Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tourism Council sees the light


The Tourism Industry Council Tasmania (TICT) is to be congratulated!

They understand the lessons of the last 30 years and the damage that a highly politicised forest industry has done to the economy of Tasmania.

They don’t want that to continue, especially if it directly threatens an important tourism brand/image.

In their submission to the Draft Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) Management Plan the TICT makes explicitly clear their concerns about the economic, social and political risks of opening up large areas of the World Heritage Area to special timbers logging.

Page 14 of the TICT submission gives a nod of appreciation to the historic importance of the special timbers sector “as an important part of the Tasmanian retail tourism sector, and the contribution it makes to the Tasmanian visitor experience.”

The TICT also “supports a vibrant, sustainable and responsible specialty timber sector in Tasmania.”

But the TICT soundly rejects any notion that “vibrant, sustainable and responsible” equates to logging the World Heritage Area, threatening the image and integrity of the Tasmanian Wilderness brand, or casting Tasmania into another bitter decade of political and community conflict.

The “TICT does not support further extraction of timber from the TWWHA beyond the practices already permitted under the current Management Plan,” ie. Huon pine salvage on Macquarie Harbour.

The public-native-forest-dependent special timbers industry has never been sustainable. It has never had a business plan. Since 2010 it has been explicitly managed by Forestry Tasmania as a non-profit, non-commercial activity with significant costs being deliberately made against the Tasmanian taxpayer. Teachers, nurses and other front-line public services are being cut back whilst the special timbers industry enjoys preferential treatment.

Post-TCA the future of the public-native-forest-dependent special timbers industry is largely unknown except:

  • It will continue to be taxpayer subsidised;
  • It will continue to be highly politicised;
  • It will involve logging the TWWHA;
  • It will not gain FSC Certification;
  • A new special timbers strategy (not a business plan) will not be available until 2017;

With all of these current uncertainties and the lessons of the last 30 years the TICT is perfectly correct in wanting to avoid another damaging conflict around public native forest management; especially when it directly threatens our tourism image.

And as someone trying to establish a commercially focused, profitable, farm-based special timbers business the proposed logging of the World Heritage Area represents a direct threat to my business.

It is well past time for the forest industry to be run on a proper commercial basis in Tasmania.

The next step

The next step in the development of the [TWWHA Management] Plan is the consideration of the representations. To provide for transparency and accountability in finalising management plans the Act establishes a process for review of public representations involving the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC).  The Director of National Parks and Wildlife (the Director) will review all representations received and prepare a report which includes a summary of all representations, the Director’s opinion on the merit of each representation and whether modification of the management plan is required.

The Director will forward copies of all representations received, together with the Director’s report, to the TPC who will advertise the representations and the Director’s report for public viewing.  The TPC may hold hearings on the representations.  The TPC will review the representations and the Director’s report and the results of any public hearings held and will prepare a report to the Minister. The TPC’s report to the Minister will be published.

Deloraine Stringfest is for farmers

Stringfest has a heavy music/artist focus but don’t let that stop you! Come and sell your existing trees and learn how to grow tonewoods so that Stringfest has a sustainable future.

Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative

Stringfest Logo

The 2015 Deloraine Stringfest will be on the 20-22 March.

The new Deloraine Stringfest website is now online.

This website will be updated as the program for the 2015 festival develops over the coming months. Check it out!

Stringfest is for sawmillers, foresters, luthiers, wood merchants, retailers, artists and people who just appreciate beauty, craft and music; and that’s a mighty big audience!

But I believe it will be Tasmanian farmers who eventually become the real heroes of the Deloraine Stringfest.

The men and women who make the 30+ year commitment and investment, who have the interest and passion, to plant and grow the trees that eventually become the tonewoods and the instruments.

Without these people Stringfest (and the tonewood/luthier industry) has an uncertain future.

Sell your existing trees

At this year’s Stringfest there were tonewood merchants displaying and selling their timber. But they were also buying! They were…

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Deloraine Stringfest 2015

Just a reminder that the second Deloraine Stringfest is only 7 weeks away. Here’s your opportunity to come and see a genuine successful private commercial blackwood plantation growing tomorrows tonewoods. No logging of Tasmanian World Heritage Areas here! Call me (m. 0428 754 233) to reserve your seat on the bus.

Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative

Planning is underway to include a visit to a successful private blackwood plantation as part of the Deloraine Stringfest in March 2015.

This is a magnificent blackwood plantation with plenty of unique features and lessons to learn. There are plenty of opportunities to repeat this same success on farms across northern Tasmania.

Come and find out whether growing commercial blackwood is for you.

Transport will be by bus so places will be limited.

This is your chance to see and learn the art of growing commercial blackwood.

The visit will be on the Sunday the 22nd of March (Stringfest runs from 20-22 March 2015). The bus will depart Deloraine at 9.00am and be back in Deloraine by about 12.30pm. Hopefully we will have about 1-1.5 hours onsite to learn and discuss issues around successfully growing Tasmanian blackwood in plantations.

Come and see the tonewood of the future.

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Forest Industry Dictatorship

This blog was originally called “Groundhog Day”. But on reflection I think things have gone well beyond a Hollywood fantasy comedy. The events of the past week when added to the events of the past 12 months clearly demonstrate that Tasmania is now a forest industry dictatorship. Logic, reason, common sense and all other interests (including health and education) have now become subservient to the interests of the politically-driven forest industry in Tasmania. It is beyond contempt!


As a consequence of the 1993 American fantasy comedy movie of the same name, the phrase “Groundhog Day” has entered common use as a reference to an unpleasant situation that continually repeats.

Working in the forest industry in Tasmania is definitely a Groundhog Day existence.

The past week was another terrible example with the annual fiasco that is the Government Businesses Scrutiny Committees hearings.

This should be an example of the epitome of good corporate governance. Instead every year it becomes a political circus. This year was no exception.

Once again the Tasmanian community (including private forest owners) finds itself continuing to subsidise Forestry Tasmania for yet another year despite emphatic promises to the contrary by the new State Government. At the same time Tasmanian teachers, nurses and other public servants are losing their jobs!

And judging by the comments from readers in the newspapers many Tasmanians are thoroughly sick and tired of the stupidity and continuing waste.

This continues to be extraordinary!

And private forest owners (who are being total screwed in all of this disaster) remain completely mute on the issue. I just don’t get it!

And to add insult Forestry Tasmania Chairman Bob Annells was quoted as saying this:

Forestry Tasmania is asking Tasmanians to have faith the company will eventually return to profitability.  Chairman of the state-owned forester Bob Annells said the loss-making company had fundamentally changed how it did business.

Every time Tasmania has had yet another another forestry agreement or peace deal over the last 30 years we have been told to have faith. Every time we have had a State election over the past 30 years we have been told to have faith. And every time our faith has been betrayed.

Mr Annells seems not to appreciate that the community’s store of faith has run dry.

Sacking teachers and nurses whilst subsidising woodchips is well and truly beyond contempt let alone faith.

fundamentally changed how it did business”?

I have seen not one dot of evidence to support this claim. Not a smudge of evidence.

No! It is definitely Groundhog Day again (and again and again and again…..).

For the past 30 years the forest industry in Tasmania has been caught in a perpetual Groundhog Day and it has to stop. It must stop! Someone within the industry with integrity and leadership must step forward and call a halt to this madness or it will continue indefinitely.

Does the industry have anyone of that calibre?

Happy Groundhog Day!


Here is the latest program for Stringfest. A great weekend with lots of activities and entertainment. I’ll be there at the Deloraine Community Arts Centre with the other displays by luthiers and tonewood merchants.

See you there!

StringFest Program

Friday March 21

2PM – 5PM: Deloraine Community Arts Centre – Displays by luthiers, tonewood suppliers Once only entry charge $5 per person children under 13 free
2PM: Buskers in the Street in Deloraine
10AM – 4PM: Deloraine Creative Studios: Mahalo Painted Ukulele Art competition and display
5pm: Little Theatre – Workshop with Mustered Courage $5
7pm: RSL club – Welcome to StringFest Dinner with Music
7pm: Senior Citizens Club – Dinner with Guest Artist Hank Koopman
7pm: Little Theatre – Vikingo De Jerez, Daniel Brauchli, Marie Casanova, Thom Jackson,Lyn Thomas, Rob van der Elst, Justin Johnson $15

Saturday March 22
8AM : Farmers Market – Agricorp, 2 Racecourse Dr.
9AM : St Marks Parish Fair – St Marks Church grounds
10AM – 4PM: Deloraine Creative Studios: Mahalo Painted Ukulele Art competition and display
10AM – 5PM: Deloraine Community Arts Centre -Displays by luthiers, tonewood suppliers, etc. Once only entry charge $5 per person children under 13

10AM -5PM: Buskers in the Street in Deloraine
`10am: Riverside stage – Breakfast with Ed Tuleja and special guests, Childen’s activities
10.30am: Little Theatre – Workshop – Daniel Brauchli Free
Noon: Riverside Rotunda – Open Mic session Free
Noon: Gallery 9 – Recital/Masterclass – Gareth Koch with Tasmanian Guitar Trio $10
Noon: Little Theatre – Concert – Phillipe Fourstring $10 1pm: Little Theatre – Concert – Matt Bayes $10
2pm: Little Theatre – Concert – Justin Johnston $10
2pm: Gallery 9 – Flamenco concert – Vikingo De Jerez $10
2pm: Baptist Hall – Circle Dance
3pm: Little Theatre – Cigar Box Guitar workshop with Justin Johnson $10
3pm: Senior Citizens Club – Celtic Jam Session
4pm: Little Theatre – Concert – Matthew Fagan $10
4pm Gallery 9 – Ukulele workshop – Tom Jackson $5
5pm: Little Theatre – Special guest appearance Ronnie Burns “Unplugged”. Marie Casanova. Ed Tuleja, Lyn Thomas and more $10
5pm: Gallery 9 – Rose of Bertrand, Music for Two Viols Free
5.30 pm Senior Citizens Club – Concert – As the Crow Flies- Hobart Old Time String Band $10
7.30pm: The Community Complex, Alveston Drive – Concert hosted by the Meander Valley Council featuring Melbourne band Mustered Courage $15
9pm: Little Theatre – Concert – Matthew Fagan, Matt Bayes, Tasmanian Guitar Trio with Gareth Koch, Philippe Fourstring, Justin Johnson $15

Sunday March 23
10AM – 4PM Deloraine Creative Studios: Mahalo Painted Ukulele Art competition and display
10AM – 3PM: Deloraine Community Arts Centre – Displays by luthiers, tonewood suppliers, etc. Once only entry charge $5 per person children under 13 free
10AM – 3PM: Buskers In the Street in Deloraine
9am: Riverside stage – Musical Breakfast, Food vans, Children’s activities, Free
10am Deloraine Creative Studios – Seminar – The future of Tasmanian fine timbers and tonewoods.
11am: Little Theatre – Wayne Appleby – Workshop – History of the Steel Guitar $5
11am: Rotunda – Children’s Ukulele Workshop with Thom Jackson Free
Noon: Riverside Park – gathering of ukulele players (ukuleles will be available for sale) Free
1pm: Little Theatre – Concert – Jean Stafford $15
2pm: Senior Citizens Club – Celtic Jam Session
3pm: Little Theatre – Farewell Concert., As the Crow Flies, Vikingo De Jerez, Lyn Thomas, Philippe Fourstring, Justin Johnson $15

*Subject to Change

The raffle for Maton Concert Ukulele signed by Tommy Emmanuel, with road case, valued at $1000 will be drawn at the Ukulele concert – 12 Noon Sunday – Rotunda.
Tickets at the Little Theatre foyer – $5 or 5 for $20

Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative

21, 22, 23 March 2014

This will be a great event!

I’ll be there to talk about how we can turn blackwood into an internationally recognised and appreciated tonewood with a Blackwood Growers Cooperative.

Put this weekend in your diary now.

See you there!

Luthiers, musicians, collectors and lovers of fine instruments and great music will gather at the inaugural Deloraine StringFest Tasmania in March 2014.

Deloraine is the home of the annual Rotary Tasmanian Craft Fair in November and is recognised as a centre for the arts with many fine crafts-people and artisans living in and around the Meander Valley.

Deloraine StringFest Tasmania (StringFest) is a celebration of stringed instruments, especially those made in Tasmania or made with Tasmanian woods such as blackwood, huon pine, sassafras and macrocarpa.  Tasmania has many fine artisans who create guitars, ukuleles, violins, harps, banjos, lutes and other fine instruments. Tasmanian woods are used…

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Congratulations Pav

Congratulations to Pavel Ruzicka who has been recently appointed the new member of the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement Special Council representing the interests of the Tasmanian special species timber industry, as announced by the Minister for Energy and Resources Bryan Green in the State Government Gazette 6th June 2013.

Pav has a massive task ahead to try and put the special timbers industry onto a fully commercial, profitable and sustainable basis for all special timbers growers. Top of my wish list is the removal of all existing market distortions (subsidies, pricing and sales) so that a) Forestry Tasmania adopts a fully commercial approach to special timbers management, and b) fair, honest and transparent markets become available to private special timbers growers. I offer my services to assist Pav in any way I can.

New website host


As of the 17th April 2013 the blackwood coop website is on a new web host. I’ll be working on it over the coming weeks to improve it’s appearance and content. Feedback welcome.



Phew!!!! It’s about time

The media are reporting that the IGA parties have finally reached an agreement.
After years of argy bargy, on again – off again grandstanding it looks like some real results at last.
Curiously on the same day that a ceasefire is announced in the middle east. Maybe the middle east conflict gave the IGA parties some genuine perspective.
But I'm not celebrating just yet.
The enabling legislation has to go through parliament today. That is no foregone conclusion.
But I will head to the bottleshop and get a bottle of bubbly just in case.
After thinking that my proposal to establish a blackwood growers cooperative was rapidly fading, things are suddenly looking positive again.
But I still need greater profile and support to help get funding under the IGA if today goes well. If anyone wants to write a letter of support to their local newspaper that would be greatly appreciated.
The next few weeks and months will be hectic.

Forest Talks Fail, but……..

This is very disappointing.

But not unexpected.

The IGA parties reaching an agreement was always the less likely outcome.

But at least they tried and for that I congratulate them.

The last two years have shown that this has not been a “road to Damascus” revelation for the forest industry, just the same old nags running the same old race while the crowd bays for blood.

Only this time the context has been completely different. The forest industry in Tasmania has all but disappeared over the past 2 years. And the failure to reach agreement will mean that the forestry wars will continue and the remaining Crown native forest customers and FT will wither and die over the next 5-10 years. But at least they will disappear with the deep satisfaction of having someone else to blame.

It will continue to be difficult to attract new investment while the industry remains highly politicised and the forestry wars continue. Will a change of State or Federal government solve the problem? I doubt it very much. I suspect it will instead exacerbate and prolong the problem.

The inability of the forest industry to understand its own predicament and resolve its own problems has been simply astonishing. In the 21st century the forest industry in Australia should be enjoying unprecedented support and commercial success. Instead it is characterised by social damnation and bankruptcy.

The failure of the IGA is not unexpected. That the private forest growers did not take the initiative during the IGA and set a new agenda for the forest industry will go down as one of the great lost opportunities. The private forest growers could have had a profound and positive influence on the IGA negotiations. They did not need to have a seat at the table in order to achieve this.

Instead private forest growers in Tasmania remain convinced that their interests are 100% aligned with FT and the remaining Crown customers. This position exposes them to greater political risk and commercial uncertainty than FT and its customers. In finance-speak private forest growers remain exposed to all the downside of the industry and none of the upside. Just extraordinary! They need to change their position.

Regardless of the outcome of the IGA private forest growers will eventually become the dominant force in the forest industry in Tasmania. This will be a good thing. But it is going to take a long time to get there. Neither the State nor Federal Governments have the interest or ability to drive this change. So the initiative must come from the farmers and commercial tree growers themselves. As yet the TFGA shows no signs of supporting such a move.

And what of the blackwood industry?

The failure of the IGA means $100m of Federal money will not come to Tasmania, that could have helped fund the Blackwood Growers Coop. It also means that the existing blackwood industry (the sawmills, furniture makers and retailers, craftspersons, luthiers, etc.) will disappear along with the rest of the native forest industry in Tasmania. In a few years time we will be importing most of our blackwood timber from New Zealand (farm-grown plantation blackwood). That is assuming we can compete with the Chinese. More likely the Chinese will buy all the blackwood timber that NZ can produce at prices that we just can’t match.

Tasmanian farmers will miss out on diversifying their income, utilising land that currently is unproductive. The Tasmanian community will lose its blackwood expertise and heritage.


But I’m not giving up hope just yet…..

I’ve been informed that if I can demonstrate the Coop can get FSC certification and start attracting a few customers, then it may attract private investment.

1.    I’ve recently made further enquiries about FSC certification and been told there is a good chance that the Coop could achieve FSC certification for harvesting existing farm blackwood, and establishing blackwood plantations. I am looking further into this and will keep you informed.

2.    A major US guitar maker will be arriving in Tasmania in the next few weeks looking to establish a long term relationship with blackwood suppliers. This company has shown a major commitment to developing sustainable tonewood supplies in other countries. If they show a similar commitment here, and we can demonstrate that we are moving towards an FSC certified Blackwood Growers Cooperative, then this may provide the Coop with the necessary momentum to get us going.

3.    So if we can show progress on the above issues then I’ve been informed that private investment may be interested in helping getting the Coop going. The failure of the IGA may in fact help create a different positive dynamic for the Coop as the forestry wars resume.

The next few months will prove decisive for the Coop for better or worse. But even with the failure of the IGA there remains enough potential and hope that the Blackwood Growers Cooperative may yet rise from the ashes. Watch this space!

From Liability to Opportunity


A Taylor Mini GS Blackwood guitar.

Tasmania is sitting on a fantastic business opportunity that few people know about, but this opportunity remains unrealised because it involves the forest industry, and while the forest industry remains highly politicised the opportunity is stillborn.

I have written previously about the potential of the tonewood market to change the future of the blackwood industry. Gibson, Fender, Martin and Taylor are the four major guitar makers in the USA. To date two of these makers have used Tasmanian blackwood in their guitars for limited production models. These are major instrument-making companies with big international profiles.

Traditional tonewood supplies are becoming increasing scarce and major guitar makers are scrambling to find certified, sustainable supplies of quality tonewoods. Tasmania is sitting on a small goldmine and doesn’t know it.

Robert MacMillan of Tasmanian Tonewoods tells me that two of these US makers are sending teams to Tasmania in the next few months to try and negotiate supply contracts particularly for blackwood timber. But the last thing these companies want is to become entangled in forest politics. Like all good companies they know that any bad publicity can quickly destroy company reputation and profits. In addition to avoiding political intrigue these companies would also prefer to source their timber from certified suppliers. Robert also informed me that for the past 5 years he has refused business with a third major US maker because he cannot guarantee the supply of blackwood.

This is just plain stupidity and reflects the poor state of public forest policy and management in Tasmania.

While we are talking relatively small volume, high value markets, the potential demand is more than enough to make a significant difference to the growing and selling of blackwood in Tasmania.

Is Tasmania up to the challenge?

These companies are well aware of the sovereign risk associated with the current major source of blackwood timber from public native forests. Even if the IGA is successfully negotiated and legislation passed through State parliament, the risk may be reduced but it will always be present. That is the nature of politics and the management of public assets. The future supply of blackwood timber from public native forests is also bound to the commercial viability of the greater native forest industry, for which there is still considerable uncertainty.

Robert is keen to access more blackwood and other tonewoods from private land to help supply these major US customers.

There is a very large existing native blackwood resource on private land in Tasmania, which currently has little or no commercial value. Much of it is of poor form, and much is still too small to be harvested. But some of this resource has the potential to supply the international tonewood market. Logs as short as 1.2 metres in length can be sawn for tonewood. Realising the commercial value of this private resource will require resolving a number of issues. A major issue will be how to wrap this existing private blackwood resource into a forest certification scheme. A Blackwood Growers Cooperative would provide a possible solution to this problem, with ongoing management and plantation establishment to provide a sustainable resource.

As New Zealand farmers have discovered blackwood is an ideal farm forestry species. It is the only Tasmanian native tree that is currently known to be profitably grown in plantations to produce high quality timber. And as I am discovering in my travels around the State, many farms have land ideally suited to growing blackwood. In addition the forest industry needs to break away from its dependence on the public native forest resource, and broaden and strengthen its support base. Put these two factors together and you have the basis for a Blackwood Growers Cooperative.

Tasmania could become the proud home of one of the worlds few certified and sustainable high-quality tonewoods, providing income for Tasmanian farmers and a range of associated businesses. The blackwood industry could become a high-value niche industry to join our truffle, wasabi, saffron and wine industries. I’m getting plenty of interest from the Tasmanian rural community; international buyers are coming; now can our politicians look to the future of the forest industry?