The Original Thinkers Podcast

A Deep Dive in to the Supply Chain of Australia’s Most Loved Timber.

The Original Thinkers Podcast, takes a deep dive into what it takes to have an original thought, the impact of it and how it endures over time.

In this series we are exploring the full timber supply chain from the timber growers, to processors, architects, problem solvers, makers, builders and finally a real estate agent who can speak to the value that timber can bring to both residential and commercial spaces.

The season demystifies the provenance, the sustainability, the different stages of production, the certainty of supply and the complexities of the extraordinary Tasmanian Oak.

The series conveys that the messages in the marketplace are mixed, and that anyone who wants to know more are welcome to come to Tasmania. To come to the southern forests, the processing plants, the mills, the research facilities, and the beautiful buildings made from this much loved timber. The series asks the important questions of those making the most of the precious resource.

The first episode is with David White, Forest Operations Manager at Sustainable Timber Tasmania. David explains the process of native forestry in Tasmania:

“My old wildlife professor used to say forestry is not rocket science. It’s ten times more complicated.”

David talks about regeneration, seed collection, burning, wildlife preservation, old growth forests and misconceptions about the sustainability of the resource.

“I have kids. I wouldn’t [be a forester] if I thought it was unethical. I believe in it. I’ve seen it happen on the ground, I live it every day and watch the cycle. I’m very aware of the special values and the uniqueness of Tasmania. We are trying to produce a clean, green, usable product that also has an element to beauty to it,” says David.

David is followed by Justin Baily, Forest Steward and consultant on Tasmania’s Private Forest Estate, which makes up 32% of Tasmania’s forested area. The private forest harvest made up 70% of the total state production in 2022-2023, which was 3.7 million tonnes of logs. Justin explains that there is more opportunity in our farming landscape to grow trees, while protecting the forest health of forest environments on private land.

Tasmania has the opportunity at a national scale to become a market leader for those wood products,” says Justin. 

The next step in the timber supply chain is the processors; Shawn Britton, Managing Director of Britton Timbers, Andrew Morgan from Hydrowood, and Josh Turner from Neville Smith Forest Products. Each took the time to talk through their processes, products and the innovations in the sector.  Shawn Britton, addresses some of the misconceptions:

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that we’re involved in deforestation in Tasmania. Native forestry in Tasmania operates on a very small footprint, compared to other

Industries, whether it be forestry or agriculture. Claims that those areas of native forest in Tasmania that have been harvested to supply mills like ourselves, that it’s deforestation are completely false and incorrect.  The forests are regenerated back to the same native forests that were there previously and those forests will carry on happily and grow for another 65, 70 years and be harvested again.”

Hydrowood are not your normal timber processors. They are treasure hunters. The story of Hydrowood is of big ideas, sustainability and adventure, all told by Founder Andrew Morgan in his episode.

Josh Turnbull, the Group General Manager of Production for the innovative Neville Smith Forest Products gives in depth information on the process from turning round logs into high end architectural products. “It’s all about optimisation of our resource, because every sawmill lives and breathes recovery, so trying to maximise the total yield out of that round log into a square product.”  He also speaks about the fascinating intricacies of drying timber, and how they control the moisture content to ensure the timber will be stable, and as he said if Tasmanian Timber is treated correctly “it’ll serve you for hundreds of years going forward.” Josh also speaks about some of the ambiguity in the marketplace about the continuity of supply:

“It’s readily available and it is very, very sustainably harvested.”

Next in the supply chain are the architects. Fiona Dunin of Melbourne based FMD Architects who is followed by Scott Flett Founding Director of Flett Architecture. Both speak of their love of Tasmanian Timber and the story telling that comes from using the beloved building material.

“I’m really passionate about using timber, not from just from a sustainability perspective, but also from a sense of placemaking so that it really connects you to the place. Using Tasmanian timber allows us to create a relationship between the materials we’re using and the place we’re working on. And it has a warmth to it. We try and use all natural materials, all local materials, so it’s a perfect fit with our work. It’s something that is alive. It moves, it changes through the life of the building as well. It’s a beautiful material to work with,” says Fiona.

The University of Tasmania has a unique problem solving department, The Centre for Sustainable Architecture With Wood (CSAW). CSAW is a multidisciplinary, industry-focused research and education group centred within the University of Tasmania’s School of Architecture and Design, collaborating closely with the University’s School of Engineering. Understanding timber, researching timber innovation, being a resource for students and industry and fostering the use of timber materials that are efficient, economic, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible is CSAW’s mission.

Professor Greg Nolan, Director of CSAW, architect, researcher, problem solver and raconteur’s episode of the podcast series is as entertaining as it is informative as he answered the most asked questions about Tasmanian Timber. Louise Wallis, is the Deputy Director of the CSAW and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Design at UTAS. Louise speaks, at times quiet poetically, of the science, facts and the uniqueness of the extraordinary building material:

“I think of [timber] as a living object, even though it’s inanimate, it’s not inert.  It can absorb and lose water. It does have a personality and a way it likes being worked with…”

Makers Al & Imo, Merritt Joinery, builder and designer Murray Griffiths of MyBuild and Dylan Graham of Fairbrother round out the series with their experience from furniture making, high end cabinetry, stunning award winning residences, to the project management of the extraordinary $45.5 million Rivers Edge Project.  Dylan’s insights into mass timber construction and the goal of 30% embodied carbon within the stunning project were fascinating along with his predictions for building going forward.

The season will finish with Nina Schubert, Director of Insitu Property.

The people in the timber supply chain are scientists, researchers, processors, makers, and builders, all experts in their field.  They are also advocates for the sustainability and importance of the continued use of Australian timber.

To listen to the series please click here.