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


More grist for the mill …


There was a man outside the Executive Building at the time when Terry Edwards and Phill Pullinger fronted a waiting media pack at 1 pm on the afternoon of Wednesday 15 August, 2012. These two Signatory representatives were there to release the Interim Agreement on Tasmanian Forest Wood Supply and Conservation.

Mr Glenn Britton of Britton Timbers and chairman of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania was also there.

On 23 August whilst Terry Edwards, the CEO of FIAT was holidaying in Fiji, Mr Britton was in the media spot-light over an article on correspondence he had with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Will Hodgman. That article which appeared in [i]The Australian[/i] newspaper and the subsequent interview with ABC’s Louise Saunders .

Louise Saunders: ‘… you are a saw miller, you’re Chairman of the Association, do you have concerns or reservations [over the IGA process]?

Glenn Britton: Oh, look, it would be fair to say everyone has reservations and ahh… the reason why. that to date the agreement hasn’t been achieved is because of the, ahh… the huge gap that’s still apparent between sufficient forest to supply the, ahh… the, ahh… the appropriate or required level of, ahh… level… or volume of sawlogs and peeler logs and special species timber by… by volume and by quality, and size and age class etc… to sustain a viable industry into the future on the one hand and on the other hand, ahh… having that; allow sufficient, ahh… ahh… forest to, ahh… add to the current one and half million hectares of forest reserves already in Tasmania.

In April-May 2011 Britton Brothers along with Ta Ann Tasmania wrote a submission that was part of FIAT’s submission to the Legislative Council Inquiry into transitioning out of native forest logging.

Their Smithton sawmill processes 30,000 cubic metres of native forest logs employing 75 mill workers and 30 forestry contractors. Their timber products are ‘aimed at the high value appearance-grade markets – furniture, joinery, cabinet making and feature flooring, used in commercial and residential fit outs in Australia an overseas’.

Britton Timbers sawlog resource is supplied by Forestry Tasmania from native forests in north west Tasmania.

The company offered an assessment of ‘a transition to plantation processing for Britton Timbers. For them it came down to the recovery of a suitable quantity and grade of timber from plantation sawlogs.

According to Britton Timbers the recovery of sawn timber from a modern sawmill in Tasmania from native sawlog is 35%. They compared that against a 40% recovery with [i]Eucalypus nitens[/i] plantation sawlogs.

From their annual wood supply of 30,000 cubic metres, they estimate 10,500 cubic metres of sawn timber from native sawlog and 12,000 cubic meters from plantations.

They sell graded sawn timber according to [i]Select, Standard and Utility[/i] categories.


When it came down to the sale price, Britton Timbers maintains that their annual turnover would be disadvantaged (Figure 2); $10,290,000 from native forests versus $8,040,000 from plantations.

For Britton Timbers, a transition to a plantation resource is hampered by: (1) a lack of plantation wood supply until 2035, and (2) predominant species currently in the state forest estate – [i]Eucalyptus nitens[/i] – is not suitable for producing appearance-grade timber for high-value wood products.


Their suggested transition strategy to plantations needed to include: (1) a move to plantings of [i]E. globulus[/i], (2) plantations managed for sawlog production by high-pruning and thinning trees from an early age, (3) growth to ‘a suitable diameter’ [600 mm in diameter].

According to Britton Timbers’ May 2011 submission: “Native forests can be managed for biodiversity, carbon capture and sawlog production either in perpetuity or until we have a plantation resource suitable for processing, but this will take arounfd 25 years.”

“Until such time as the forestry industry has a plantation estate capable of producing the quality of timber required by saw mills and rotary peeled veneer mills, any discussion of a transition is hypothetical.”

Reference: Britton Timbers 2011 submission to the Legislative Council Inquiryinto public native forest transition April-May 2011 [accessed August 2011]

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  1. Robin Halton

    August 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Given that the Forests Minister Bryan Green has taken sides with his Green partnership in government then Mr Jefferys/FT, Mr Britton/native forest sawmillers/FIAT and Mr Rolley/TAT are effectively resetting the tone within the government.
    Already the Liberals have offered the role as defacto government in order to solve the Wood Supply crisis accentuated by the Interim Forest Agreement.
    The first signs of instability within government with Nick Mc Kim now ruling the roost wanting FT restructure including 572,000ha of new reserves immrdiately.
    Bring it on lets have a State election before Christmas.

  2. David Obendorf

    August 30, 2012 at 2:44 am

    CEO for Ta Ann Tasmania is Evan Rolley – TAT’s wood supply to 2027 is 265,000 cubic meters per annum. That is the checking move from the Industry side – no doubt about it.

    Former CEO of TWS, Alec Marr is now the cock of the rock of the moth-balled Triabunna woodchip plant. Dealing with wood residue from forestry activities and sawmills. That is checking move from the ENGO side – no doubt about it.

    FT Tasmania has been extremely irresponsible and culpable in its erroneous projections of high quality saw log and peeler logs from eucalypt plantations. They have led their Ministers, Canberra and local sawmillers up the garden path.

    The publicly accessible plantation estate is of limited value to sustain the supply and quality required to 2030 and FT has always known this! That makes any deal on the 430,000 to 572,000 ha of HCV native forests looking like a stalemate.

    Mr Bayley and Dr Pullinger should realise this fully by now. FT Tasmania – who baulked and blocked and weren’t even a party to the roundtable – had controlled the agenda and led the ENGOs into [i]their[/i] forest territory – production forests.

    The Liberals 150,000 ha of extra forest reserve looks like the position that FIAT was offering to the ENGOs in their negotiaton scenario in June 2011 (maybe even earlier).

    Ta Ann doesn’t look like budging on their wood supply unless they see a very good reason to reduce their access to native forests for peeler billets in Tasmania. Any capitulation from them would come down to money [like the Gunns Ltd/FT pay out of $39 million] and negotiating with Mr Rolley on behalf of the parent Ta Ann company.

    Where is Plan B, because Plan A looks like it may be stale-mated?

  3. David Obendorf

    August 30, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Terry Edwards will be back from Fiji and no doubt Bob Gordon isn’t far away either. The pow-wow will be on with Ken Jeffreys and Evan Rolley and Glenn Britton. It looks like they will have to take Bryan out somewhere ‘noice’ for tea in Burnie and try to sort him out on a few things.

    Maybe they can ask Bryan where the high quality sawlog until the plantations are available will be coming from. Bryan can ask them who’s putting up their hand to take a slice of Julia Gillard’s $15 million of the saw-miller exit money?

    It ain’t easy being Bryan [i]Green[/i] at the minute.

  4. David Obendorf

    August 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    George Harriss [comment #6] – yes, a properly managed production native forest sector is more valuable, uses less chemicals and promotes biodiversity and clean water value far better than a transition to eucalypt monoculture plantations which require intensive silviculture.

    If I were advising Mr Britton and FIAT today I would suggest they talk to the Liberals, they talk to the Labor Party and they talk to Tasmanian Greens…. no need to negotiate any further with the ENGOs.

    It was always an incremental political fix to a stuck, inherited problem of monopoly players-MIS plantations and a legacy of poor forest stewardship – that’s, in my opinion.

    Suggest FIAT to now talk to the political ‘organ-grinders’.

  5. Robin Halton

    August 29, 2012 at 2:55 am

    I believe that Britton Bros / FIAT/ CRC forestry on behalf of the Tasmanian sawmilling community and eucalypt plantation owners both State and Private interested in researching/ proving/achieving a value adding product beyond the normal pulp mill feedstock end usage.
    Milling would require considerable retooling for the trials to fulfill the reqirements for the research. Once sawn timber would be racked airdried/ kilndried and reconditioned as necessary to understand the timber properties variables for assessing the extent of potential commerciality for the grades of timber produced.
    One only has to read the letter to the Mercury by PJ Bennett of Blackmans Bay dated October 26th 2010 NO SUBSTITUTE to fully understand the gravity of dealing with younger age plantation wood as a timber substitute to transition out of native forest.
    I would not necessarily say that if left to grow on for many decades as current plantation forests mature they may eventually produce some worthwhile timber products, however at present that could be a part of my wildly highly spectulative imagination?
    I was talking to a FT forester from the Southern Forests the other day and asked about the current operational practices in areas marked for future sawlog production in euc plantation areas.
    Trees are pruned to a height of 6.4 metres between ages 2-5 yrs.
    At age 7-8 yrs a commercial thinning takes place reducing the crop to 300 stems / ha producing 100 tonnes of thinnings that was previously harvested transported to be chipped at the Triabunna Chip Mill for export.
    As thinning has been stopped there is no longer a financial return available owing to the closure of the Triabunna Chip Mill, the process of ever achieving a higher quality product other than pulpwood is now diminished.

  6. George Harris aka woodworker

    August 29, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Meanwhile, who is actually out there doing any plantation establishment? No one! Is there scope for a transition? Not really. And has it occurred to you that well managed regenerated native forest is actually a far better proposition in environmental terms than plantations? Better for bio-diversity, better for resiliance against insect predation (no pesticides necessary! They are not mono-cultures!), better for aesthetics, better for multiple use, better for certification, and it is cheaper to establish! Leave it a bit longer and it is better timber by a long shot. Better still, a decent estate of native forest comprising never previously harvested, harvested long ago, and more recent regeneration, together with natural regeneration after wildfires, and you have the perfect mosaic for an endlessly sustainable timber resource that produces higher quality, higher value, higher dollar timber that is valued in the Australian domestic market, and does not need to look for export markets.You are not offering any alternatives for what you would take out of rural communities, and don’t say tourism because we are pushing that as hard as we can as it is!

  7. George Harris aka woodworker

    August 29, 2012 at 2:17 am

    What Louise (#2) and others don’t realize is that in order to access funds under the 2005 Community Forest Agreement, an approved plan needed to have applicant funding in a ratio of 2:1, so the $1.5+ million grant had to also have a $3+ million added to it by Brittons themselves in order for it to happen. Many smaller enterptises had ideas and preferred schemes they would have liked to try, by were put off by the hurdle of raising the applicant contribution. That scheme favoured established businesses, and put off quite a few budding enterprises. That’s the trouble with you lot. You are all too ready to criticise others, but the whole ENGO workforce exists on donations, hand-outs and grants from the public purse.

  8. David Obendorf

    August 28, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Louise xly [comment #2] raises some questions at the heart of the transition reality in 20012.

    She asks: “Were Britton Brothers [and Tasmanians and Commonwealth officials] conned by FT that its plantation estate would produce satisfactory sawlogs after 2020?”

    I believe the answer is a resounding: Yes, they were Louise. But is that any sirprise?

    I am aware of foresters and saw millers selecting and testing plantation trees for other uses than woodchip for pulp and the results for sawlog, flooring and veneer product is unnder-whelming.

    Maybe Mr Britton actually used some of that $1.5 million of public money to re-tool and trial those FT plantation estate logs – it seems from their submission and photographs that they did and that it did not prove commercially viable for them.

    Re-tooling now for engineered lumber, laminated beam manufacture, MDF, flat-pack furniture etc is still into the future… is it not?.

    What is the only other option, Louise… ‘a pulp mill’ in the Tamar Valley or exporrting woodchips at low prices to paper manuifacturers in Asia?

    As Mr Britton highlights and it’s apparent also in the FT’s report to the Signatories in July 2011, E. nitens are the wrong monoculture plantation tree to produce structural timber industry out of. Forestry Tasmania now want to replant to E. globulus – Blue gum!

  9. john Hayward

    August 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    In the absence of any Tasmanian conflict-of-interest concept, it’s great to see someone who reportedly played such a large role in deciding where forest industry compensation goes, also play a similarly large role in receiving it.

    John Hayward

  10. lmxly

    August 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Britton Brothers received a total of $1,567,308 under the TCFA. in 2004-06, from the Tasmanian Forest Industry Development Program.
    The TCFA document “A way Forward for Tasmania’s Forests” states
    ‘This program will help hardwood mills to adjust to the different types of logs they will need to process as a result of the move away from old-growth clear-felling towards regrowth and plantation timber.
    Assistance will be provided for projects that:
    • Improve sawlog recovery rates and add value to forest resources (particularly regrowth wood and native forest thinnings);
    • Develop new forest products;
    • Result in more efficient timber use;
    • Assist with adjustment to the changing nature of supply;

    What did Britton Bros actually spend over $1.5million of taxpayer funds on, if not the purposes of the TFIDP? Has Britton Bros not ” adjusted to the different types of logs they will need to process as a result of the move away from old-growth clear-felling towards regrowth and plantation timber.”? If not why not? Have they in effect pissed this money up against the wall? Or were they conned by FT that its plantation estate would produce satisfactory sawlogs after 2020 – which is only eight, not twenty five years hence?

    To claim that ‘any discussion of a transition is hypothetical’ a demonstration of Britton’s hypocrisy: incompetence at best, since this discussion has been far from hypothetical for the pst five years, and he has received over $1.5m to find a way to make the transition for his operation.

  11. Karl Stevens

    August 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    David thanks for drawing our attention to the 3rd man in the ABC video of the last IGA announcement. Isn’t it curious the announcement was made by 2 members of FIAT and only one ‘ENGO’? Why is a direct financial beneficiary of the IGA deal one of the party making-up the IGA press conference? How does Dr Pullinger sleep at night knowing what he knows?

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