Im­port sys­tem had peo­ple fore­most in the plan­ning

Australasian Timber - - IMPORTED TIMBER -

SOUTH AUS­TRALIAN-based Durable Hard­woods, op­er­ated by Rod Tav­erner and Justin Daws, started about 20 years ago with the spe­cific in­ten­tion of im­port­ing tim­ber sourced from low eco­log­i­cal im­pact vil­lage­based op­er­a­tions in Pa­pua New Guinea. Af­ter work­ing there for many years Rod had de­vel­oped an empathy with the coun­try and its peo­ple at a grass­roots level.

“We have broad­ened our busi­ness plan to source and sup­ply tim­ber from eco­log­i­cally sound sources wher­ever pos­si­ble. Our main stock lines are Kwila and PNG Rose­wood, two of The finest and the most ver­sa­tile tim­bers avail­able. We dry and dress tim­ber on site to clients’ re­quire­ments, whether from our main stock species or other Aus­tralian or im­ported species,” Rod ex­plained.

“Over the years we have de­vel­oped a network of rep­utable sawmills and tim­ber mer­chants so that we can han­dle projects large and small.

“Our site at Lons­dale (south of the Ade­laide CBD) is our third lo­ca­tion since start­ing busi­ness and we now have per­ma­nency and room to move.

“We make a par­tic­u­lar ef­fort to be sure our clients un­der­stand the prop­er­ties of the tim­bers they are con­sid­er­ing for their projects,” said Rod.

He said Ade­laide was an in­ter­est­ing and chal­leng­ing mar­ket. “Other than Pine, Vic­to­rian Ash and Jar­rah, the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of tim­ber (par­tic­u­larly hard­woods), its prop­er­ties and its ap­pli­ca­tions is low, both among the pro­fes­sion­als and the pub­lic.

“Con­se­quently, there are many projects around Ade­laide that have not met the users’ ex­pec­ta­tions – not be­cause tim­ber is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the job, but be­cause in­ap­pro­pri­ate tim­bers have been supplied. Our goal, along­side sup­ply­ing eco­log­i­cally sourced tim­ber, is to make ev­ery ef­fort to be sure our clients get a species that is fit for the pur­pose to which it is be­ing put and that they un­der­stand the prop­er­ties of that species.

“As all tim­ber mer­chants know, sup­ply­ing tim­ber from “eco­log­i­cally branded” sources is more mar­ket­ing than science,” Rod said.

“For in­stance, when we sourced tim­ber from vil­lage-based har­vesters it pro­vided both eco­log­i­cal and so­cial ben­e­fits to the PNG vil­lagers that may not be im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent to Aus­tralians with ac­ces­si­ble health care, ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial se­cu­rity. Vil­lage-based har­vest­ing gives the vil­lagers con­trol over their only ma­jor as­set – their forests. It gives them work, an in­come, and the op­por­tu­nity to pay school fees for their chil­dren, and buy medicines when they are sick – ed­u­ca­tion and health care is not free in PNG and there is no So­cial Se­cu­rity.

“Vil­lage-based har­vest­ing has the low­est im­pact of any tim­ber har­vest­ing. It is species-se­lec­tive, very small scale us­ing por­ta­ble equip­ment and leav­ing all the waste to de­com­pose in the for­est. Re­gen­er­a­tion is rapid.

“We also paid the vil­lagers well for their tim­ber. The roy­alty for log paid by the in­ter­na­tional log­ging com­pa­nies was Kina 50 per cu­bic me­tre. We paid 25 times that for sawn board and that much again once it had been graded for ex­port.”

Rod said Pa­pua New Guineans had lost im­mense ar­eas to “le­gal” log­gers since WW2 with the tim­ber go­ing to Asia, if in fact it wasn’t windrowed and burnt to clear for oil palm plan­ta­tions.

“The roy­alty pay­ments were small and were quickly spent.

"They de­rived no en­dur­ing ben­e­fit and were left with a de­graded en­vi­ron­ment or vast acreages of oil palm, which

many might say is the same thing.

“Now, the vil­lagers are reluc­tant to al­low log­ging, al­though it is forced upon them by the Gov­ern­ment is­su­ing Tim­ber Per­mits to over­seas log­gers.”

Rod said that, gen­er­ally, peo­ple re­spected the ef­forts we have made to di­min­ish the im­pact of tim­ber har­vest­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment by us­ing vil­lage-based har­vesters. “Cer­tainly it is small scale be­cause if it wasn’t it would be no dif­fer­ent to com­mer­cial log­ging. Its ben­e­fits are lo­cal, not na­tional.

“The Il­le­gal Log­ging Act will now end this prac­tice if we want to con­tinue buy­ing from PNG. PNG law makes it il­le­gal for vil­lagers to har­vest tim­ber un­less they have a Tim­ber Author­ity. “Th­ese are is­sued for se­lec­tive log­ging op­er­a­tions for the do­mes­tic mar­ket. We are get­ting pro­fes­sional ad­vice on the le­gal­ity of im­port­ing tim­ber from a source cov­ered by a Tim­ber Author­ity to en­sure we are com­pli­ant with Aus­tralian law,” he said.

“The im­pact of the Il­le­gal Log­ging Act on our busi­ness is prob­a­bly small. How­ever, our ca­pac­ity to sup­port Pa­pua New Guineans at a vil­lage level, which was the found­ing prin­ci­ple of this busi­ness, has been elim­i­nated for the present.

“In the mean­time, we will not pur­chase from the “le­gal” log­gers, whose main in­ter­est is in ex­port­ing logs, not val­ueadded prod­uct. Also, their log­ging and busi­ness prac­tices are not con­sis­tent with our eth­i­cal and con­ser­va­tion­ist val­ues.

“On the other hand, the Act will have no im­pact on com­pa­nies like the main Malaysian log­ger in PNG, Ri­bunan Hi­jau. Their log ex­ports go to Asia with no value adding or ma­te­rial ben­e­fit to the PNG peo­ple. They will con­tinue to use their en­vi­ron­men­tally de­struc­tive log­ging prac­tices. The loop will con­tinue of il­le­gal logs go­ing into Asian sawmills and com­ing out as le­gal, cer­tifi­cated prod­ucts.

“Aus­tralia’s laws have zero im­pact on their busi­ness plan,” Rod said.

“The great­est im­pact on our busi­ness is the lack of con­sumer con­fi­dence, which hit its low­est for 17 years in SA in June of last year. It ap­pears to be on the re­bound, but that is likely to take a hit with the fall in the dol­lar and the com­men­su­rate in­crease in the shop-floor price of our many im­ported items.

“The con­stant po­lit­i­cal wran­gling doesn’t help ei­ther – ba­sic eco­nomic the­ory doesn’t rely solely on Gov­ern­ment spend­ing for eco­nomic stim­u­lus. Gen­er­at­ing a pos­i­tive view of the fu­ture loosens con­sumers’ purse strings and that pos­i­tive view is lack­ing at present and our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are do­ing lit­tle to build that pos­i­tive view.

“Our clients come from the more con­ser­va­tive group in the com­mu­nity and ac­cord­ing to sur­veys th­ese are the ones with the low­est con­sumer con­fi­dence. For us, this is par­tic­u­larly the over-40s who have had tight bud­gets when they were younger and did cheap get-by jobs. They now want to get the job done and done prop­erly so that it will last with min­i­mal main­te­nance - if they have the con­fi­dence to spend!

“This also ap­plies to our com­mer­cial and Gov­ern­ment clients.

“We have main­tained our turnover tar­get over the last two years, but we have not gone into price-cut­ting. Clients can ei­ther af­ford hard­wood or they can­not. No-one can com­pete with Pi­nus on price, but hard­wood can cer­tainly com­pete on qual­ity, per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity. Also, we have sac­ri­ficed a lot to build up our stock of sea­soned, qual­ity prod­uct and there is no ben­e­fit in dump­ing that on the mar­ket solely for cash-flow. "In this dif­fi­cult trad­ing en­vi­ron­ment, we have not in­creased our ad­ver­tis­ing bud­get. We rely on our web­site and word-of­mouth. This is a chal­leng­ing ap­proach be­cause we have to sell on the ba­sis of qual­ity, ser­vice and pro­fes­sion­al­ism, not price alone. How­ever, it is also per­son­ally sat­is­fy­ing be­cause we gen­er­ate loyal re­peat clients, in­stead of one-off cus­tomers.

“Our busi­ness prob­a­bly be­longs in an ear­lier time and goes against much of to­day’s prac­tice. Our client base cov­ers school projects to civil projects. We pro­vide per­son­al­ized ser­vice to our clients, whether city, coun­try or in­ter­state. Our sub­stan­tial stock of qual­ity tim­ber is ma­chined in-house and we in­dent from rep­utable mills to meet client’s ex­pec­ta­tions for other species. We do not sell Pine,” Rod said.

PNG vil­lage sawmill.

Justin ma­chin­ing.

Heath’s deck.

Ma­chin­ery main­te­nance blocks for min­ing.

Rod Tav­erner and saw op­er­a­tor Stephen re­pro­cess­ing vil­lage Rose­wood flitch.

PNG carver

Tim­ber coat­ings test area.

Ge­off Wright at a Log Pond Bialla.

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