Opened last month by Federal Member for Braddon, Brett Whiteley, Hydrowood’s first harvest will provide access to a unique selection 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 time for Hydrowood and for Tasmania, to finally see these amazing timbers harvested and developed to their full potential,” Hydrowood director Andrew Morgan said.

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

Covered under internationally recognised forestry standards – Hydrowood products will be sold to customers as a 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, Britton Timbers, William Adams, Cawthorn Welding and Aquatruck – were used for the establishment of the venture.

“We have developed underwater harvesting practices designed to minimise impact by utilising specialist equipment, procedures and technology,” said 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 28 m underwater, so safety and environmental management has been of utmost importance, and we have worked closely with Hydro Tasmania to achieve the best practice,” he said.

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

“They’ve described it as like cutting through 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.
Read the feature on Hydrowood in the
April edition of TimberTrader News magazine.