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My copy of this important historical document shall be returned to the bookshelf to collect dust for a few more decades.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

ACCC suing Government Business Enterprise (GBE) over alleged anti-competitive conduct

ACCC

At long last the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking action against anti-competitive State Government businesses.

Hooray for that!!

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-09/accc-suing-tasports-over-alleged-misuse-of-market-power/11781852

And it is in Tasmania!!

Now who would EVER imagine anti-competitive GBE behaviour in Tasmania?

https://www.accc.gov.au/

I’ve written about this issue previously as it relates to the forest industry in Tasmania, particularly public native forestry:

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

and

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

ACCC Chairman Mr Rod Sims said the case against Tasports was the first of its kind under the amended misuse of market power provision, an “important law reform designed to protect the competitive process and help us address the harm that anti-competitive conduct does to consumers and the Australian economy“.

Does handing out $100 millions of taxpayer dollars over decades to a failed State-owned forest enterprise, which is in direct competition with private forest growers, amount to anti-competitive behaviour?

It sure does!

Does selling 99% of your forest produce “off-market” in long-term secret sales contracts, with absolutely no competition or price transparency, amount to anti-competitive behaviour?

It sure does?

Now is the ACCC prepared to take on any more anti-competitive Government Buisness Enterprises?

I sure hope so!

Wouldn’t it be a laugh for Sustainable Timbers Tasmania to gain FSC Certification, only to then be prosecuted by the ACCC for anti-competitive behaviour?

Only in Tasmania!

Tasmania will never have a proper commercial forest industry until anti-competitive welfare forestry is stopped.

 

“They should have been planting extra trees 15 years ago,” one frustrated sawmill owner said

sawmill3

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-09/why-the-victorian-government-is-taking-an-axe-to-timber-industry/11687952?fbclid=IwAR0J9KGJbcZCmbexgIqHsrj47aV44vpqJXPjWRmgW2KYhbnZve_hWgExAFI

This quote from a native forest sawmiller pretty much sums up for me why the forest industry in Australia is in such a crisis!

Sure, it’s historical.

It comes from having a forest industry that up until 20 years ago was almost 100% Government run.

Why would anyone other than Government, take responsibility for growing the industry?

That is what the sawmiller meant when he said “they”. Politicians plant trees! Sawmillers cut them down! A complete absence of personal responsibility!!

And that attitude is still the dominant attitude within the forest industry in Australia, even when most timber now grown and harvested in Australia is privately owned.

Here we are in the 21st century and no one in the forest industry in Australia takes any responsibility for ensuring the industry’s future.

And when I say forest industry here I mean anyone whose business relies on wood, from retailers, craftspeople and manufacturers all the way back to loggers and sawmillers.

It is the job of the marketplace to ensure the forest industry has a future, not politicians or taxpayers.

This means an end to Welfare Forestry and a focus on profitable tree growing.

It also means a complete change of attitude and thinking within the industry.

And it means building strong enduring relationships with rural communities.

So when do we begin?

The End of Welfare Forestry

Native forest

Last week the Victorian State Government announced that public native forestry would cease in 2030.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/07/native-forest-logging-to-be-phased-out-by-2030-as-victoria-plans-timber-transition

https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/immediate-end-to-old-growth-logging-as-thousands-of-jobs-set-to-go-20191107-p5388w.html

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-07/regional-forestry-reax-to-end-of-native-logging-victoria-by-2030/11680544

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/feds-fellers-furious-over-andrews-plan-to-halt-native-forest-logging-20191107-p538e8.html?fbclid=IwAR2AKHO9rL9su9gXOQQoDmx2dklqEKri37rV13oYROEGV90Qq8KKQotGkA4

Victoria, being a relatively progressive State, has been wrestling with the “forestry” issue for decades, with numerous Plans, Strategies, Reports, industry and community consultations, promises and backflips. This was just the latest manifestation:

https://www2.delwp.vic.gov.au/futureforests

The public native forest industry has been in decline for decades, but the industry wants to ensure that the end, when it comes, is as slow, painful and costly as possible.

Forest industry apologists bleat about how vital public native forestry is to the future of humanity!! Apparently the world will end if we stop chopping down public native forest.

Industry apologists also love talking about “balance”; that there is a balance between conservation and exploitation of our native forests. The industry has in the past attempted to impose a “balance” on our forests but without success.

Why?

Because public native forestry is 100% politics. To say there is a “balance” in public native forestry is to say there is a “balance” in politics! There is no such thing!

Does anyone believe 2030 will be the year welfare forestry ends?

Not likely. There are plenty of elections between now and then with plenty of changes of Government.

But this is definitely another nail in the coffin of the industry.

The only reason Victoria logs public native forest is to subsidise a few jobs. It is a very expensive wasteful employment program. That is all!

Private tree growers do NOT grow trees to subsidise jobs.

Public native (Welfare) forestry prevents a real forest industry from becoming established in Australia.

As a forester I look forward to the day Australia finally has a real forest industry.

Could forest policy in Tasmania get any worse?

pines

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-04/tasmanian-forest-logging-moratorium-end-looms/11379976?sf216949275=1&fbclid=IwAR1ZNEK86E5bz4Y7Aer6JaddK3-Dl9Okh06DtRnitt50LzmO7SaZ0G10lkU

This recent news article tells us that the next battle in the 30+ year Tasmanian forestry wars is due in April 2020. Players and stakeholders are already arming themselves and lining up on both sides of the frontline.

Given the belligerent nature of the Tasmanian State Liberal Government this will be another bitter fight with plenty of casualties.

In 2014 the newly elected Liberal State Government together with the special timbers industry deliberately reignited the forestry wars. Now it seems the Crown sawmillers are rejoining the wars, citing resource losses due to recent bushfires.

You see the so-called sustainable yield for Tasmania’s public native forest is based on the maximum possible production from the current State forest. There is no allowance in the sustainable yield for losses due to fire, storm or plague. Any such losses that are incurred must be made up for by logging outside State forest such as Conservation Reserves.

That is a perverse definition of sustainable.

A plea for peace? How can there be peace when there is no dialogue? How can there be peace when the last attempt at peace was deliberately scuttled by Tasmania’s political system?

Nevermind the fact that the forest industry wants the taxpayer to continue funding this ongoing plunder of Tasmania’s public native forests. How many teachers and nurses will we do without this year?

Tasmania’s public native forests long ago ceased contributing any economic value to the State economy. For the last 20+ years they have been a burden on taxpayers as is made perfectly clear in this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

Tasmania’s public native forests are now just a political weapon to be used to embitter and divide the Tasmanian community. This article shows that perfectly!

And after 30 years Tasmanian’s just love playing the same old game!

The forestry wars will continue whilst Tasmania continues to waste scarce taxpayer’s money logging public native forest. That is the bottom line no one is prepared to acknowledge.

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!!