Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


A missed opportunity for the Forestry Peace Agreement

It was only later that afternoon that it struck me what a terrible missed opportunity I had just witnessed.

Tasmania this week is hosting three international forestry experts whose expertise and knowledge is vital to the transition of the local forest industry out of native forests and into plantations. But their visit had nothing to do with the current negotiations; and their knowledge and expertise will unfortunately not be used to inspire and motivate anyone interested in that possibility.

Juan Carlos Pinilla and Juan Carlos Valencia are from the government forest research institute (INFOR) in Chile. Pinilla is Chiles Acacia and blackwood expert, while Valencia is a specialist in Eucalyptus globulus and E. nitens. Valencia completed his Master degree here at the ForestryCRC three years ago. It was they who initiated the visit to Tasmania as a fact finding tour. They first spent a week touring New Zealand learning how the New Zealand farmers are successfully growing eucalypts and blackwood in plantations. While in New Zealand they were joined by Ian Nicholas, who is that country’s expert on blackwood and other minor species.

They arrived in Tasmania last Sunday. Ian Nicholas phoned me on Monday wanting to catch up. This was when I first became aware that they were here. On Tuesday I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with them. At lunch time I and a small group of industry people were entertained to over an hour of presentations by them at the ForestryCRC in Hobart. Unfortunately the presentation was organised at short notice, and clearly not widely advertised.

In both Chile and New Zealand the emphasis is on getting private growers both large and small to grow these species, to help develop and sustain commercially viable, profitable forest industries and to supply export markets. In both countries they are experiencing both technical and commercial challenges in growing and processing E. globulus and E. nitens. Will the market pay a high enough price for products from these species to allow them to be grown profitably; and can they overcome the sawing and drying problems in these species in order to produce valuable products? A classic Catch 22 situation.

But they clearly have a “can do” approach that is inspiring. Industry, Government and growers are all helping to resolve these challenges with ongoing research (eg. http://pitnitens.cl/english/inicio.html ).

But as a blackwood expert it was the presentations on blackwood that inspired me. Clearly both countries are years ahead of Tasmania in the cultivation and processing of plantation grown blackwood. What the Chileans were hoping to learn about blackwood in Tasmania I don’t know; the information stream should have been flowing the opposite way. As in New Zealand, the Chileans see blackwood as an ideal species for small to medium size farmers to grow. And grow they are. Large sawlogs grown in 20 years on good sites! Having progressed with the cultivation aspects they are now focusing on a blackwood breeding program to improve growth and wood properties.

Unlike Chile, New Zealand has little Government support for blackwood research. But the New Zealand farmers are very dedicated and enthusiastic. The pictures Ian Nicholas showed of well managed blackwood plantations at commercial maturity were nothing but awesome. In a few years time Australia will be importing plantation-grown blackwood timber from both Chile and New Zealand, while our local blackwood industry continues to wither.

“Why can’t we do that here?” was the obvious question someone asked at the end of the NZ blackwood presentation. Ian Nicholas’s answer (and which I totally agree) was unequivocal: “You can! It’s easy!” Yes you need to select your sites with care and understanding AND commit to the ongoing management, just as the farmers in Chile and NZ are doing. And unlike E. globulus and nitens, plantation-grown blackwood timber is already of high value and there are no technical difficulties to overcome in processing and drying.

And so it was while coming home later that afternoon following the presentations that it dawned on me what a terrible missed opportunity I had just witnessed. These three experts could have made a significant contribution to the Tasmanian Forestry Peace negotiations. Instead only a small group of industry people will be exposed to their knowledge and skill, and little if anything will come of it. The petrified forest industry that inhabits Tasmania is unable to respond.

So the “low hanging fruit” of high-quality, high-value plantation grown blackwood on private property, remains well outside the mental sphere of the Tasmanian community. I have a dream (aka MLK) that one day we will have a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative. But how we get there and how long it will take are currently beyond my understanding. It makes growing plantation blackwood seem very easy indeed!

*Picture of well managed blackwood plantation in New Zealand (Ian Nicholas). Can you imagine this in Tasmania? I can!

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  1. John Maddock

    May 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm


    I hope Robin Halton #22 is not relying on FT’s history for preserving leatherwood for the beekeepers, as a guage for ensuring future blackwood supplies.

    He’ll be sorely disappointed if he is!

    Just ask the beekeepers!


  2. Robin Halton

    May 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    #21 Pete Godfrey, thanks for the info, I was not aware of the Gog blackwood trial.
    On the West Coast, ti tree acts as a natural nurse crop among developing stands of blackwood.
    The ti tree being a scrub species eventually dies back as canopy closure occurs once the tree species begin to dominate.
    I would hope that we hear more from Gordon Bradbury and his blackwood plantation ventures.
    I would expect that FT have means to maintain an ongoing blackwood resource whether it be further plantation trials or more importantly protecting existing natural grown stands from damaging wildfires.
    A State inventory through FT exists for Leatherwood flowering to assist beekeepers.
    I wonder if one exists for blackwood to lead the furniture and craft industry?
    Maturing stands can be picked up by coloured aerial photography which can also require a field check to ensure it is blackwood and not large native willows with a few blackwoods.
    Mature trees can be picked up in rainforest with their distinctive broad crowns and dull green colour especially when seed pods develop giving a brownish tinge among the crowns.
    Pete thanks again, I fully support better management tactics with blackwood.

  3. Pete Godfrey

    May 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    #19 Robyn I can tell you where some of the Blackwood Plantations of significance are.
    Unfortunately they are massive and failures.
    Gordon Bradbury’s ideas seem to hold a lot more water than what happened here in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s
    In those days 1200 ha of Blackwood under pine were planted but no follow up happened so they have turned into Pine Plantations. There are 450 ha of such at Lower Beulah in the Gog Plantations and more at Castra.
    The Gog Plantation is being logged now with some lovely pine logs and no blackwood.
    From what I have seen Gordon Bradbury’s idea of small areas with high maintenance are the way to go.
    Using fast growing tea tree as a nurse crop may do the same thing as the pine did and take the water and light from the trees but Gordon would know that better than I.
    Peter Volker is right there are some good people in FT, I believe that political influences overshadow much of the good work they do.
    There are people in the organisation that deliberately lie they are near the top of the pond. It would be great to see smaller trials and true long term sustainable logging implemented in Tasmania. Woodchipping on an industrial scale has done far too much damage to forest structure and it is time to stop.

  4. Frank the Biochar Fan

    May 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    “Tasmania in Dialogue: Visions and Actions for a Humane Society,”
    Can you imagine this in Tasmania? I can!

    Another positive example from overseas:
    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Public Intellectuals in Asia

    To create a close, personal, and professional network of “public intellectuals” in Asia, the Japan Foundation and the International House of Japan (I-House) have jointly been conducting the Asian Leadership Fellow Program since 1996. Up till now, approximately 88 fellows from 16 Asian countries have participated in this program.

    Each year, public intellectuals from Asia who have deep roots in civil society and who play a leading role in initiating solidarity among concerned people reside at the I-House for about two months and intensively discuss regional and global concerns through dialogue, seminars, field research, and socializing. By offering the opportunity of living together, ALFP seeks to foster lasting friendships and trust among intellectual leaders in Asia.

    This year, under the broad theme of “Asia in Dialogue: Visions and Actions for a Humane Society,” fellows will discuss how different values can coexist and how a community with a sense of solidarity can be realized.

    The Public Intellectuals are the following;

    Imtiaz Gul (Pakistan) M
    Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies
    area of specialty: security, militancy, FATA, Afghanistan, governance, and democracy

    Miryam S.V. Nainggolan (Indonesia) F
    Chair of Board of Directors, Pulih Foundation
    area of specialty: industrial and organizational psychology, conflict resolution and peace building

    Jehan Gregory Ignatius Perera (Sri Lanka) M
    Executive Director, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka
    area of specialty: peace activism and conflict resolution

    Elmer Velasco Sayre (Philippines) M
    In-house Adviser, Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Foundation
    area of specialty: community development

    Huong Thanh Vuong (Vietnam) F
    Senior Researcher/ Director of Center for Education Information, Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences
    area of specialty: education management, education for rural and disadvantage areas, and capacity building

    Yali Zhang (China) F
    Political Science Assistant, Department of Political Affairs, The United Nations
    area of specialty: political science, conflict resolution

    and earlier:

  5. Robin Halton

    May 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    #17 Thanks for your response Peter and please continue to contribute, ignore the knockers as there a number of readers including myself want to see FT and the industry eventually move foward despite the opposing forces who have a fantasy land approach and regard native forest harvesting in “HCVA’s as being out of the question in the future.
    #14 Gordon I am suprised that you regard yourself as an “unemployed blackwood expert”. FT and CRC should be pursuing every opportunity of a focus on BWD within the “new age of forestry” with zeal?
    BWD being the fastest grower along with Silver Wattle of the Special Timbers, harvestable at age 50yr needs to be pampered and protected and maybe manipulated through early age non commercial thinning to reduce competiting scrub especially in the developing purer stands within our native forests?
    Where are the BWD plantations of any consequence in Tasmania?
    When the opportunity arises for field days please publicise it as I feel that many of us on either side of the forestry equation would be interested?

  6. Frank Strie, President of Timber Workers For Fores

    May 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    … “At lunch time I and a small group of industry people were entertained to over an hour of presentations by them at the ForestryCRC in Hobart. Unfortunately the presentation was organised at short notice, and clearly not widely advertised….” reported Gordon Bradbury

    AND:… “Will the market pay a high enough price for products from these species to allow them to be grown profitably; and can they overcome the sawing and drying problems in these species in order to produce valuable products? A classic Catch 22 situation.
    But they clearly have a “can do” approach that is inspiring. Industry, Government and growers are all helping to resolve these challenges with ongoing research …”
    “… [they] see blackwood as an ideal species for small to medium size farmers to grow.”
    … In a few years time Australia will be importing [Blackwood timber]…”

    My short response:
    That sounds just the way I have learned to call it ‘Typical Tasmania’ style.

    Just like California is nowadays importing Radiata Pine; Douglas Fir/Oregon and Redwood, just to name a few timber species products from New Zealand. The Forest mining operations in the Pacific North West lasted just around 120 years proper…- now they have to wait and restore what Nature ones provided for free to previous generations of loggers and their tree mining Managers… SHAME!
    26 years ago I first came as a tourist to Tasmania from a Country with a long (and dark) history in forestry conversion to tree cropping mentality – ones upon a time scientific “best practice” – was equal to “man over nature” “Executives controlling nature”.
    Nowadays the opposite of it is forest policy in Europe – so it is more and more in California.
    Responsible, inter-generational forest management based on total quality training, cooperation and international collaboration is the way of the future. But it is a matter of attitude and commitment to future generations, that’s lacking here.

    I don’t think either we need to be in opposing camps on blackwood at all. Forest Grower Cooperatives are the norm in many countries, but in Tasmania cooperations is equal to communism.

    “Current forest policy and practice certainly hinders farm forestry in Tasmania, so reform is needed. And now seems to be a good time to implement some reforms.”
    You got that very right! The Tasmanian way was to keep forest owners in the dark so that the forest mining industry had it easy to rip out as much, as fast and as cheap for as long as possible.

    A few years ago I led a delegation of 13 Chilean forest and plantation owner / managers thru the Notley Fern Gorge Reserve to show them some Forest in transition.
    This was organised in the same haste as your breakfast and lunch meeting you told us about. “Typical Tasmania style” they get used to it!

    Gordon, you and likeminded can find our collaboration and cooperation via http://www.twff.org.au

  7. Peter Volker

    May 19, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Robin #15 as I am not the resident blackwood person in FT you would be better to contact our Smithton office to get information on the stands you describe. I have only been to Corinna once, a couple of years ago, to look at a couple of walking tracks with a Parks colleague – what a beautiful place. Blackwood is such a fascinating species and the swamps of Circular Head are such unique environments. The Dismal Swamp aka Tarkine Adventures facility is one of the best interpretations of forest ecology and management I have seen anywhere in the world, intriguing that it is not more popular. It is a credit to the forest managers in that area that they have been able to harvest and regenerate blackwood in a sustainable manner and timber processors such as Brittons have made a fantastic contribution to the local economy and taken blackwood to the world. Long may it continue and long may people like George produce such magnificent handiwork for us to admire and enjoy.

  8. Shan Welham

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to answer each one of my questions, Dr Bradbury. I have really appreciated the constructive conversation your article has prompted and learning more from yourself and the other commenters.

  9. Robin Halton

    May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Peter Volker, good to see you on board. I happen to be crossing between both Gordon’s and George’s articles re BWD.
    Could you enlighten the group on the Smithton scenario please.
    Maybe you could touch on the areas of natural occuring BWD harvested near Corinna and immediately south of the Pieman, post late 1980’s wildfire!
    Many of us want to see FT and the forest industry move foward, not run out of business by the TWS and their supporters.

  10. Dr Gordon Bradbury

    May 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks everyone for your very useful responses. Blackwood is not a structural wood. It is used in high value products like furniture, flooring, joinery, musical instruments and craft products such as those produced by George Harris.

    Thanks Shan #1. To answer your questions:
    My proposal for a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative would be based on private farmers and landowners. Try and think of this as growing blackwood just like any other agricultural crop. That’s the way I think of it. I think FSC certification would be a good idea. The proposal is limited by the availability of sites suitable for growing commercial blackwood. These would be relatively small and scattered 2 – 10 ha in size. If we could plant 100 ha each year for a full rotation period of 35 years, we are looking at 3500ha total. (Does anyone know how much private property there is in north west Tasmania?) That would produce a sustainable supply of approximately 25,000 cubic metres of blackwood sawlog each year, which is double the current annual production from native forest harvesting.

    1) Are you suggesting land owners clear existing trees or grazing land to grow these plantations?

    Only currently cleared land would be used. No clearing of native forest.

    2) Are pesticides and other chemicals required? What kind and what for?

    Young blackwoods find it very hard to compete with dense pasture growth and other weeds, so some form of weed control would be needed during the first 3-4 years of a plantation This only needs to be used immediately around each tree, no broad scale weed control would be used, unless there was some other weed control issue. Otherwise no pesticides would be used.

    3) What steps would be taken to protect wildlife?

    There would be no hazards to wildlife so no protection required.

    4) Are the trees GM’d?


    5) Are they monocultures or is there a level of plant/forest diversity that is encouraged?

    They would be monocultures just like fields of pasture, apples, cows, onions, poppies, pineapples, mangoes, potatoes, etc. Just like an agricultural crop really. But because growing blackwood commercially requires good site selection, the sites suitable would be relatively small and scattered. There would be no broadscale planting.

    6) Post harvesting, would there be “regeneration burns”? (I have read that the practice is unnecessary?)

    Well the harvesting of trees does create waste – branches, stumps, logs that do not have any market value. Perhaps some of this could be sold/used as firewood, but some of it will need to be disposed of. The easiest way is to burn it. But because of the small scale and scattered nature of the blackwood plantations the impact would be relatively low.

    7) What areas of Tasmania do you think would best suit this and what impact on water availability and quality would there be / at what stages/ for how long etc?

    Blackwood likes rainfall and shelter (to grow tall and straight). Areas of high (>1000 mm) annual rainfall so NW obviously; some areas in the NE; maybe even some areas in the SE. I would hope to start off in the NW. Trees are good for catchments and for water quality. They help regulate stream flow and prevent flooding and stream bank erosion. But again the small scale and scattered nature of these plantations would see very little impact on the landscape. In fact I would imagine an overall beneficial effect – shelter, aesthetics, wildlife, etc.

    In New Zealand the forest industry is 100% privately owned and based on approximately 2 million ha of plantations. Large industrial and commercial companies own about 2/3 of the plantations, while farmers own 1/3. Farm foresters are a significant, successful force in the industry. And their industry is currently going gang busters! Very successful indeed and very little community conflict. Oh how different to here in the land of Oz.

  11. William Boeder

    May 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    To my mind, one of today’s most significant disappointments is by way of the lack of proper intelligent development within Tasmania’s supposed forestry industry.
    I note the following:

    Over the years of attending and commenting to this forum, tis fair to say little or no progress has resulted, eg; at this very moment our Native Forests are still being destroyed to provide simple stupid bastard wood chips?

    Care to try and recall the huge number of positive ideas and clever suggestions that have thus been put forward as alternatives to wood-chipping, and as were done by so many intelligent long term subscribers to Tas Times?

    Yet even today, all that is seen as a result of these ideas and so on, is that of all the major established foresting factions involved in the management and carriage of this industry, well the action of forestry here in this State is ‘still’ all about snorkelling through the State’s Native Forests for Gunns Ltd’s squallerous lusting greed for Native Forest bastard woodchips?

    I would like to add that the above comment by John Maddock at #5 is again’, another classic illustration in realizing a far far better use of Tasmania’s timber resource.

    The talk goes on and on yet nobody in today’s Bull-headed forest logging industry, will ever stop and listen!

    Why is this so?

    It therefore reflects that the people in charge of forestry are still as empty-headed dumb as ever, exactly the same as in all the times past!

    Apart from exporting our Native Forest logs to China at give-away prices, how honestly proud can Tasmania’s forest management persons be if this is all that they can do?

  12. Shan Welham

    May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks JV and Neo for the information on what plantation blackwood would be used for vs eucalypt. I agree plantations are a social issue, and also an environmental one.

    I noticed the FT ads for private farm forestry on the tele late last night and thought of Mark’s view on the success of such schemes and it certainly rang true. I am exactly one of those folk who has looked at hobby farming and wouldn’t cut down existing plantation trees on a property due to their aesthetic & carbon off-set value (which I understand has the potential to become quite the issue for graziers in particular). I also wouldn’t know how or even that I had to look after them; they are trees, don’t they just need good soil, rain and sun to grow?

    In reading George Harris’ response article and John Hayward’s comment on this one this morning, I return to the rest of my questions on plantations back at #1…

  13. Peter Volker

    May 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you #3 and #10 for your marvellous contributions. You and your ilk are the reason I gave up on contributing to TT some time ago. Attack the Forestry Tasmania if you will. The people I work with in FT are highly professional and do their jobs within the constraints imposed by the commercial and other influences to the best of their ability. I don’t know anyone in FT who sets out to “destroy” forests or is a liar about forst management or even cooks up data to support their point of view.

    The people in FT that I know are highly analytical and not afraid to be critical of current, past or future management paradigms. That is why nearly every research project and publication on alternative management for Tasmania’s forests has either come out of FT or been supported by FT.

    In the case of blackwood, Gordon is right, there have been mistakes made on the plantation management side of things. It is obvious that blackwood plantation mangement is highly suited to small scale farm forestry where landowners can pursue intensive management of individual trees. Scales of two to three hectares per year are appropriate for these operations. FT has devoted most of its energy into the fenced blackwood in native forests in the Circular Head area.

    As for our Chilean visitors, it was me who hosted them. They have sought my counsel over the past few years on management of nitens and globulus plantations, my area of expertise. I have been lucky enough to have been to Chile on a few occaissions and not only are these people now my good friends but we have been able to develop an ongoing collaborative exchange of ideas. It is my hope, perhaps naively, that Chile, New Zealand and Australia can establish lasting forest research connections, not just in plantations but also in sustainable mangement of native forests.

    A couple of weeks ago I was in Auckland for a joint Australia and New Zealand Institute of Foresters conference. We worked hard to get funds for professional colleagues from Pacific Island nations to come to the conference. These are inspiring foresters, working under extreme pressures, where forests provide often, the only source of foreign income for their countries. These men and women must deal with corrupt governance and try their best to implement sustainable forest management against these pressures. Unfortunately, the current Australian government has completely dropped the ball in assisting my forest colleagues in the region. Despite continuing pleas from IFA to facilitate exchanges, provide capacity building opportunities and generally provide support and assistance nothing gets done. Our ENGO movement is so focussed on the irrelevant forest debate in Tasmania/Australia that it stands by why forests in the Solomon Islands are cut at 4 times the sustainable yield and will run out in less than 5 years – all with FSC certification mind you!

    We heard from Profesor Peter Kanowski of the ANU Fenner School, last night that forests must take their place in addressing the future of a planet with increased population and a likely doubling of food and energy requirements in the next thirty years. In contrast to the talk of the Chilean visitors, this was well publicised, but still Tasmanians were so apathetic, less than 50 people attended. Where were the ENGO representatives who give us the impression they know all about forest ecology and management?

    Oh that’s right they know it all, so no need to come and listen to a senior forestry academic or discuss new ideas with any forestry professionals who might happen to be there as well.

    I am soooooo tired of the banal forest debate in this State. A fine aexample of that in today’s feature article in the Mercury. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

    Peter Volker PhD
    Forestry Tasmania employee
    National President of Institute of Foresters of Australia (although these views are personal and not those of FT or IFA).

  14. john hayward

    May 18, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Dr Bradbury should have noticed that technical expertise, and the professional integrity that should accompany it, are non grata in the woodchip wonderland.

    A case in point is the Gog Range South of Sheffield. It’s not yet daylight, but you wouldn’t see much of it anyway, as FT lit a string of waste burns yesterday under low clouds which largely obscure the landscape. Some of it, illuminated by the flares of canopy burns, obviously was not waste until until errant fire reached it.

    You can certainly smell it and feel it in your eyes, however, as we have since the dense smoke murdered sleep around 3am. We killed a bit of time reminiscing about the industry Lara described as the “whole cake” of Tasmanian existence.

    We recalled the FT manager who came out to reassure us that the clear-fells marching across the steep face of the Gog would go no higher, and that the large pine plantation which appeared in an area supposedly reserved for native forest regeneration, had been a regrettable “mistake”. We reflected on how every undertaking he made had since been violated. We remembered the wildlife we now rarely or never see.

    We thought back to the RFA days, when our hard-headed ENGO negotiators traded off proposals for a Gog National Park for things seemingly ethereal. We laughed at all the Lewis Carroll absurdities of the Forest Practices Tribunal hearings, and the Tas Supreme Court trials.

    But Gordon Bradbury’s bewilderment is best answered by Mark Poynter, #4. Despite third world rates of environmental damage and political racketeering, and a complete lack of profit or financial logic, we are assured that the Tasmanian industry’s only shortcoming is its failure to achieve the total victory over all social, environmental, and legislative impediments to plantation forestry set out in the 2020 Vision for Plantation Forestry. On the political front, however, they have succeeded.

    John Hayward

  15. phill Parsons

    May 18, 2011 at 9:26 am

    In some places in the North Island of NZ blackwoods were being used as nurse crops for kauri giving as return on the planting and forcing the kauri to develop into timber trees.But it is not simply growing the wood, it then has to be treated and manufactured into product with value because the customer understands and demands it.

  16. Robin Halton

    May 18, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Gordon, I am surprised that Murchison District in Circular Head has not progressed in recent times with growing Blackwood using nurse crops of fast growing ti-tree to enable the young blackwoods reach for sunlight hence initially allowing them to grow tall and develop small diameter heartwood clear of limbs during earlier stages of growth.
    To the best of my knowledge a Technical Forester was appointed many years ago by FT Silvicultural Branch at Smithton to undertake blackwood trials and more recently during the mid 1990’s to monitor and report on myrtle and other minor species regeneration in Special Timbers Areas post harvest?
    Maybe you could tell us more about FT’s measures to grow valuable crops such as blackwood?

  17. Neo Conned

    May 18, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Blackwood would be used for furniture, veneer and and dress paneling such as dado. Probably worth more than structural timber. Laminated timber is good for large beams, may not be economical for wall studs or roofing purlins.

    The plantation issues are social not financial … what scale, how managed, (fire risk, chemical use), monoculture and its impact on ecology, the nature of land ownership, ….bla bla

    There is nothing more beautiful than a myrtle / blackwood forest, sprinkled with understorey of musk, sassafras, and man-fern… If you wait long enough, blackwoods will grow straight and tall – 75 feet and more before the first branch and metres in diameter. Will we ever see forests like that again? Not with existing management practices.

    Blackwood also grows with e.obliqua and e.delegatensis (sp?) (white and brown-top stringy barks) in drier areas. It also grows in paddocks, but it branches out early if there is no understorey to force it towards the light …

    So with a bit of patience, once we start again, we can get many specialty furniture and structural timbers. Just cut it no faster than it grows… Rocket science: a sustainable industry.

    We might even be able to grow some King Billy and Celery Top pine…. both of these have outstanding properties in terms of weather resistance and stability. King Billy windows are as light as a feather and will likely outlast the building they are in. Now that stuff will be worth a fortune! It just takes an investment that will return in a few generation’s time.

  18. maaate

    May 18, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I think the point Mark (comment 4) is trying to make is that commercial forestry on private land is not viable because it cannot compete effectively with taxpayer subsidised native forest logging on public land that is not run along commercially oriented “user pays” principles.

    The MIS model failed because the promoters did a runner with the (upfront) money leaving investors holding the baby.

    Surely if governments can afford the scandalous MIS as well other agrarian socialist welfare measures such as the warm and fuzzy Landcare for landholders, they have enough dough to facilitate a marriage between commercial forestry interests and landowners that will produce substantial amounts of timber and fibre as a co-product of conservation/restoration (providing such products compete on a ‘level playing field’ with native forest products).

  19. John Maddock

    May 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Shan #1

    My understanding (and I’m open to correction) is that the Building Code of Australia does not allow Acacia species for structural timber, so I see no future for blackwood timber there.

    On the other hand, there is an enormous potential for engineered structural members made from euc timber which would normally (in the past, at least), be chipped.

    Tasmanian Timber Engineering (Cambridge) and Kelly’s Timber (Dunalley) both make finger jointed laminated beams, and I think Torenius Timbers also make similar products.

    At the TTE office, I’ve seen a very large folder of pictures of logs entering the Triabunna mill, research TTE staff did some years ago with the idea of salvaging chip logs for sawmilling to make engineered timber products.

    Such products embody some fossil energy in the form of transport fuels and glues, but are second best to sawn airdried timber when embodied fossil energy is considered.

    I note that TWS has called for the abandonment of the legislated 300,000 t of saw log, on which the chip industry has relied as its reason to get into most coupes.

    Let’s do it. My guess is that a very large proportion of the structural timber required could be supplied from chip log equivalents.

    The process is straight forward. The logs are sawn, the timber dried. Skilled assessors cut out all structural defects to produce pieces of sound timber. Short or long, it doesn’t matter because each piece is finger jointed (the ends cut into a zigzag on a jointing machine) and the short pieces glued together to make long pieces.
    These are then laminated into beams of various dimensions with more glue. From my experience, the TTE roof purlins are about the same price as “C” section steel purlins and have a better thermal performance – both for insulation and dimensional stability under daily heating and cooling cycles.

    As Dr. Bradbury has explained, there are alternatives to the standard operating procedures of our forest industry.

    What bothers me is that until the current industry leaders are booted out, not much will change.

    Such is life in Tasmania.


  20. Mark Poynter

    May 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    An interesting article which seems to be asking why farm forestry hasn’t taken off. Most foresters would agree that it would be great if many, many farmers were to dedicate a portion of their land to tree growing, but there are practical reasons why it doesn’t happen on a large scale.

    Firstly, farmers earn annual income from their land and would have to both spend money to establish trees and sacrifice annual income from that land for decades while the trees grow. Not too many can afford to do that, and that is why in many instances farmers plant trees on their least productive land to minimise the sacrifice – but of course the trees don’t grow too well on degraded sites.

    Those landowners both interested and affluent enough to plant substantial farm forests are more often hobby farmers. They may like the idea of growing trees, but are often less enthusiastic about cutting them down and are wealthy enough not to have to spoil the view from their kitchen window and put up with those noisy loggers and log trucks.

    Something like 50% of hobby farms change hands every 10-years, so even if the owner who plants the trees is keen on managing them for future harvesting, the next owner may buy the property because of the aesthetic, rather than future wood value of the trees, and just neglect them.

    In my opinion, many of the farm forests established in the past, at least in Victoria (and I presume elsewhere), will not contribute much future resource to the timber industry.

    State governments have made considerable investment over several decades in trying to cajole and then subsidise landowners to plant farm forests, with only moderate success. Invariably, when these Govt subsidies disappear, farm plantings virtually cease.

    In many ways, the failure of farm forestry to develop any scale led to the development of MIS as the only means of getting large areas planted quickly in accordance with the Govts 2020 Plantation Strategy. Its other advantages over farm forestry were that if forestry companies owned the trees they would be properly managed and there would be certainty of future harvest.

    So, we may be able to grow the trees, but there is a need to overcome social, rather than forestry, issues if farm forestry is to take off.

  21. salamander

    May 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    This sounds interesting, but would actually have nothing to do with the peace agreement. It is more about where to go next, when there is no more industrial logging in out forests. Certainly then we need intelligence and innovation, both of which are distinctly absent in government and FT at the moment.

  22. lmxl

    May 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Great article – and an example of the lateral thinking required to create both new products and new markets, which ALL players in the current forestry industry debate seem incapable of. But, as you so rightly state, it’s not hard. We just have to look beyond the current fixation with maximum commodity extraction for minimum innovative investment – both creative, intellectual and financial. Any chance these Chileans might have met the Stranger?

  23. Shan Welham

    May 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Hi Dr Bradbury. Thanks for this article.

    I’ve read a lot of for and against re: forestry practices on this site and elsewhere and I guess I’d consider myself a moderate on the issue as I can’t abide by the clearfelling, burning and wood chipping however can see great value in returning to selective logging to create niche products and a high value, sustainable forestry sector as a step towards a middle ground. Tasmania’s speciality timbers are beautiful and artisans make lovely and useful things from them. I wouldn’t want to see this stopped although I would like to see it all better managed. Turning such trees into wood chips or pulp is an entirely different matter…

    Thus, I am a bit concerned by plantations but I’m open to understanding how it is proposed they be managed properly and to our benefit. I understand that blackwood is of a quality that would be useful for building materials and I’ve read before that e.nitens are too soft, is this correct? We need building-quality lumber, and this and/or carbon sequestering would be the purpose of blackwood plantations I expect, so I can understand this benefit. As someone in no way involved in the industry, but conscious of our impact on our planet, my following questions are purely out of interest pursuant to all that I have learned here on TT.

    Are you suggesting land owners clear existing trees or grazing land to grow these plantations?
    Are pesticides and other chemicals required? What kind and what for?
    What steps would be taken to protect wildlife?
    Are the trees GM’d?
    Are they monocultures or is there a level of plant/forest diversity that is encouraged?
    Post harvesting, would there be “regeneration burns”? (I have read that the practice is unnecessary?)
    What areas of Tasmania do you think would best suit this and what impact on water availability and quality would there be / at what stages/ for how long etc?

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