Forestry in the early days

Early forestry in South Australia was concerned with finding the best timber producing tree which would grow under local conditions.

This was necessary because many of the native forest trees such as sugar gum, red gum and blue gum were being cut down to provide timber for building, railway sleepers, telegraph poles, jetty pylons and supports for mining shafts and tunnels.

Trees from Europe, North America and all over Australia were tested in trial plantings.

The first trial plantings took place at Bundaleer in the Mid North in 1876. This was the beginning of forestry in South Australia and indeed in the whole of Australia.

Other plantings were done at Wirrabara, near Bundaleer, and in what is now known as the Green Triangle, at Mount Gambier. It was soon discovered that Pinus radiata from California was one of the fastest growing trees in areas with more than 600 millimetres of rain each year.

The trial plantings and the establishment of forests that followed was carried out by the Woods and Forests Department of South Australia, a department set up in 1882 and believed to be the first forestry service in the British Commonwealth.

The success of Radiata pine led to regular plantings at Bundaleer and Wirrabara forests; the beginning of several forest districts, near Mount Gambier; and the planting of forests at Mount Crawford, Kuitpo and Second Valley, in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

There are also several Native Forest Reserves in South Australia. Two of the largest are Mount Gawler Native Forest Reserve in the Adelaide Hills, and Honan’s Native Forest Reserve in the Green Triangle.

White people first began settling in South Australia in the 1830s. They started clearing trees from the land so crops could be planted and sheep and cattle could graze. Timber cutters worked in the forests cutting down trees to supply wood for the developing colony. By the 1870s, some people began noticing that much of the native vegetation was being destroyed, so in 1873 an Act was passed to encourage the planting of forest trees. In certain areas and under definite conditions the government paid landowners two pounds (four dollars) for every acre they planted with forest trees.

The Surveyor-General, George Woodroofe Goyder, was one of the first people to express concern over the destruction of native trees. He suggested using some areas of land to grow forests. In 1875 a Forestry Board was set up to protect and regenerate native vegetation. The Board was also given the job of growing new forests to meet the timber demands of the State. George Goyder was appointed Chairman of the first Forestry Board which began the early trial plantings for a suitable forest tree.

In 1882 the government passed the Woods and Forests Act which replaced the Forestry Board with the Woods and Forests Department of South Australia. ForestrySA is responsible for the management of government forests and the protection of native animals and plants on native forest reserves.

In native forest reserves the vegetation is left untouched, except for some fire prevention methods. These areas provide a natural home and food supply for South Australia’s animals, birds and insects.

ForestrySA protects over 20 Native Forest Reserves and the native flora and fauna within these reserves. ForestrySA also grows pine forests and sends the wood to mills where the mills convert logs from the pine plantations into timber for building house frames, floor boards, wall panelling and furniture making. Many logs are also cut up and made into woodpulp for making paper and other wood products.