Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 1926
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/01/1926
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A difficulty common to all States is that the commercial forest area falls within the arable belt, and there is a tendency on the part of those responsible for land settlement to regard all land as potentially agricultural, and to resist attempts made to reserve purely forest land. At the root of the trouble is the inability to realize that forestry is agriculture on a long rotation, and that much land wholly unfit for agriculture is suitable for forestry. Moreover, the wait for returns is so long that it fails to interest the average man and his Parliamentary representative. On the other hand, the enormous area of the Continent seems empty with its 6,000,000 people only, and the cry "We want men, not trees" appeals to the average elector. The destruction over large areas of forest growth to make room for settlement has driven the saw-miller into less commercially accessible forest, so that he now has difficulty in competing against the imported Douglas Fir (Oregon) from U.S.A. or deals from the Baltic. Much of the so-called agricultural area will possibly in years to come revert to the Crown through non-payment of taxes or through repurchase. In the meantime, the forester's work lies in the more remote areas, and on the higher mountains, where, on the one hand, there is less opposition to permanent reservation, and, on the other, the forest conditions are much more difficult, particularly as regards fire control. Even so, the agriculturally sterile Darling Range in Western Australia, which carries magnificent jarrah, still remains unreserved, and the Forestry Department is carrying out sylvicultural work in forests which are not permanently reserved, and are, therefore, subject to alienation.
5. Forest Production. - (i) General. While Forestry Departments have been in existence in New South Wales and in Victoria for over a generation, there are, however, no reliable data regarding the yield per acre of the indigenous forests. The increment of the forests is unknown, and forest management is in its infancy. The interests of the saw-miller have been paramount, and the selection system has been governed by his requirements. In the less wealthy States, where forestry practice has been introduced at a later date, the tenets of sound forestry have been better realized, and the necessity appreciated for a thorough training in the profession. Thus, Western Australia, in the south-west, and Queensland in the north-east, are now leading the way in working plans, and very soon satisfactory yield-tables may be expected for their indigenous forests. South Australia, which never boasted large areas of indigenous forests, has laid down what in comparison with the small efforts of the wealthier States is a large area of plantations. Yields per acre are known, and the way is now clear for an extension of coniferous planting, based on the experience of 46 years' continuous work. The value of forest production for the year 1924-1925 was estimated at £10,577,000. This figure represented the value of all timber sold in the round or converted, including an estimate of the value of the firewood used.
(ii) Common Forest Species. When the vast number of species of the genus Eucalyptus is counted, and to these is added the wealth of tropical and sub-tropical rain-forest species of Queensland and New South Wales, together with the few conifers, the number of common species is too great to allow of separate enumeration within the limits of the present article. All that can be done here is to select the best known from a trade standpoint, at the same time making the proviso that practically no intensive technological work has been carried out, and that many species now considered valueless may in the future find a good market.
In a young country, the value of a timber is generally estimated according to its durability in the ground. Fence posts, house props, and sleepers are wanted, and they must last. Hence, a fine all-round timber like jarrah (E. marginata) is relegated to the sleeper-market, and, in consequence, the waste at the saw-mills rises to 70 per cent. while the mill manager cuts his tally of sleepers to fill an overseas order. In another State, blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) is used for fence posts, and red cedar (Cedrela Toona) elsewhere is used for outbuildings. A splendid constructional timber like karri (E. diversicolor) is condemned as useless because it will not stand in the ground for many years as a sleeper or a house prop, and 6d. a cube is spent to make it durable by a process called ''powellizing.''
The following is a list of the Australian timbers best known on the local markets:-
(a) SCLEROPHYLLOUS FOREST OF THE SOUTH, WEST, AND EAST-MAIN GENUS
(b) TROPICAL AND SUB-TROPICAL RAIN-FORESTS.-BROAD-LEAVED TREES.
(c) CONIFERS OF THE EAST AND NORTH-EAST.
(d) INTRODUCED SPECIES IN PLANTATION.
Excluding ornamental trees, the introduction of trees for forestry purposes is confined to conifers. South Australia took the first steps in this direction. The following species have been tried there and in other States:-
Specimens of other pines and of spruce and firs may be seen in botanic gardens and in a few arboreta.
(iii) Area of Softwood Plantations. The area of the softwood plantations in Australia is of particular interest, in view of the large imports of these timbers. Queensland has now begun to import softwoods owing to the insufficiency of the local coniferous supply.
AREA OF SOFTWOOD PLANTATIONS. - AUSTRALIA, 1924 1925.
This comparatively small area evidences the lack of foresight in previous years. The imports of softwoods to Australia in 1924-25 amounted to approximately 30,000,000 cubic feet, valued at £3,400,000, and show the urgent need for developing a home supply.
(iv) Sawn and Hewn Timber. While some of the States keep records of the volume of timber in the round that is converted, others furnish data as to sawn and hewn timber only. Thus in 1924-1925 the volume of sawn and hewn timber produced in each State was as follows:-
(v) Mining Timber, Telegraph Poles, etc. Figures in regard to production are not complete for all States, but there is a heavy drain on the forests for this class of timber and frequently trees which if left to mature would provide quantities of valuable milling timber are sacrificed to make mine props, telegraph poles, or piles for harbour works. Marking of timber for felling is gradually being introduced, and this practice will result finally in the thinnings only being used for the purposes mentioned.
(vi) Firewood. The figures in regard to production of wood fuel are unsatisfactory. Except in the larger cities, wood is the common domestic fuel throughout Australia, but, while some important industries, such as the gold-mining industry in Kalgoorlie furnish accurate data, in other areas the production figures are purely estimates.
In 1923-1924, New South Wales used 18,054,500 cubic feet of wood fuel, or approximately 8 cubic feet per head of population, which, allowing for the coal used, appears small. Victoria used 20,140,000 cubic feet in 1920, or about 13 cubic feet per capita. Figures are not available for South Australia, Tasmania. and Queensland. Western Australia gives an accurate return of the wood fuel used on the principal mining fields to raise steam, etc. This amounted in 1920 to 708,146 tons and in 1925 to 555,573 tons, or approximately 18,315,000 cubic feet. No estimate is, however, made in regard to the domestic consumption of wood fuel, while the figures quoted respecting mine consumption are incomplete owing to the absence of information from some areas.
(vii) Sandalwood. Australia exports annually a considerable quantity of sandalwood, principally to China, where it is mostly converted into joss sticks, although larger pieces are used to make various ornaments. Western Australia supplies the bulk of the exports. Thus in 1924-25, out of a total of 6,664 tons valued at £205,477, 6,243 tons were exported from Western Australia, and the remaining 421 tons were exported from Queensland. In Western Australia there are sandalwood oil distilleries, in which during 1923-24, 463 tons of wood were utilized, while £39,873 worth of oil was exported.
(iii) Tan Barks. The situation in Australia in regard to tan barks is peculiar, inasmuch as supplies of wattle bark are now drawn from South Africa. The wattle established there is Acacia decurrens var. mollisima, and is indigenous to Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania. Seeds of this tree were tried some years ago in South Africa, and thrived so well that plantations were made in Natal, with the result that Australia now annually imports some 3,000 tons from this source. The estimated production of tan barks in Australia is 28,000 tons.
Figures showing imports, exports, and excess of imports of tan bark during each of the last three years are given hereunder:-
TAN BARK - TRADE IN, AUSTRALIA, 1922 TO 1925
As the figures show, there is an export of bark in each year as well as an import. In pre-war days and during the past two years the export consists largely of mallet bark from Western Australia. This bark is not so "kind" as wattle bark, and is therefore not used extensively in Australian tanneries, but is exported to Europe and other countries, where it is used for producing a tannin extract.
The statistics of imports do not give tannin extracts separately, so that it is impossible to apportion the value which should be added to that of the bark imports to arrive at the total local requirements. It is not known, moreover, to what extent mallet bark enters into the manufacture of the extracts imported.
A survey of the tannin-producing materials of Australia is being conducted by the Institute of Science and Industry, and, already, several barks have been found valuable, among them - ridge gum (E. alba), which is indigenous in Northern Australia and Papua, promises to become a commercial product.
(ix) Eucalyptus Oil. The distillation of eucalyptus oil is mainly carried on in Victoria and Tasmania. The oversea exports thereof during the last three years were valued as follows:-
EUCALYPTUS OIL EXPORTS - AUSTRALIA, 1922 TO 1925.
It may be noted also that large quantities of the crude oil are used locally in flotation processes on the mines.
(x) Gums, Kinos, and Resins. A variety of gums, kinos, and resins is obtainable in Australian forests, but with the exception of grass-tree gum, which is exported from South Australia and other States, there is very little trade in these minor products. The gum of several species of wattle is used as a substitute for gum arabic. The kino that exudes from Marri (E. callophylla) found in Western Australia, carries a heavy percentage of tannin, but, owing to the difficulty of decolourizing it, it is not used commercially to any great extent.
3. Oversea Trade in Forestry Products.
An examination of the oversea trade returns shows that Australian imports of dressed timber come chiefly from Norway and Sweden. The main supplies of undressed timber are of American origin, the United States contributing more than 18 million cubic feet in 1924-25 and Canada 2 million cubic feet. New Zealand contributed 3 ¾ million cubic feet, while Japan and Sweden are together responsible for a million feet. Then come Norway, Java, Malaya, India, and lastly, the United Kingdom, which sent 2,500 cubic feet, probably re-exports of cabinet woods. This large importation of timber, amounting to 26 ¹/3 million cubic feet, valued at £3,000,000, consists mainly of soft woods. A certain quantity of cabinet woods reaches Australia, and Japan sends oak as well as pine; but 97 per cent. of the importation is derived from coniferous timber. New Zealand sends white pine for butter boxes, etc., and kauri. Canada and America send Douglas fir, redwood, yellow pine, etc., and red and white deals reach Australia from Norway and Sweden.
Australian exports of undressed timber amounted in 1924-25 to 11,000,000 cubic feet, mainly exported from Western Australia, the other States participating to the extent of 3 ½ million cubic feet only. Without Western Australia's timber, the balance of imports would be extremely heavy. As it is, it amounted to over £3,000,000 in 1924-25. The Western Australian exports consist mainly of sleepers and railway scantling. Jarrah (E. marginata) is the principal timber exported, although karri (E. diversicolor) figures largely in the returns. The last-mentioned timber requires treating to render it durable, and is subjected to the process known as "powellizing." In three items only - architraves, palings, and laths - is there a balance of exports over imports, but the value is only £8,970.
Australian imports of paper and stationery in 1924-25 amounted to £6,845,778. The investigations by the Institute of Science and Industry into the pulping qualities of Australian hardwoods have shown that paper can be made therefrom on a commercial scale, and it is anticipated that private enterprise will embark on this industry. Not only would the paper-pulping industry help to adjust the balance of trade, but it would prove of great assistance to the forester, who at present finds it very difficult to dispose of thinnings.
4. Activities of Forestry Departments.
1. General. - Apart from the collection of revenue from rents, royalties, etc., sylvicultural operations having for their object the improvement of existing stands of timber and the regeneration of cut-over areas have been undertaken in all States. At first, through lack of knowledge of forestry, these operations were carried out on expensive and unsatisfactory lines, and tended to retard rather than to hasten forest growth. A large amount of money was spent on the cleaning up of the forest floor, the field officers' trying, as it were, to convert the forests into park lands. This destruction of shade supplying soil-cover had a very harmful effect on the forests. Moreover, large sums were spent in Victoria and in New South Wales on thinning the forests in such a manner as to get a minimum of good timber in a maximum of time. The stems, rather than the crowns were taken as the guide to the operation, and useful trees were removed at a high cost per acre, while no attempt was made to help the others in their fight for existence. These cleaned-up forests looked well, and photographs before and after thinning and floor cleaning impressed the uninitiated. With the advent of technically-trained foresters, sounder methods were instituted, and the field officers began to learn what scientific forestry means. The need of qualified men is, however, still pressing; progress is slow, and in places the old methods of so-called sylviculture are still in operation.
2. Officers Employed. - Some idea of the difficulties in effective administration confronting the Forestry Departments may be gathered from the following statement , in regard to the number of fully qualified forestry officers in each State, and in the Commonwealth Forestry Department : - New South Wales, nil; Victoria, 2; Queensland, 1; South Australia, 3; Western Australia, 8; Tasmania, nil; Commonwealth, 3; total, 17.
The establishment of efficient working plans is gradually taking shape, and systematic marking of trees for the mill or the hewer has been initiated. It is now recognized that it should not be left to the timber exploiter to decide what timber is to be cut, and what is to be reserved for future generations. Group selection methods of regeneration and sound forestry practice have been introduced in Western Australia, which State, as mentioned above, has the advantage of the largest number of technically-trained officers in the field.
The total number of employees in the various State Forestry Departments is as follows: - New South Wales, 442; Victoria, 166; Queensland, 262; South Australia, 164; Western Australia, 253; and Tasmania. 10.
3. Inquiries by Tariff Board. - During the course of the Tariff Board's inquiry into the subject of reforestation, officials of the States Forest Departments advocated the granting by the Federal Government of a subsidy to the States in the form of annual payments. In addition, an application was made on behalf of a proposed South Australian company, which, it was stated, intended to carry out afforestation on an extensive scale, for concessions in regard to Federal Land Tax on all areas planted, and a bounty on an acreage basis.
The destruction of indigenous forests, coupled with the failure to take adequate measures for reforestation, have at various times aroused emphatic protests. During the Board's investigations in connexion with timber duties, this subject was regarded as of national importance, and the opinion was expressed that both the Federal and State Governments should take steps to prevent the possible extinction of a great source of national wealth. Moreover, when the Inter-State Commission was dealing with the timber industry, in 1914-15, the subject of reforestation was brought forward, and was referred to as demanding immediate attention.
The Tariff Board advocated a conference between the Federal and State Governments, with a view to arriving at a common policy of afforestation either by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, or by the assumption by the Commonwealth - with the concurrence of the States - of responsibility for the protection and rehabilitation of the timber resources of Australia.
4. Forestry Education. - The urgent need for trained foresters has already been stressed. At each Inter-State Forestry Conference since 1917 the desirability was urged of establishing one first-rate school for the whole Commonwealth. All the State Departments were in agreement on the matter, but Governments did not take the necessary steps and, although a site was chosen and the contribution from each State was fixed, the National School was not founded. The Commonwealth Government, therefore, has assumed the responsibility of establishing the institution and paying the teaching staff, while the States have agreed to nominate a certain number of students annually. Applicants for entry to the Australian Forestry School must have completed a two years' science course at one of the universities. It is anticipated that the institution will supply the States with foresters qualified to undertake all necessary forestry work, and that it will constitute a nucleus of forest knowledge designed to develop on sound lines the sylviculture of Australia. The School is housed for the first year at the Adelaide University, but in March, 1927, it will be transferred to Canberra, the Federal capital city. The first students enrolled numbered eighteen. New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia all possess forestry schools which have served a useful purpose in supplying training to the field staffs. The standard, however, was not sufficiently high to turn out fully-qualified forestry officers, while it was perhaps a little too high for the ordinary officer. With the establishment of the Australian Forestry School, the usefulness of these schools will be increased, and their functions and standards can be more definitely fixed.
5. Forestry Legislation. - The laws governing the exploitation of Australian timber resources have been determined by the needs of the community. Originally the matter resolved itself into the securing of a revenue to the States from persons authorized to remove timber from Crown lands. A licence system was inaugurated under which persons engaged in the business paid fees and obtained permits covering a certain period. As time went on, and the demand for timber increased, saw-mills were established in greater number, and permits were issued covering long periods. In some cases, concessions were granted over very terms. The apparent object of the legislation was to assist the saw-miller to exploit as much as possible as quickly as possible. This state of affairs persisted until the vested interests created began to diminish in power and influence, and readily exploitable timber became so scarce as to make saw-milling on a large scale a hazardous undertaking. The small saw-miller then came to the fore again, and competition enabled the State to derive greater revenue from fees and charges. The rapid exhaustion of the timber supplies, and the outcry raised against land settlement in forest country, finally caused the legislatures to pass long overdue Forestry Acts, with the object of conserving and regenerating their forest resources. It is to be feared, however, that in consequence of the lack of expert advice, much of the legislation failed to achieve its purpose.
The Acts provided for various methods of control and administration, but it is to Western Australia that the credit is due of introducing the important principle of the inviolability of a forestry working plan. A scientific working plan connotes a detailed scheme under which the forest area is to be worked for a period of years, and, to be effective, its continuity must be safeguarded by legislation. This safeguard was provided in the Western Australian Act, and has since been introduced in the Forestry Acts of Victoria and Tasmania. Next in importance is the provision of funds to enable the forest work to be carried on continuously. There is a natural aversion from the making of a present sacrifice for the benefit of future generations, and it is therefore necessary to provide the requisite funds by special legislation. Thus, in New South Wales and Tasmania there is provision for placing half the timber revenue in a special fund to be expended on forestry purposes only. Victoria also provides for a special forestry fund. Western Australia provides that three-fifths of the net timber revenue is to be expended on forestry. Queensland and South Australia, however, rely on annual appropriations in the estimates. In some States the policy has been initiated of bringing about the permanent dedication of land to forest purposes by giving the Government power under a Forestry Act to dedicate a prescribed area within a certain period. This has in some instances had the unfortunate result that useless land from a forestry standpoint has been hurriedly dedicated to conform with the provisions of the Act.
Provision is also made to protect dedicated forest land, thereby making its alienation difficult. As a rule, an amending Act or a motion by both Houses of Parliament is required to revoke the dedication of a forest reserve.
Regulations under the Queensland Act provide for the sale of forest produce by auction or tender. A similar proviso was introduced into the Western Australian regulations, and later on was adopted by New South Wales. A fair price is thereby ensured to the State for its timber and other forest products. The licence system is admissible only in the case of scattered products, such as tan barks or gums, where the expense of supervision of exploitation would be prohibitive. Wherever close supervision is possible, it is more advantageous to sell the forest products at the best price obtainable, and this is most satisfactorily ascertainable by the tender or the auction system.
6. Fire Control. - Fire control constitutes a very serious problem, and clauses have been inserted from to time in proposed Forestry Bills to prohibit the setting fire to forests and to provide for assistance to extinguish fires when discovered. Parliaments invariably have refused assent to such clauses. In Western Australia, however, good results have been arrived at by introducing stringent measures of protection under the Bush Fires Act. In declared areas in this State fires cannot be lit unless a permit has been obtained. Effective fire control, however, depends on skilled attention to the forest rather than on legislation. Where the forests are scientifically managed, with foresters resident therein, and skilled employees engaged in sylvicultural work, the danger of fire is reduced to one of simple control. The dissipation of departmental resources over a wide area, instead of being concentrated on the forests that are being scientifically worked, is largely responsible for the damage to forests by fire. Western Australia, owing to well-organized forest control, lost a negligible area of forest in l926, but the loss sustained by both New South Wales and by Victoria was serious, and included large areas of coniferous plantations as well as hardwood forests which had been sylviculturally treated at great expense.
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This page last updated 22 November 2012