‘A deep rich valley clothed with magnificent trees… in all my travels, I have never seen anything to equal the beauty of the vegetation.’
These were the words by botanist William Guilfoyle in 1869 to describe travelling up the Tweed River with Mount Warning, or Wollumbin, in the background.
Today, the Big Scrub has all but been demolished, but there are a number of environmentalists and farmers who have come together to prove that there are ways to re-introduce rainforest trees and revegetate the countryside while also being able to selectively take out trees to help fund the reforestation and increase carbon sequestration.
In an ambitious project, these environmentalists and farmers have come together to create a market for native timbers. As part of the initiative, they have created the inaugural Sustainable Native Timber Showcase and Design Competition, and they are asking local woodworkers, builders, architects, interior designers and cabinet makers in the northern rivers and southeast Queensland region to get involved.
‘Imagine decorating your house with furniture grown and harvested from a farm down the road and crafted by a local woodworker,’ said comp co-ordinator Kate Love.
‘Local farmers are starting to produce native timbers, and we are asking local woodworkers to put their creative skills to the test and enter the competition.’
With $4,000 in cash and prizes, interested entrants are encouraged to register at Quality Timber Traders, where more information and the design competition guidelines can be found. The Design Competition will culminate in a showcase event at Federal Hall on Sunday 15 April. Attendees will be able to view the entries, meet the designers and learn more about local sustainable native timbers.
Rainforest timber farming
The project has come about by the two groups of farm foresters – the Subtropical Farm Forestry Association from NSW, and Specialty Timber Growers from southeast Queensland. They joined forces to create Quality Timber Traders (QTT) and are working with Southern Cross University to bring small growers together to create a market for rainforest timbres.
According to QTT project manager Dr Joe Harvey-Jones, you can grow a small stand on half a hectare.
‘It is not really an economic exercise, we’re not looking at it as a crop.’ He points out that most of the growers started out planting rainforest trees for environmental regeneration.
‘Once a tree gets to 20 to 25 years old, they no longer sequester and lock up carbon. So the idea is that you can thin out the fast growing trees, giving space for the slower growing ones to keep sequestering carbon.’
Once the trees have reached full carbon sequestering, you can selectively log and use the timber in furniture and architecture, lock up the carbon and use the funds to plant out more areas of rainforest.
Southern Cross University has developed a solar kiln as part of the project, and will also continue to provide input by determining the utility and quality of the end product of sawn timbre.
‘This area used to be Big Scrub,’ continued Kate.
‘We are trying to create a network of farmers and craftspeople to start regenerating rainforest – these are all the trees that originally grew here.’
As William Guilfoyle continued, ‘The banks of the river are clothed to the waters edge with an endless variety of the richest of evergreens, and the gay blossoms of climbing plants, entwining themselves around the larger trees, or hanging from the branches in gorgeous festoons [this] alone would be the subject for the painter.’