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Forestry and timber stories

A sustainable dynasty

Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - bush mill

It all began with a small bush mill in the majestic blackwood forests of Tasmania’s far north-west.

Now, four generations later, the Britton Timbers forestry dynasty has its eyes firmly fixed on a sustainable future.

One hundred years on, Britton Timbers is a major forestry player, producing beautiful timbers and veneers out of Tasmania’s magnificent specialty species that are exported around the world.

It’s also investing in cutting-edge science and technology, to ensure this family company will continue to harvest the same forests for generations to come.

A century of history
Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - Britton Swamp

Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - Britton Swamp

In 1907, brothers Elijah and Mark Britton ventured deep into Tasmania’s forests in search of fortune. They found their Lasseter’s reef – towering blackwood trees – in an area now called ‘Brittons Swamp’.

The brothers set up camp and cut tracks through the dense trees to transport their timber to the small port of Smithton, some 20 kilometres away.

A century later the family is still logging the same area, and now Elijah’s grandsons, Glenn and brother Ross, together with great-grandson, Shawn, are leading Britton Timbers into the future.

"My grandfather and his brother began harvesting those blackwood forests in 1907, which they did for the next 30 or 40 years,” Glenn Britton explains.

"Then my father and his brothers took the business over - and harvested them again until recently. And now, we are harvesting that same forest for the third time. You can’t get any more sustainable than that.”

Blackwood heart
Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - blackwood heart

Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - blackwood heart

The history of Britton Timbers is intertwined with that of Smithton.

"We are an integral part of the local community. The company has consistently employed 100 plus families in the area, both directly and indirectly,” Glenn explains. 

Their Smithton operation is sizeable. It includes Tasmania’s largest hardwood sawmill and processing plants, where beautiful native timbers emerge targeted for high-value markets, including furniture, interior fit-outs and joinery.

These days beautiful golden Tasmanian oak has now joined the rich coloured blackwood as the company’s timber of choice for products coveted not only across Australia – but across the globe.

"No wonder everyone can’t get enough of our beautiful timbers which are the best in the world. Timber has been the backbone of this island since first settlement, and it will continue to be our future as well,” Glenn adds.

Sustainable investment
Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - sustainable investment

Tasmania's blackwood dynasty - sustainable investment

Britton Timbers is investing in science and technology to ensure its forests will still be flourishing for generations to come.

Over the past two years the company has worked with the University of Tasmania to develop $1.5 million state-of-the art sheds where valuable timber can be dried under cover in optimal conditions.

The sheds have been operational since February, and the end result is less waste and a higher quality timber.

Extensive research is also being conducted into plantation timbers. As part of this, trials have recently begun on the market acceptability of Tasmanian plantation oak for solid wood decorative products.

"Tassie timber is booming. Forestry is going through a resurgence from the lows of five or six years ago,” explains Glenn, who is also Chair of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania.

"I am proud that we are involved in this renewable, sustainable industry!”

Britton Timbers' Smithton Plant

Watch video on YouTube

Images courtesy of Britton Timbers

27 May 2019, Edition 205

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