Around 1970 the forests department convinced government that the softwood planting programme needed to be ramped up to ensure the State had sufficient softwood resource into the future.
A planting area was identified between Nannup, Donnybrook, Ludlow and Margaret River Known as the Donnybrook Sunklands. This area of forest had been decimated by die back due to the high surface water conditions in most years. The forest had been cut through by early sawmills connected to Busselton by a series of railway lines. This system covered the area and supported some very big sawmills extending out to Cundinup, Ellis Creek and Willow Springs. Nannup, Jarrah Wood, willcox, Tutanup. The area was harvested for a second time in the 1950’s through to the 1980`s. Pretty much all of the viable Jarrah sawlog was removed ahead of die back.
A research team had been put together in Collie to find pine areas in that district without much success. This team headed by Dr Frank McKinnell who had completed his forestry studies in America moved to Busselton to begin the exploratory work required to prove up suitable areas within the Sunklands.
At the same time he set up a genetics and plant breeding research section to improve the performance and quality of radiata pine to be grown in the south west of WA. One of the functions was to collect growing tips from elite radiata trees across the South West to graft on too nursery grown seedlings. The resulting grafts would be planted in a seed orchard to produce seed to support the Sunklands project into the future.
This is where the glass house came in, as the place where this grafting work was carried out. The work commissioned in this building set the future quality of the radiata pine planting stock now growing in the Sunklands.
The building was erected by the on site Ludlow carpenter and fitted out by the research staff and commissioned in about 1973. Three of the technical assistants that worked for Dr McKinnell are still alive in Busselton. Dr McKinnel died about 4 months ago. One of the boys married my secretary who went on to work in Forestry in Busselton for the rest of her working life. The junior member of the team was Robbie Hingston who leads the Arum lily spray team and assists with our current tuart planting.
Unfortunately the project was axed by the Labor Government denying the state of WA self sufficiency in softwood timber. The project was designed to plant 10% of the degraded area that would have resulted in 60,000 hectares of plantation, creating 500 jobs and producing 1,200,000 tonnes of softwood fibre annually. The radiata pine grown in the sunk lands is equal to the best in the world. Instead we have 6,000 hectares and the State is running out of softwood and the existing industry is under threat of closure.
Des Donnelly. 11.08.2021.