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


Far more beautiful left standing

THERE comes a time when one has to stop looking at one’s own desires and consider what is best for the larger community.

At the outset, let me declare that as a Tasmanian sculptor and designer/maker of furniture I have used our rainforest species of timber.

From today forward, all timber workers, myself included, have to re-examine their use of speciality timbers.

That said, what I will never do is use any timber cut within the boundaries of a World Heritage Area. Nor should anyone. Let me explain.

For years, I and other furniture makers fought the good fight to preserve speciality timbers from being wantonly destroyed by Forestry Tasmania’s belief that clearfelling rainforest for pulp plantations was “world’s best” practice.

During this time I salvaged good millable myrtle from areas that were soon torched. The waste of speciality timbers is beyond fathoming.

Should there ever be a Crimes against Speciality Timbers Royal Commission set up, the former heads of Forestry Tasmania should be in the dock as it is they — and not conservationists — who systematically ruined any future chance of there being a thriving, sustainable speciality timber industry in Tasmania.

Those days of relatively easy access to rainforest timbers are long gone.

We didn’t manage our forests properly in the past, and to now scramble to find new sources of speciality timbers within the World Heritage Area is to tarnish Tasmania’s clean and green branding — a branding so vital to maintaining a thriving tourism and arts industry.

There is, however, huge potential that Tasmania can be world class in its designer/maker abilities.

For this to happen, we — in the first instance — have to ge

t beyond thinking that only rainforest, oldgrowth speciality timbers are necessary for a successful design/manufacturing industry.

Instead, let’s move to using the many varieties of eucalypts and other species readily available. If Sweden and IKEA can do it with their softwood “pine” timber, so can we with our hardwood eucalypt.

I am of this opinion as, having taught and lectured on design all over the world, I can give a fairly accurate description of the more important aspects of the design process.

In particular, how would one answer this question — when and where are bird’s eye huon or tiger myrtle or black-heart sassafras important in the success of a furniture piece?

Well, to be truthful, rarely.

The reason for this is that form and function are the two main priorities of good design.

Surface decoration or type of wood used is superfluous.

Generally, it is the less capable designer/maker who depends on fancy woods to sell her or his work.

If Tasmania is to develop a global image of craftsmanship, let’s begin by not depending on the unimaginative and hugely expensive government policies that still revolve around current forestry practices. We need to move into a future where there is no hint whatsoever of a connection between our Tasmanian designer/makers and the island’s World Heritage Area.

Peter Adams … beautiful creation: An artist’s sermon on that word …

How this future is realised brings me to the second aspect of how our unique Tasmanian brand of furniture can create a vibrant niche market for itself.

We have to get beyond thinking that only rainforest, oldgrowth speciality timbers are necessary for a successful design/manufacturing industry.

In other words, who should be behind the marketing of our fledgling eucalypt-based furniture industry?

To this end, Tourism Tasmania, not Forestry Tasmania, should get behind designer/makers who presently, or will, use eucalyptus in their work and showcase them to the world.

In national and global advertising campaigns we can creatively change the focus from myrtle and other rainforest species of speciality timber to the more-than-beautiful dry sclerophyll trees, such as silver peppermint, black peppermint, blue gum and white gum.

And why not add silver wattle and plantation blackwood to the list while we are at it?

The branding of Tasmanian furniture needs to carry a logo, a signature stamped on the wood, showing that it is sourced outside the World Heritage Area.

Before the battlelines get drawn up yet again over the use of our forests, Tourism Tasmania can step in today and resolve this issue.

The bald truth is Forestry Tasmania as a brand of creative, imaginative thinking has been irreparably damaged.

By trashing our forests, it has trashed its reputation. It will take years to fix.

In the meantime, Tourism Tasmania is the appropriate venue to market the arts and our state’s wonderful natural advantage to the world.

Let us use our more than capable imaginative wits as designers and government policymakers to show the world that the trees in the World Heritage Area can remain long-lived, while our stunning designs and fabrications from non-WHA forests are being sought by every discerning tourist visiting this state.

What should guide this discussion is the notion that there is no piece of furniture or sculpture anywhere near as beautiful as the living, standing, oldgrowth tree.

Peter Adams has taught design at the University of Tasmania for seven years. He has also taught at Schumacher College in England, Haystack School in America, and was the resident designer/maker of furniture at Penland School of Crafts in America for five years. He holds a history degree from Harvard and a masters degree from Antioch College. His furniture is in six museums internationally, including our own Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the Launceston Design Centre. He resides at “Windgrove — a refuge for learning” on the Tasman Peninsula.

First published as Talking Point in the Saturday Mercury

• John Hayward in Comments: I suspect the main value of special timbers to FT is that they are now more sparse or remote and will require broad and conspicuous access tracks through WHA forests. The FT tag. FT will continue to lose money for the benefit of Ta Ann, but will have the gratification of sticking it up everyone who loves forests or hates corruption.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Russell

    August 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Re #16
    Just how many wooden boats are made each year in Tasmania from “specialty timbers” not ply?

    Just how many trees would this be equivalent to?

    Where’s this “wooden boat community”?

    Not many I would suggest.

  2. Chris Harries

    August 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    (16#) Ashamed for engaging in a reasoned debate?

    I think that’s taking your argument a bit far, Robin. Accepting that the forestry debate is very polarised, we should hear the genuine opinions of all stakeholders and onlookers.

  3. Robin Charles Halton

    August 17, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Peter Adams I would suggest that you and your “crafty” cohorts are misguided dreamers, and do not represent the wider range of wood artisans such as the wooden boat builders.

    You should know as well as I do you have miserably failed to support the increased interest in wooden boat heritage which requires reasonable access for supplies of Huon Pine and Celery top pine especially for planking timbers which needs to be quality timber regular grained and free of defects such as knots and bark inclusions and rot.

    Access of future supplies is now very limited due to your support for sanctioning forest raider Ta Ann through the Tasmanian Forest Agreement which is no more than a manipulated piece of forest legislation to suit limited sections of the forest industry and the Green cause which continues to progressively bad mouth native forest timber harvesting.

    As I have doubts about the Forests Ministers Working Group ability to harvest Special species per permission of the Unesco inspectors due in September then I see no other option other than the revocation of prime pockets of WHA containing Special Timbers back as State Forest where harvest would be possible by having a professional organisation such as FT administering the harvest, silviculture and ongoing land management.

    Peter Adams you should be ashamed of yourself for printing this article which obviously excludes the Tasmanian Wooden Boat community as your objectives are selfish and unreasonable.

  4. William Boeder

    August 15, 2015 at 3:00 am

    A recent after midnight return from Burnie to Rosebery I encountered a number of log-trucks Burnie bound from down the Rosebery end of the Murchison highway.
    Tho log-type being transported are Native Forest variable size logs, so one wonders why this log transportation continues on under the cloak of darkness, especially the wee small hours.
    I do not believe it is vital to the truck-owners that would have them bound to their trade to work around the clock 24/7, if so then Ta Ann is dangerously and defiantly influencing the lives of more people than one can fully realize.
    My researches into the likes of Ta Ann and other named huge logging concerns, proves their principal owners are wholly impervious to the lives and lifestyles of persons that suffer the greatest, even those persons just dwelling in forested regions no matter how remote as they have done for centuries.

    The corrupt South Asian clear-fell logging giants sleaze their approvals, (or do not even bother to gain any forms of approval) to begin their clear-fell of massive regions of human habitable forests in order feed their detestable greed-appetites, especially those that reside due North of Australia.

    That this small State of Tasmania has living in our society, such like-minded greed-induced detestable’s even filling seats in this State government, is a crime in itself.
    Yes that is correct, those political greed-induced that are the under-pinning individual persons that allow Ta Ann to remain in Tasmania despite their cost to our economic GDP.
    Their is no need for them being repetitiously named in this on-line forum, their repugnance is already known to us all.

  5. Robin Charles Halton

    August 14, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    The ENGO’s, Timber Communities Australia, Forest Contractors Assn and FIAT collusion to bring about the Tas Forest Agreement which strongly favors Ta Ann is probably the main reason why Special Timbers operators now face an up hill battle to source Celery Top Pine and Sassie.

    The transfer of State Forest to Reserves was an arrangement where we had the ENGO’s effectively trade off consolidated stands of eucalypt and remaining scattered stands of Special Species which supposedly gives the eucalypt sawmillers surety but in effect gave the best deal to Ta Ann to process younger regrowth forest (future sawlogs) for peelers.

    It will interesting to see how the sustainable harvest figures stack up by 2026/27 when sawmillers and Ta Ann contracts with FT are due for review/ renewal based on a reduced State Forest estate.
    The cost of harvest of Special Species will be so prohibitive under the latest plan by the Ministers working group.

    It is also unlikely that UNESCO inspectors due to visit the new WHA areas in September will approve of partial “tread lightly” harvest of Special Species remaining.

    That should have been thought out before handing over for a Ta Ann driven harvest regime for our remaining State Forest estate.

  6. Anon

    August 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I want to agree with this article. Design doesn’t need excessively figured decorative timbers. I have been looking for timber furniture in Tasmania online and for the most part to be blunt it has been pedestrian design larded up with priceless timber. This article is spot on.

  7. Russell

    August 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Far more VALUABLE left standing.

  8. Gordon Bradbury

    August 11, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I find it astonishing that this WHA logging nonsense is all for a few hundred cubic metres of taxpayer-funded myrtle, sassafras and celery pine, when the major special timber blackwood is completely ignored. Blackwood is the species that has all the opportunity to grow, expand and be profitable, but while FT continue to overcut the public blackwood resource its future is very insecure.

    Do our politicians have any interest in this? Apparently not! It’s policy driven by conflict, ideology and wedging the electorate. Logic and reason seem to be completely absent.

  9. Pete Godfrey

    August 11, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks Stu #9, i did some research on the net, there is a website devoted to the recovery of Huon Pine. It did seem to say that the timber was all salvaged. I also looked at Island Specialty Timbers site and found similar statemtents.
    It would be very good as far as information and en users were concerned if the fact that all Huon Pine used in the state was from salvage operations and that no live trees are cut down to supply the market.
    It is a bit confusing looking at a three year plan where they say that they are going to “selectively log” Huon Pine. Maybe FT could consider a new addition to the Three Year Plan and add in “Salvage” operationns.
    That would be good for public image and marketing.

  10. Stu

    August 11, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Pete, the huon from teepoo is wood lying on the forest floor left by the piners from the 1930s I believe – they felled the trees and only took the best sawlog out and left the rest. The only trees cut down are those where tracks are cut. They also salvage huon from the Gordon River in accordance with management plan endorsed by Parks and World Heritage regulations.

  11. Pete Godfrey

    August 11, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Steve and Peter, you may well be able to replace you old Huon Pine rolling pins soon. In the current three year plan FT have 4 coupes on the Teekopana plateau down for “Selective Harvesting” of Huon Pine. The coupes cover an area of 303 ha.

    I did not know that any Huon pine was being cut any more. Oh well you learn something new every day.

  12. peter adams

    August 10, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Steve #5. I, too, have a huon pine rolling pin purchased in 1992 from maker Peter Meure. Whenever used, I recall certain names, places, etc. Yes, today, we have to be much more selective about where our timber comes from. And this is why I can get so angry at Forestry Tasmania and the governments of the day who allowed the destruction of so much valuable speciality timbers, thereby, denying the average person access to them in the future.

    And our governments continue to do so with the likes of Ta Ann and the Taib Mafia barons in Sarawak.

  13. Pete Godfrey

    August 10, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I just had a look at the current three year plan for the selective logging coupes. Most of those that are in the plan for the next three years are over near Rosebery. Actually in an area to the North West of the town.
    The problem with selective logging is that to fit the definition of selective logging only 15 trees of good form and crown are left per ha.
    The plans do say that the contractors are only to fall good sawlog trees and that they are to check any doubtful trees by boring into them vertically with a chainsaw to check suitability.
    So what it means is that they are high grading the forest, taking only the best and hoping that in some far distant future more sawlogs will grow from seed thrown from those that they have left.
    I hope that we have enough Special Species Forest to make this a sustainable practice in perpetuity.

  14. Steve

    August 10, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Thanks Peter for a truly beautiful article.
    I have a Huon Pine rolling pin I bought in 1995. I treasure it, but in all honesty, does a rolling pin need to be made of Huon Pine?
    It’s important to me because of when and where it was bought. It’s rolled a lot of pastry since then, but it would have worked as well had it been made from reasonably old Radiata Pine

  15. john hayward

    August 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    I suspect the main value of special timbers to FT is that they are now more sparse or remote and will require broad and conspicuous access tracks through WHA forests. The FT tag.

    FT will continue to lose money for the benefit of Ta Ann, but will have the gratification of sticking it up everyone who loves forests or hates corruption.

    John Hayward

  16. Chris Harries

    August 9, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    More beautiful left standing. Well said Peter.

    More beneficial left standing too, it seems. Not many forest campaigners noticed the state-by-state national greenhouse emissions statistics that were released a couple of months ago. These are supposedly calculated on the best science available and the verdict is that in the past few years all of Tasmania’s carbon emissions stemming from petroleum imports have been made up by carbon sinking in the land use sector.

    The recent downturn in the forestry sector seems to have netted Tasmania such a huge carbon benefit that Tasmania has been surprisingly rated not too far above carbon neutral. I’ve queried the methodology behind this, but it is what the science says is true and who are we to question the science?

    Not surprisingly the state government didn’t do media when these figures came out. I think this is because one obvious take home message would be that our forests are more valuable to the nation left standing then they were being woodchipped.

    There is a small problem for the economy in that Tasmania receives no financial reward for storing carbon in this way, it just makes our climate figures look really good. For that we can pat ourselves on the back – and thank the decline in bulk woodchipping – but there’s no incentive to go down this track. It’s just happenstance.

    In terms of national policy, generating renewable energy is incentivised via the nRET scheme whereas reducing emissions from land clearing and so forth is mainly reliant on regulation.

    [The latest emissions data is for the year 2013 and can be downloaded from the national link: http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-measurement/publications/national-inventory-report-2013%5D

  17. Pete Godfrey

    August 9, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Very well said Peter. I have been saying the same thing for ages too. Some of our Eucalypts have beautiful figuring, there is so much silver wattle wasted and as far as boat timbers go, well Blue Gum is fantastic wood. I spent many a day out at sea in a beautiful 30 foot blue gum boat that my father owned.

    Like you say it is the work of the craftsman not the wood that makes a piece of art.

    Some in the industry seem fixated on timbers that were once plentiful, but have now been all but exhausted. I have seen many many immature celery top pines while bushwalking all over the island but cannot actually recall ever seeing stands that were large enough to be of sawlog size. They must be left standing.

    If people want to enjoy our specialty timbers then they have plenty of opportunities to go walking and spend time in amongst the forests.

    Those that are left standing that is.

    Timber workers need to learn to use what is available on a sustainable basis, some of the traditional timbers such as Huon, King Billy and Celery top have been mined out.

  18. Estelle Ross

    August 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Wish there were more “Peter Adams” around what a different place Tasmania would be.

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