frequently asked questions
What are Tasmanian Specialty Timbers?

Tasmania’s special timbers comprise the following species:

  • Huon Pine;
  • Celery Top Pine;
  • Sassafras;
  • Myrtle;
  • Blackwood; and
  • Silver Wattle
  • other less commonly used species such as Musk, Horizontal etc

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Where do these timbers grow?

While Huon Pine and Myrtle are concentrated in Western Tasmania, others species are also are dispersed across higher rainfall areas around Tasmania. The distribution map demonstrates this dispersal.

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What is the timber used for?

The use of the special timbers reflects their specific characteristics. While Huon Pine and Celery Top Pine are renowned for boat building, other timbers such as Myrtle, Sassafras and Blackwood are used for joinery, interior fit-out, furniture and musical instruments.

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What ensures Specialty Timbers Forest are sustainably managed?

There is an integrated system of Tasmanian Government policies, legislation, defined land tenures and forest practice codes that provide a regulatory framework around where and how harvesting can occur. The effectiveness of this system is demonstrated by the conservation status of all of Tasmania’s Special Species.

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Is special timber harvesting allowed in reserves?

Since the 1997 Regional Forest Agreement, over 76% of special timber management areas set aside at that time for long-term supply have been placed in the Tasmanian Reserve system.

Tasmania has eight separate public land reserve classes with each class having detailed values and purposes for reservation defined in legislation. Just because a parcel of land is placed in the formal reserve system, does not mean that all activities are banned within the area.  Some reserves, like National Parks, are set aside for conservation as well as ecologically sustainable tourism.  Game reserves are set aside for conservation purposes and also allow of the ecologically sustainable taking of designated game species (i.e. hunting).

Regional Reserves and Conservation Areas are both reserve classes aimed at conserving biological and geological diversity whilst also allowing for the development of mineral resources (i.e. mining) and the controlled use of other natural resources including sustainable harvesting of special timbers.

The ability to sustainably harvest special timbers in select areas of the Tasmanian Reserve system has been available since at least 1970.


How is harvesting controlled?

Harvesting is controlled under the Forest Practices Code. The Code specifically encapsulates management of listed Matters of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

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How do the trees regenerate?

Long term trial sites demonstrate that the special species regenerate after harvesting. Research has identified a mix of partial harvesting techniques best suited to the conditions and species are available and adopted.

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Is it true there is little specialty timber left after years of clear felling and wastage?

In recent decades, Special Timbers have been harvested through integrated Eucalypt harvesting involving intensive silviculture techniques such as clear fell burn and sow or aggregated retention.

Integrated harvesting, whilst efficient, safe and economically attractive, did not harvest special timbers according to sector demand or age profiles.  In fact, special timbers were not known by that name instead; being referred to as “minor species” – a minor by-product of eucalypt harvesting.

From a special timbers sustainability perspective this was certainly not ideal, and although integrated harvesting provided reasonable cost access to these timbers, it led to many oversupply or undersupply scenarios.  The oversupply of special timbers led to wastage of this precious resource as it was not valued as highly as it should have been.  Under-supply led to large price increases and businesses stockpiling in an attempt to future-proof their operations. Many in both the forest industry and the special timbers wood processing sector were frustrated knowing that there was a better way to manage this precious resource.

With special timber management now disengaging from eucalypt harvesting and moving to specifically designed silviculture methods with specialist harvest methods, much higher recovery should occur.

A new special timbers management plan is due to be released later in 2017.  Part of the work to inform this plan has involved an actual assessment of standing volumes of commercial sized trees, by species, and grade in land tenures where special timber harvesting is permitted.  The assessment has utilised best available technology for assessment including LiDAR.  After log recovery and area discounts had been applied, remaining volumes were then used to calculate an annual maximum sustainable harvest volume, by species, in perpetuity.

The study affirmed conservation assessments that none of Tasmania’s special timber species are listed as endangered in any form.  The assessment also confirmed that there are significant quantities of special timbers remaining that can be managed on sustainable, species dependent rotations in perpetuity for generations to come.

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