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Collective marketing of Tasmanian blackwood?

Wink Sutton, New Zealand Tree Grower August 2013.

This year’s Farm Forestry AGM was held in the Lower North region. On one of the field day’s we visited Audrey Hay’s farm. While admiring a maturing stand of Tasmanian blackwood, Acacia melanoxylon, Alan Laurie raised the subject of collective marketing.

The largest resource of blackwood is in south Westland where more than a thousand hectares were established by the Forest Service. Blackwood was planted as a special purpose timber to be a replacement for rimu when supplies became limited. Other than the south Westland resource, farm forests appear to almost have a monopoly on the supply of blackwood. Alan proposed there was a strong case for collective marketing. New Zealand imports a small amount of Tasmanian blackwood and is prepared to pay very high prices for the privilege. Alan Laurie has seen a report suggesting that the best clear grades sawn and dried currently may sell for ‘$5,000 a cubic metre’. There is probably or soon will be enough blackwood in farm forestry woodlots to supply the country with most, and probably all, of its future annual needs.

The problem is how to achieve supply co-ordination. The present system of random selling could be depriving farm forest owners of high prices. But with supply co-ordination there may not be the freedom to sell exactly when the forest owner wishes. If there was a central register of suppliers, sales could be planned to ensure maximum prices were achieved. Buyers would tender, but in return would be guaranteed supply. The grower, as well as the nation, should benefit.

A guarantee of supply for five or 10 years should attract competitive bids from sawmillers and marketers. Forest owners may not be able to market their trees exactly at the time they wish but the prices obtained could be greater than currently expected.

Blackwood appears to be an ideal tree species with which to begin collective marketing. The timber has the obvious market advantage of being in limited supply but appears to be in constant demand. Demand may increase slightly if a constant supply is guaranteed and imports of blackwood timber are very expensive. The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association could explore how collective marketing of blackwood could be achieved.


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