Media Release – Official launch of Tasmanian speciality timber venture Hydrowood

Tasmanian Treasure Rediscovered

Specialty Tasmanian timbers standing underwater for decades in lakes created after flooding for hydro-electric schemes are now being salvaged as part of a pioneering Tasmanian project – Hydrowood.

Opened today by Federal Member for Braddon, Brett Whiteley MP, Hydrowood will provide access to a unique subset of Tasmania’s highly-valued specialty timbers for furniture designers, woodworkers and high-end residential and commercial construction.

A feasibility study funded by Hydro Tasmania and the State Government in 2012 demonstrated positive results, leading to the Federal Government providing $5 million from its Tasmanian Jobs and Growth package to see the project come to fruition.

“This is a very exciting day for Hydrowood and for Tasmania, to finally see these amazing timbers able to be harvested and developed to their full potential,” Hydrowood director Andrew Morgan said.

“This project is a great example of Government and Hydro Tasmania working with the private sector to facilitate new industries for the State, off the back of innovative technology and Tasmanian advanced manufacturing expertise,” Mr Morgan said.

Covered under internationally recognised forestry standards, Hydrowood will be sold to customers as certified product with a story to tell. The timber is being sourced from Lake Pieman on Tasmania’s West Coast near Rosebery. Timbers recovered include Celery Top Pine, Sassafras, Myrtle, Eucalyptus and Blackwood.

Tasmanian suppliers and manufacturers including Taylor Brothers, William Adams, Cawthorn Welding and Aquatruck, were used wherever possible for the establishment of the venture.

“We have developed underwater harvesting practices designed to minimise impact by utilising specialist equipment, procedures and technology,” according to Hydrowood director David Wise.

“Advances in technology allow us to safely reclaim the timber in a manner that is economically, socially and environmentally acceptable.

The operations are occurring up to 28m underwater, so safety and environmental management has been of utmost importance, and we have worked closely with Hydro Tasmania to achieve best practice,” he said.

The properties of the previously submerged timber is what is particularly exciting for furniture makers and woodworkers.

“They’ve described it as like cutting butter, and are really excited about the provenance of the timber and how it can add to the uniqueness of their projects.

There is a huge amount of excitement around the future uses of Hydrowood,” Mr Wise said.

Worldwide there are an estimated 300 million trees submerged in dams constructed during the 1950s and 1980s from the creation of hydro-electric schemes and water storage. Often flooded with little salvage being undertaken, this forest resource worldwide is estimated to be worth up to $50 billion. In Tasmania, there remain large areas of untapped forest resource submerged in hydro dams.

Hydrowood has been created by innovative Tasmanian company SFM.

SFM is a leading provider of independent certified forest management and forest consulting across Australia and has developed specialised expertise and innovative systems to assess and undertake underwater harvesting operations in remote locations.


Samuel Shelley