When I walked through the doors of General Steam Navigation Co at Tower Square opposite the Tower of London in early 1955 at age fifteen for my first full time employment, I had no idea that eleven years later that I would be walking through the door of the Forests Commission Victoria office at Powelltown, 70 kilometers east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia which was the district office of the Upper Yarra Forest District.
This article was written in 2008.
I first met Alan Cracknell early in the 1980’s when he was Principal of the Wodonga High School. It was a fleeting contact but I do remember him giving me the stern well practiced Principal look designed to freeze students in their tracks. Some time later I moved to Wodonga and I found myself attending the same Church as Alan but even so that student look still kept me at a distance. But slowly our Church lives intertwined and the barriers were broken down. With time we shared some Church responsibilities and often had to work on projects together and enjoyed each others company.
But Alan had a surprise in his past. He knew I had studied forestry but it was not until many years later that he casually told me that he had taught at the forestry school at Creswick. And so it turned out that Alan had done a stint at Creswick as the Education Department science lecturer early in his career.
This article is one of many of Leon's contributions to this site.
The Forests Commission commenced a breeding program with radiata pine in 1958, but before describing the work it is useful to consider why it was started.
In the earlier years of pine plantation establishment in Victoria, seed for new plantings was obtained from cones collected from trees on the ground after final fellings. There was no selection for the type of tree from which the cones were taken. Sometimes, even cones were collected from trees felled as thinnings. Gradually, from around the world, reports were received that the characteristics of trees could be improved by more careful selection of the seed source. Indeed, there seemed no reason why tree crops could not be improved by using the plant breeding techniques so successful in many agricultural crops.
As it had done since the early 1970s, the North Altona Fire Equipment Development Centre continued to operate, through the 1990s, as an innovative R&D centre. In the mid-1990s the Centre developed slip-on fire-fighting modules for use with the Mitsubishi Canter 4x4, and the Isuzu NPS 300, 4x4 tray vehicles. The fire-fighting modules were assembled with three different tank capacities: 1000 litre, 1200 litre and 1500 litre. The configuration of each vehicle, whether a single or twin cab, or whether a crane was installed, would impact on the water-carrying capacity. The 1000 litre capacity slip-on module was developed for the smaller Mitsubishi Canter when fitted with a crane. (Fig 1) The 1200 litre module was developed for the Isuzu NPS 300 with a crane, and the 1500 litre for the twin cab Isuzu NPS 300 without a crane.
A US business woman, Margaret Heffernan, is recorded as believing that, ‘…for good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, (and) debate….’
Well everything has a beginning, and that includes the current day 400 litre slip-on fire-fighting module. The concept started off as a basic water cart and slowly developed into a vital firefighting tool that is, these days, fitted to every one tonne fire vehicle operated by forest fire crews across Victoria.