Category Archives: Private Forests Tasmania

Tasmanian forest industry – at long last something positive!

PFT_forum

It is a rare treat to be able to write something positive about the forest industry in Tasmania.

It may be only a tiny step along the road to commercial and social redemption but I’ll cheer nevertheless!

On the 3rd of July 2019 Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) organised an industry forum to help generate some positive media and momentum, not to mention communication.

A summary of the forum is now posted on the PFT website:

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au/home/home_articles/summary_of_private_forestry_forum2

The summary of the forum is hardly enough to get anyone out of their seats with excitement, but the general tenor of the discussion gives me a small dose of hope for the future.

It seems most/all of the discussion was about commodity wood, with little discussion about high value wood like blackwood or macrocarpa.

If the forest industry wants to have a future it needs to spend at least half of its time and resources working out how to encourage farmers to plant trees. That job IS NOT the responsibility of governments!

History has shown that cutting down forests is easy.

History has also shown that the forest industry has never understood how to get farmers to plant and grow trees (excluding tax-avoiding and investor-robbing scams). In fact history is littered with examples of the opposite trend.

This forum may just become the first small step in the right direction.

It is a shame that the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) wasn’t present. The TFGA would be a useful ally for the forest industry.

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

It is also a shame that Ministers and politicians can’t keep themselves away from these events.

Most Tasmanians know that as soon as politicians get involved in anything then things very quickly turn bad. The history of the forest industry in Tasmania is one of too much politics.

There have been industry forums like this before but they have been nothing more than soapboxes for politicians. Completely useless and boring to attend.

So full (Ok 8/10) credit to the forum organisers!

Can the formula be developed and extended?

Forums in the north east and the south east of the State?

Perhaps even a forest industry developed Plan that focuses on creating full and positive engagement with the Tasmanian farming community!!

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Landowner opinion on trees

PFT2

This message arrived in my email recently:

Private Forests Tasmania, Institute of Foresters of Australia, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Forest Practices Authority seek your opinion on growing trees on your property, the benefits and barriers that you face.

Could you please assist us by participating in this 5 minute survey.  If you would like to know more, please consider attending a field day.  Please complete by 7th March 2019.

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MCVC72B

I’m heartened by the presence of the TFGA in the above list, but disheartened by the absence of FIAT/TFFPN.

I’ve copied the survey questions here:

Question Title

  1. Do you currently, or have you in the past, had a tree plantation or native forest growing on your property? Y/N
  2. Do you know that trees can benefit your overall farm production? Y/N/Some
  • Livestock – welfare, weight gain, survival rates, milk yields, shelter.
  • Crops and pasture – pasture production, drought protection, water evaporation, wind.
  • Biodiversity – soil erosion, wildlife habitat, climate change.
  • Financial – trees are money in the bank.
  1. If any, what do you consider are the barriers to planting and growing trees on your property?

(You may select more than one answer).

  • No barriers
  • Time poor
  • Establishment costs
  • Not enough benefits
  • Lack of incentives
  • Management costs
  • Harvesting costs
  • Lack of information
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Risk
  • Time it takes trees to grow
  • Market uncertainty and low returns
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Do you plan on adding trees to your property in the future? Y/N/Maybe
  2. Would you consider planting trees if you had any of the following?

(You may select more than one option).

  • Financial assistance
  • A Joint Venture with a forest company
  • A better understanding of how trees can contribute to your overall farm profitability
  • A better understanding of how trees can benefit your livestock, crops and pasture
  • You could receive carbon credits
  • You had access to good tree planting advice and assistance
  • Other (please specify)
  1. What are your overall thoughts on tree growing?
  2. Would you consider attending field days to learn more about planting trees on your property and the benefits to you? Y/N/Maybe
  3. What would you specifically like to learn about at field days?
  • (You may select more than one option).
  • Livestock benefits
  • Crop & pasture benefits
  • Shelter and windbreaks
  • Financial benefits
  • Carbon credits
  • Plantation establishment
  • Management
  • Design
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Please provide any additional comments or feedback.
  2. Would you like to join our mailing list to receive up to date information on private forest matters in Tasmania? Y/N
  3. Your details
  • Name
  • Company
  • Address
  • Address 2
  • City/Town
  • State
  • Postal Code
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number

 

As a forester I read this survey and think – NOTHING HAS CHANGED! The forest industry thinks exactly the same way today as it did 50 years ago!!

How is that humanly possible?

Given what has happened in Tasmania over the last 50 years how can people NOT change?

This is just extraordinary.

The forest industry has spent the last 50 years lurching from crisis to failure to crisis. The forest industry today is a mere shadow of yesteryear, but still the attitude and thinking remains unchanged.

I could just as easily write a survey for members of the forest industry to respond too, because for me the weight of inertia and lack of vision lies not with Tasmanian farmers, but with members of the forest industry (most broadly defined).

Firstly let me state plainly:

Tasmania will never have a proper forest industry while we continue to log public native forest! The past 50 years proves that beyond any doubt whatsoever!

Secondly:

Growing trees for wood production is business. Not politics! Not community service! Not ideology! Not subsidy!

Many/most people in the Tasmanian forest industry choke on either or both of these statements.

And therein lies the problem.

Progress with Tasmanian farmers in building a new forest industry is not possible whilst the old mindset remains.

And I see no indication of such change.

Private Forests Tasmania, and its predecessor the Private Forestry Division within the old Forestry Commission, has been around for almost 50 years!!

PFT should have been doing these surveys every 2-5 years since it formed. I know there have been farmer surveys in the past but obviously nothing came of the results.

Here are two examples of how the New Zealand forest industry engages with farmers:

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

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

I don’t know ANY company in Australia that behaves like this.

And does this survey mean that no one in the forest industry including retailers, manufacturers as well as sawmillers, has any ideas on how to engage with farmers? No ideas at all on how to motivate, recognise, reward and encourage Tasmanian farmers to grow quality timber?

If that is the case then it is little wonder that the forest industry is in such dire straits. There is no mental capacity there whatsoever!

If the forest industry wants to genuinely engage with Tasmanian farmers it doesn’t need an opinion survey. Let’s see some real honest genuine engagement!!!

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Farmers and forestry

Plantation

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.

http://pft.tas.gov.au/

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:

https://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/energy_and_resources/forestry/special_species_timber_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.

Wishlist:-

  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:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/12/05/wish-list-revisited/

When will Tasmania get a real forest industry?

Private Forests Tasmania Annual Report 2016-17

plantationharvest

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.

http://www.pft.tas.gov.au/home/home_articles/annual_report_2016-17

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.