I design and make furniture and timber products. I sell them through the craft shops and galleries, such as here in Salamanca Place, and at tourism destinations around the state, as well as private commissions and participating in exhibitions.
I work with our Special Timbers: Huon Pine, Celery-top Pine, Blackwood, Black-heart Sassafras, Myrtle, Tiger Myrtle, King Billy, Musk, Native Olive, Horizontal Scrub, and numerous others.
Most of these only grow in Tasmania, and in small quantities in some of the most difficult country you could imagine.
A recent study showed there are two thousand full-time jobs in Tasmania with people working directly with Special Timbers, and they generate sales of product of more than $70 million annually.
These 2000 Tasmanians in the Special Timbers manufacturing and retail sector are not normally counted as part of the timber industry, but we are entirely dependent upon it.
Nothing can be substituted for our Special Timbers that would give us the same turnover or appeal in the marketplace.
Who would compensate us for taking away the timbers we love and depend upon?
I want to tell you how much people like me rely on the rest of the timber industry, and the whole of the timber industry.
The volume of Special Timbers harvested annually is not huge. It is around 12,000 cubic meters.
Although the royalty is higher, this 12,000 cubic meters does not raise a lot of revenue. 12,000 cubic meters can not pay for the access roads into the harvesting areas, and the management of that harvesting, and nor for the specialists and scientists at Forestry Tasmania.
Special Timbers alone in such small quantities is not enough for contractors to afford to bring harvesting equipment into the specific areas for short periods of time, and it costs money every time they move their gear.
If the cost of harvesting was just carried by just Special Timbers, none of us could afford to buy the timbers we want and need.
We need to have a viable hardwood industry in close proximity to our Special Timbers harvesting areas. Without the rest of you, we are not in business!
The idea of a transition out of native forest is neither necessary, nor desirable, in fact the opposite is the case!
It is not just Special Timbers that are valuable. Our premium quality sawn eucalypt is a high value product, and brings a much higher price than any plantation-grown product ever could, and is well supported in the market place right around the country.
Of course there is a role for plantation timber, and this country will need to produce more timber if our population is heading towards 36 million by 2050 as is predicted, but the solution is to have both a well managed, sustainable native forest sector, and a properly managed plantation sector.
Special Timbers, and the products made from them are very important to Tasmania.
Together with our cool climate wines, our boutique beers, our cheeses, leatherwood honey, our seafood and all our other quality food products, they are the cornerstones of the Tasmanian Brand.
They make a huge contribution to the artistic, social, cultural, economic and heritage landscape.
Products in Special Timbers from shops in places like Strahan, Richmond, Cradle Mountain, Port Arthur, Geeveston, and Stanley provide such an addition to the tourism and visitor experience as people travel around this state.
We have the most significant collection of colonial antique furniture in the country, as well as stunning contemporary work in the Design Centre and the Tasmanian Wood Design Collection in Launceston, and in the many exhibitions that are staged around the state, and all are carried along by the beauty and significance of our Special Timbers.
The work that is done here in Tasmania with our Special Timbers is equal to the best from anywhere in the world.
The rest of the world tells us that.
People come here from all around the planet, and they tell us that.
Ask the proprietors of the shops in Salamanca, and the Design Centre.
Pieces from The Wood Design Collection have toured the United States and Europe to rave revues and standing ovations.
Weren’t we all amazed by Wooden Boat Festival recently?
Wasn’t that fantastic?
It was not just about museum pieces, it was about new boats as well, and about keeping skills alive.
Our three most significant boat building timbers – Huon Pine, King Billy and Celery-top Pine are widely acknowledged as among the best boat building timbers on the planet.
Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if these world class timbers were to be locked up, and any new boats would have to be built from imported timber and plywood?
Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if our boat builders and our craftspeople could only watch as our Special Timbers grow old, die, fall over and rot on the forest floor?
Almost 90% of the standing Huon Pine is already in reserves, and more than 90% of the King Billy is already in reserves.
We should be demanding that no more should be put into reserves just for the sake of more reserves.
Is that the message you want to send? I sure do!
I want to acknowledge some people who wanted to be here today: Bern Bradshaw, Ian Bradshaw, and Randall Morrison from the mills in Queenstown and Strahan. They are hosting some boat builders from the Huon and Channel, Andrew Denman and Dean Marks, and some people from Forestry Tasmania who have gone over there to discuss the supply of boatbuilding timber.
Bern especially wanted to postpone it so he could be here at this rally.
Dean Marks is from the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin. He is the boat builder in charge of building the fishing boat for the chef Tetsuya Wakuda, which was launched three weeks ago, and features our Special Timbers. This has had media coverage around the world. Let’s have a round of applause for Dean, and all who were involved…
Musical instrument making is emerging as a new industry in Tasmania. There are about 60 active instrument makers producing everything from violins, drums, guitars – both acoustic and solid body electrics, harps, and wind instruments such as recorders and clarinets. Many are using our Special Timbers.
One violin maker, originally from Spain, is now living in Tasmania, and she is working on a PhD at the University investigating the characteristics of Tasmanian timbers and their suitability for stringed instruments.
Isn’t that fantastic?
A friend of mine, Mark Gilbert, started making guitars last year. Solid body electrics.
Here is one of them, in burl Myrtle, Blackwood and Sassafras.
He has had a major commission from a Canadian blues singer who travels the world, and who spends a lot of time in Sydney. This guy is promoting Mark’s guitars on his website, and Mark himself is just launching a website for his guitars. Look for Mark Gilbert Guitars online.
Great stuff, Mark!
Every woodworker I know wants to see our forests managed carefully and properly.
Every woodworker I know loves our national parks, but every one of them knows you cannot have all reserves and no working forests.
You cannot manage a working forest as if it were a reserve, just as you cannot manage a reserve as if it were a working forest.
We need a viable balance of both!
It is just on three years since the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO sent a Mission to Tasmania to examine Tasmanian forestry practices in its review of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA).
This came about from the urgings of the Huon Valley Environment Centre and The Wilderness Society, and Senator Christine Milne was vocal in her support and commentary on this.
The findings of that mission were a slap in the face to those groups, and an unequivocal endorsement of the forestry practices.
The Umpire found the tall forests within the world heritage area as well as timber production outside the wilderness were well managed and there was no need for more reserves.
Did the Greens accept the umpire’s decision? No!
They tried to undermine it even before the ink was dry!
What are we faced with now? Yet another call, the same call, to extend the WHA boundaries!
Our best Special Timbers are in the very areas that are the most contested by the green groups.
I am worried about our Special Timbers in the discussions that are currently going on. I am worried that our Special Timbers suppliers and users are like the ant that gets trampled when the elephants are stampeding to save themselves. Tell me we can avoid this!
These discussions are reaching their deadlines, and we are all watching with interest.
However, the most fundamental thing is the fact that any proposal that comes out of those talks needs to be considered by both houses of the parliament we are gathered in front of.
Under the Constitution of Australia, the power to decide the use of public land in Tasmania rests with the parliament of Tasmania.
I say to the members of this parliament: Use that power!
Use it to make a strong and lasting statement about the shape and nature of the timber industry in our state forests for long term future, and make it stick.
I like to think that in a thousand years from now woodworkers will be able to relate to our Special Timbers much as our artists and crafts people do now.
A few years ago I stood in an area of forest on the Teepookana Plateau that was being regenerated by Forestry Tasmania. It had been visited for Huon Pine numerous times over the years, and new Huon Pines were starting to come out of the ground. I stood over one with my camera, one foot either side, and took a photograph. It was about this high….
In two thousand years time, that tree could be close to the end of its life, if not already standing dead.
At that time in the future a woodworker might be grateful that we did not put everything in reserves, and through good management that tree will be available for producing valuable work and continuing the heritage we have been able to enjoy.
A tree can have a long life as a living tree, but then it can then have a second life that can be just as long, or even longer as a treasured object.
In doing so, it will continue to store carbon in that treasured object, and a new tree will be growing in its place, and playing its part in taking carbon out of the atmosphere.
Trees are a renewable resource
There is a proposal to spend $200 million redeveloping the museum precinct on the waterfront, to celebrate among other things the work of the artists of the past. It will also house that collection of colonial antiques. So should we be locking up more of our Special Timbers and putting the artists and craftspeople of the present day out of business? And should we be giving the artists of the future no chance at all? No way!
This is the Special Timbers Strategy, developed and adopted by Forestry Tasmania.
A lot of us contributed to its development, and made comments when it was released in draft form.
We expect this strategy to be applied for its design life, and when necessary a suitable replacement will follow, and so on into the long term future.
This strategy provides for 100,000 hectares of public forest to be administered differently for the long-term supply of Special Timbers. It prescribes selective harvesting, no clear-felling, no broad-scale regeneration burning, and rotation periods of 200 years or greater, as well as many other initiatives and management directives.
We support this strategy.
We do not want to give up any of the territory contained within this strategy.
We have already given up more territory containing Special Timbers than we ever should have.
We cannot be contained within too small an area, because our impact will be more noticeable, even with small volumes, as our Special Timbers are slower growing, and we need to manage carefully to ensure a sustainable supply.
Special Timbers are still coming in limited quantities from the forests outside the area covered in this strategy, where they exist in lesser concentrations. They might be only around one or two percent of standing trees, but they are harvested in the course of sawlog production from the working forests.
We don’t want to lose that either!
That is a further reason for wanting proximity to an on-going native forest hardwood industry.
We are not talking about running down to the end of any contracts, we are talking about being able to harvest and enjoy Special Timbers for many generations into the future.
Contact every member of this parliament, and give them a message in your own words why you agree that this is important.
There is a couple of Tasmanian senators in offices in that building over there… Bob and Christine. Do you want to send them a message as well? I sure do!
Finally, there is one message and it is this:
Keep our native forests open!