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Inside the big tree reserve the creeks are beautiful and lined with lush ferns and rainforest species. Outside the reserve is like the photo above. Trashed.

A recent trip to Mathinna to see the big tree reserve brought up a few questions about past forestry practices. And had an old Joni Mitchell song (Big yellow taxi) running around in my head, the pertinent line was “they took all the trees and put em in a tree museum and charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see em”. At least we didn’t have to pay (yet).

The Pine plantations out there had been logged very recently, some were replanted some were waiting for planting. All of them were devoid of streamside protection.

All seemed to have been burnt post harvest, which made me wonder why the logging slash was either not chipped onsite and taken out as pine chips, pine bark or bigger still why we don’t have a pyrolosis plant to process the waste and make biochar.

Surely it is time to do something about the poor planning that went into these plantations; they were apparently planted as a job creation scheme for men returning from the Second World War.

I am concerned that we have not moved on in forest practices since then.

When do we start to repair the landscape, when do we start to protect the waterways by replanting streamside reserves.

When do we stop clearfelling on very steep slopes?

I will leave the rest to the readers to comment and make their own decisions.

Or Download article: The_Case_for_Restortation_Forestry_Practices.doc

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Mathinna Pine Plantation, clearfelled hillsides, no streamside protection, no erosion control. An example of where restoration forestry is required.

I am aware that the plantations were put in as work creation schemes after the Second world war but haven’t we moved on in environmental awarness since then?

When will some of the profits be used to restore the streamside reserves or will we just have to install a conveyor belt from Launceston to return the silt to the hills.

Recently the joint venture pine plantations were sold by Forestry Tasmania , will the new owners be required to fix the damage caused by very poor practices.

If so there would be a strong case for them to be compensated for the work they would need to do to replant streamside reserves.

In the Mathinna big tree reserve are a couple of examples of the sort of trees that used to grow in the area. Admittedly these are growing on creek flats with good water and soil. Still it appears that the climate and soil conditions of the Mathinna beds are conducive to growing excellent native forests. The E.Viminalis shown in this photo is around 90 metres tall. Fortunately it was reserved, by a passionate forester in the past who thought that people of the future should be able to see what once was here.

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Below is a photo of the edge of the pine plantation.  For some reason the pine was logged and then burnt before replanting.

I still don’t understand why pine slash has to be burnt before hand planting of new seedlings. It appears to be an anachronistic practice that is carried on as a tradition.

Unfortunately as can be seen at the top of the hills it helps erosion and the results can be seen in the Tamar Basin.

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Rolling hills, not so green, I am wondering what New Forests actually got for their money when they bought the pine plantations in Tasmania.

Possibly just 50 thousand ha of seedlings.  There is no vegetation left in the gullies to control erosion and the coupe in the foreground is windrowed and ready for burning. More biomass going up in smoke.

Surely there is a market for pine chips, pine bark or it could be used in a bio char plant to produce char and gas. More wasted resources, but then the managers don’t have to pay do they.

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Nice crop of bracken waiting for young pine trees to be planted in amongst it.

Soil waiting to be washed down the hillsides into the gullies and down river to Launceston.

Why are the poorest forest practices of the past being recreated here in 2012?

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And here we are, up the hill from the Mathinna Big Tree Reserve, a sign proudly announces the plantation that was sown 37 years ago, the trees on the road edge that get most of the light are the biggest , even they are only around 300 mm diameter at the base, in the centre of the coupe the trees are much smaller than that.

The questions I have are how long will it take for these trees that are well formed, take to turn into sawlogs.

Possibly pine trees would have been a better choice here, as I have seen pine trees in the Gog Ranges that were 700mm diameter at only 23 years.

Hopefully these trees will be allowed to grow on to become sawlogs and not be cut down just to make peeler logs and woodchip.

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Or Download article: Mathinna_Pine_Plantation.doc

ABC Online: Forests deal D-Day

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• Blackwood Growers Cooperative Proposal Update

Dr. Gordon Bradbury
http://www.blackwoodgrowers.com.au

With the IGA deadline almost here I thought it timely to provide an update on my efforts to gain support for a blackwood growers cooperative.

I originally outlined the proposal here in May 2011:

http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/proposal-for-a-tasmanian-blackwood-growers-cooperative/

Plenty of Interest from the Rural Community

My focus to date has been seeking support from the community, particularly farmers and landowners. I particularly want to find out whether there is any demand from the rural community for growing blackwood in plantations.

The results have been very promising.

With just a small amount of promotion and advertising I am now getting a steady stream of enquiries (2-3 per week). Not every farm I visit is suitable for growing commercial blackwood but there is certainly plenty of interest and demand.

Many people still appreciate the commercial potential of blackwood. Some are prepared to begin planting immediately, while others would do so if the forestry mess was resolved and the industry was put on a commercial basis. Still other landowners would plant if there was some financial support to help cover the initial costs.

For those prepared to plant immediately I am offering to help manage their plantations at my own expense if the coop does not eventuate, so that at least some people will see what might have been. This opportunity won’t come again.

As a result of my proposal and promotion we are well on the way to the first years planting quota, with about 30 hectares of farmland already established or planned to be planted in the next 12 months.

In my travels around the State talking to people I am also very confident that there is adequate suitable private land available in terms of rainfall, topography and soils.

So overall this is very positive for the proposed cooperative. This Cooperative could be up and running very quickly if funding became available under the IGA.

Markets, prices and transparency

I am also getting enquiries from blackwood processors who are looking for alternative supplies to meet existing market demand. Some are looking to reduce their exposure to the sovereign risk inherent in public native forestry. Others simply cannot keep up with increasing demand.

There is a significant native blackwood resource on private land in Tasmania. This resource might have commercial value that could help supply some existing markets, and stimulate interest in both better managing this native blackwood, and growing more blackwood in plantations.

One of my objectives with the coop is to increase the market transparency for blackwood timber so that everyone can see how demand, quality and prices are changing in the marketplace. Currently there is no marketplace information that would help landowners make informed investment decisions about growing blackwood. So these enquires from timber processors are encouraging as they provide opportunities for greater market transparency.

Politicians and Industry

So far so good. Now comes the world of Tasmanian power and politics. In order to get funding the proposal needs political and industry support.

I have approached a number of State politicians and forest industry personnel and received limited but positive support. I have also had some negative responses. I have contacted a number of the IGA parties seeking to present my proposal to the IGA group. Getting the IGA parties to support the coop proposal would be a major benefit in getting funding.

If it is to have any chance of a prosperous future the forest industry really does need to significantly broaden its social and commercial support base in Tasmania. The industry is currently reduced to a handful of players who are politically, socially and commercially vulnerable.

The forest industry also needs a new image/marketing profile, one that focuses on quality. Pulp and woodchips will continue to be an important part of the industry, but these shouldn’t dominate the market image. After all, even although cheap cask wine dominates sales it doesn’t dominate the market image of the Australian wine industry.

A blackwood growers cooperative could assist the forest industry with both of these objectives – a large number of private landowners growing Australia’s premium timber species in profitable plantations. The forest industry version of Penfolds Grange Heritage, if I can be so bold as to use such an analogy.

So what do TT readers think? Does the forest industry need this kind of market-driven approach to become profitable and socially-supported?

• Insider Trader: The banks have requested experts to check Gunns’ pulse, as reported in AFR and Business Spectator: Embattled woodchipper Gunns persists in trying to revive its balance sheet: Here.

• Gunns Ltd: Director Retirement

Mr Paul Teisseire retired as a Director of Gunns Limited (”the Company” or “Gunns”) effective from 20 July 2012. Please refer to link below for the full announcement:

http://www.gunns.com.au/Content/uploads/documents/ASX%20RELEASE%20-%202012%2007%2023%20-%20Director%20Retirement.pdf

• GREENS SUPPORT SIGNATORIES’ EXTENSION REQUEST

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Monday, 23 July 2012

The Tasmanian Greens today said that they supported the forest signatories’ request for the investment of a further two weeks in the process to allow for further modelling to be done.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP, who attended a briefing by the signatories with the Premier this afternoon, said it was clear that enough progress had been made to warrant the investment of two more weeks. 

“The signatories believe they have made significant progress, and there is a degree of optimism that an agreement can be reached,” Mr McKim said.

“There is still a chance of an historic outcome and on that basis the Greens have supported the extension.”