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Far from Ordinary

Forestry in transition

Tasmania has extensive native hardwood forests dominated by about 30 species of eucalypts in forest types ranging from temperate rainforest to dry sclerophyll woodlands. There are also many valuable minor tree species. Forests account for almost 44 per cent of the state’s land area, or around 3 million hectares. Many of these forests are showplaces of biodiversity, natural beauty and tranquility and their management has been Tasmania’s most divisive issue.

 

Environmental, political and economic circumstances led to a “peace deal” after exhaustive talks between industry representatives and conservation groups. It was ratified by Parliament in 2013 as the Tasmanian Forests Agreement (TFA). Industrial-scale harvesting of native forests had been six times more important to the local economy than in Australia overall, but the industry was abruptly halved in size by the TFA. Large tracts of mainly regrowth forest deemed to have retained “high conservation value” through generations of harvesting were moved into reserves.

 

When fully implemented, the TFA will increase the area of conservation reserves from 44.85% of Tasmania’s total land area to around 52.2%. Reserved forests will be managed by a newly established statutory body.

 

Forestry Tasmania, a government corporation, manages State-owned working forests outside the extended reserve system for the supply of eucalypt, blackwood and other minor species timbers to industry.

 

Timber processors such as Britton Timbers, veneer producer Ta Ann Tasmania and local sawmills add value to harvested logs. Several companies produce laminated timber beams and apply them in designing and engineering timber structures, including dome roofs, church roofs, footbridges, marinas, factory kits and house kits. After a severe downturn in Asian woodchip demand, exports resumed following the TFA.

 

Speciality timbers – mainly from the forest under-storey – are sought after by discerning buyers world-wide. Huon Pine grows only in Tasmania and deserves its cult status. The unique mellow tones that age to a luminous gold are used for furniture, carving and boat building. Myrtle from the temperate rainforest ranges in colour from light orange-pink through to a rich, almost-crimson red. Celery-top pine’s colour variations are admired; the lightness and softness of King Billy pine revered by craft workers; the variations of blackwood and the swirling grain of sassafras all offer unique qualities to woodworkers. Contemporary furniture, delicate musical instruments, traditional wooden boats and striking craft objects are the outcome.

Tasmania contains Australia’s largest tracts of cool temperate rainforest, with 82% of the total protected in reserves. There are significant eucalypt and softwood plantations.

 

Forestry Tasmania operates forest-based tourism businesses at the Tahune Airwalk, south of Hobart, and at Hollybank, near Launceston. It leased its Tarkine Forest Adventures development near Smithton to private operators in 2010.

 

Forestry and woodworking are entwined in Tasmania’s history fabric and continue to influence the way many people think about the state of islands.

 

Facts and Figures

 

CRC - Sustainable Production Forestry

 

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