want to grow commercial blackwood, the evidence is everywhere!

I know of dozens of private blackwood plantations in southern Tasmania alone. In northern Tasmania there must be hundreds.

Virtually all of these plantations are small and have failed.

They have failed for a range of reasons:

  • Poor site selection;
  • Poor establishment;
  • Lack of timely management and commitment;
  • Stock and wildlife damage;

But I believe the major reason for the failure of these hundreds of private plantations is the lack of support and engagement (and demonstrably commercial behaviour) by the forest industry and the State government.

The government agency Private Forests Tasmania offers extension services to Tasmanian farmers, but clearly, after 45 years, this isn’t enough.

Private Forests Tasmania by itself cannot provide enough support, encouragement and motivation to turn this demonstrable passion for commercial blackwood into a success story.

And especially right now we have State government policy deliberately undermining any hopes of private commercial blackwood growers with the anti-commercial Special Timbers Management Plan:

Tasmanian farmers clearly demonstrate a passion for growing commercial blackwood, even within the context of decades of toxic, destructive forest politics and policy.

If only we could turn this passion into a success story.


Election Wishlist

Hodgman White

Another day, another list of new election promises in the media.

It’s very tedious!!

With another State election a few weeks away I thought I’d throw some thoughts together for a Forestry Election Wishlist.

The 2014 Tasmanian State election is still vivid in my memory as one of the most toxic and divisive forestry elections in recent history (and we have had 35 years of them!). The last 4 years have been some of the most damaging and divisive in the history of the Tasmanian forest industry.


  1. Tasmania to have a fully commercial profitable forest industry like New Zealand, based on thousands of profitable private tree growers. We need Government policy and action to make this happen;
  2. The evidence is overwhelming! Public native forestry is a disaster commercially, socially and environmentally. It needs to be shut down.
  3. In term of regulations, forest plantations are just like other primary industries. Do we have an Onion Practices Authority, or a Diary Practices Authority? Do we have Apple Practices Plans or Chicken Practices Plans? No we do not! Forest plantations should not be excessively burdened by regulation.
  4. Private Forests Tasmania should be the dominant government forest agency. It needs to be in partnership with the TFGA to develop a vision for the future of the forest industry based on profitable private tree growers.
  5. I could go on but I’d start to feel like a politician on the campaign trail.

None of the political parties are showing any interest in resolving Tasmania’s forestry crisis so this wishlist is just “pie in the sky”.

For further wishes read my previous wishlist here:

When will Tasmania get a real forest industry?

Private Forests Tasmania Annual Report 2016-17


It is good to see that the private forest grower is now the dominant force in the Tasmanian forest industry. Well almost!!

Much of the current success is due to salvage logging of hardwood plantations established under the disastrous MIS schemes of 1996-2008. Many of these plantations are not being harvested but being bulldozed and converted back to pasture. Many more are being harvested and converted back to pasture. Only about 30% of these plantations are expected to be replanted.

Be that as it may it gives private growers a brief opportunity to dominate what has been a Government run industry.

Despite this success Tasmania still does not have forest policy based on profitable private tree growers.

The forest industry is still in political and social crisis.

And Private Forests Tasmania still does not have any measurable, achievable goals and objectives for the industry. No blackwood/high quality timber objectives. No radiate pine objectives. Nothing!

It’s hard to make progress without a plan!


Dear Client/Stakeholder

I am writing to let you know that Private Forests Tasmania’s (PFT) Annual Report has been tabled in Parliament.  The report provides evidence of PFT’s achievements for the 2016-17 financial year.

I encourage you to have a look at our report now available from PFT’s website PFT Annual Report 2016-17.  The key outcomes are highlighted in the Year in Review on pages 1-4, and important information on the private forest estate on pages 7-13.

Highlights are outlined below:


  • Private Forests Tasmania’s (PFT) Annual Report provides evidence of the importance of the private forestry sector to Tasmania’s economy and the achievements of the Authority to support the sector.
  • During the year PFT responded to requests for assistance and advice from 524 private forest owners; continued to build and strengthen relationships with companies and stakeholder groups; researched, pursued and promoted new market opportunities for wood; continued initiatives targeting an expansion of the private forest estate; and provided input and advice to government on matters of relevance to the private forestry sector.
  • At 1,099,000 hectares, the private forest estate comprises approximately 30% of Tasmania’s reported forest area.
  • The native forest component (858,000 hectares) comprises 26% of the State’s native forest area.
  • The plantation component (241,000 hectares) comprises 78% of the State’s plantation area.
  • This year, the total private forest harvest rose well beyond historic levels increasing 32% from 2015-16 to supply 3.89 million tonnes of logs to the market. This increase follows on from the large increase of 48.5% from 2014-15 to 2015-16 and continues the trend of increasing production that commenced from the record low of 2011-12 (1.11 million tonnes). Levels of production in 2016-17 were the highest achieved since 1994-95 (when PFT began collecting data) being 0.71 million tonnes (22%) higher than the previous high in 1999-00 (3.19 million tonnes).
  • The increase in production primarily comprised logs sourced from hardwood plantations. However, there was also a significant increase in the supply of logs from softwood plantations.
  • The opening of the Macquarie Wharf log export facility provided much needed market options for the south of the State and contributed to increases in log exports, together with increases from northern ports. Importantly, the Macquarie Wharf facility added value to some forest areas that had become of marginal economic value after the closure of the Triabunna export facility in 2011.
  • The dominance of the plantation based sector continues with logs supplied from plantations comprising 96% of the total Tasmanian private forest harvest, the highest proportion recorded to date. Plantation logs have comprised >90% of the Tasmanian private forest harvest since 2012-13 having steadily risen from 15% in 1994-95.
  • Harvesting of hardwood plantations increased significantly, reaching a new high in 2016-17 of 2.46 million tonnes – an increase of 37% from 2015-16. This follows an 89% increase in the previous year.
  • Increases over the 2015-16 levels of production included a very significant (409%) increase in sawlog, veneer and ply log together with a 22% increase in pulp log. The large increase in sawlog, veneer and ply log predominantly comprised export logs, with only 1,600 tonnes sawn or peeled domestically.
  • An increase in hardwood plantation harvest was anticipated last year due to the increased processing capacity bought on-line in northern Tasmania resulting from the finalisation of the Gunns assets sale. This increased capacity has underpinned a resumption of appropriate harvesting levels for the maturing plantation estate and facilitated the harvesting of the backlog of plantations that accumulated during the 5 year period prior to the asset sale. Furthermore, options to sell plantation hardwoods from the south of the State through Macquarie Wharf, that were bought online in 2016-17, contributed to overall increased production.
  • The private softwood harvest increased significantly in 2016-17, by 0.29 million tonnes (30%) to 1.27 million tonnes. This production level is in line with what is thought to be the long term sustainable yield of the private softwood estate. The increase is attributed to increased output from existing ports and processing facilities in conjunction with output from the new export facility for southern Tasmania at Macquarie Wharf.
  • The private estate’s contribution to overall State forestry production has increased from 58% in 2013-14 to 73% in 2016-17- reinforcing the importance of the private estate to the Tasmanian forestry sector and its dominance from a log volume supply perspective, and, its strategic importance to the forest products sector.
  • These metrics emphasise why the private forest estate is such an important asset for the forestry sector and for the general economic, social and environmental well-being of Tasmania as a whole – with more to contribute.
  • One of PFT’s major objectives is to facilitate the expansion of the private forest estate through its Agroforestry project, funded by the Government’s Agrivision 2050 Plan. Working with UTas and CSIRO, the project aims to provide compelling evidence to farmers of the $value commercial woodlots and shelterbelts can have on agricultural returns prior to tree harvest, convincing more farmers to plant more trees.  The program will provide a win-win for agriculture and forestry, enhancing farm productivity, profitability and resilience whilst simultaneously expanding the volume of forest product available to processors. Considerable research activities continued during the year.
  • PFT’s forest management certification project remained an important focus with the draft documentation needed to form an ‘independent group certification option’ being completed and shared with interested parties. This will add to the quality certification options already available through the forest management companies.  PFT promotes all options to interested private forest owners.
  • The Authority delivered a comprehensive financial surplus of $413k, an increase of 34% from 2015-16.
  • An important highlight during the reporting period was the highly successful Australian Forest Growers Biennial National Conference held in Launceston between 23- 26 October 2016. PFT, as the principal sponsor, worked closely with the AFG Conference Organising Committee and AFG National Office over 12 months to lead, plan and deliver this premier event.
  • Other highlights for the year included the conduct of several field days and seminars; the maintenance of an active research program; and engaging with/assisting other land management organisations on matters that benefit private forest owners.