Tim Yorkston Painted a Rich Canvas of His Life in Forestry

Extended many boundaries of his profession

Tue 05 Mar 24


Revered Queensland forester and brilliant secondary school cricket captain Thomas Forrest (Tim) Yorkston, who lived to crack a century plus another six months at the crease, died at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast on February 24.

After schooling at Brisbane Grammar in 1942, aged 18, he enlisted with the Australian Infantry Battalion, with active service in Indonesia and the New Guinea campaign.

Discharged on March 27, 1946, and recovering from a bout of malaria, Tim started a two-year course as a forestry cadet at the University of Queensland, taking long breaks as a surveyor near the St Lucia campus. When not in classes, he worked at the Forestry Department’s George Street head office in Brisbane.

So began a long and distinguished career in forestry with study at the Australian Forestry School in Canberra 1948-49, gaining a Dip Forestry and then a B Sc Forestry from UQ. He enjoyed many field trips and worked in all Australia’s state forests except Victoria.

After graduation in 1950, Tim was as sent to Maryborough working under district forester Andy Anderson who was managing Fraser Island, the Bundaberg sub-district, and Tuan.

In 1953, Tim returned to Brisbane as a resource officer to assist the senior forester in regulating planting and harvesting in state forests and Crown land. This involved living in many survey camps and collecting data to make sustainable decisions. He later became OC Resource and then director of marketing.

When the department was reorganised in the mid-1970s, Tim took over special projects and managed the clear felling of plantations under constant pressure from the environmental movement.

While in charge of Forestry’s freehold policy, he kept forest lands in state care rather than private ownership where they could be sold off.

He helped acquire more than 450,000 hectares for state forests but near his retirement many of these were converted to national parks.

At 60, Tim was director of planning based in Brisbane. He believed the department’s culture had “changed significantly” so he resigned his post and retired, taking up a new life as a painter of bush landscapes.

“Sitting with him watching television and seeing the devastation bushfires were causing, he believed we should focus more on pure forest management and also adapt the fire prevention practices that Indigenous peoples have been practising for millennium,” recalled daughter Wendy Doery in a special family interview.

“We all loved him dearly; all the family but a few celebrated his 100th birthday in July last year.”

Son Dylan said he had lost a wonderful father, a man of unquestionable integrity, warmth, humility and gentleness.

“Growing up, we all became friends with his workmates and their wives, people like John Alcock, Neil Hinson, Neil Henry (dad said the only genius he ever met), and Ted and Pat Mannion, to name those who quickly came to mind,” Dylan said.

“He was well respected and, according to John Alcock, was a supportive and much appreciated mentor. Other than fellow forester Dick Pegg, who worked on Fraser Island under Tim, I can’t think of anyone still living who would know the full extent and impact of Dad’s career.

Toms birthday with Granddaughter Liesl Daughter Janet and Great grandchildren Jordan and Jacob
Tim Yorkston on his 100th birthday celebrated by his granddaughter Liesl, daughter Janet, and great grandchildren Jordan and Jacob. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

Tim Yorkston lost his first wife, Joy, 50 years ago and his second wife, Sue, 12 years ago. He is survived by four daughters Wendy, Coral, Janet and Olwyn, two sons Dylan and Hugh,18 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

[Hugh Yorkston began a career in National Parks and now acts as a consultant in coastal ecosystems and water quality at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority].

Tim Yorkson’s life will be celebrated at a service in Tewantin today (March 5). He asked that his ashes be scattered in Dalrymple Creek near the old Goomburra forestry huts where he often camped with his family surrounded by tall gums.

Editor’s note: When Tim Yorkston retired, Queensland forestry was at a crossroads. Soon, Fraser Island would be closed to the timber industry. The Goss government and a public inquiry by Tony Fitzgerald QC into the conservation and land management of the island recommended it be protected permanently. Under constant pressure from the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO), harvesting stopped in 1991, and the government committed to a multi-million-dollar financial assistance package for the region’s forestry industry workers.

Nobody seemed to care that Fraser was ‘handed over’ as a World Heritage-listed site after more than a century of sustainable forest harvesting.

In the early 1980s, state forest and timber reserves in Queensland totalled more than 440,500 hectares, a significant revocation of 16,800 hectares of state forest in southeast Queensland.

During this period, the importance of the Crown timber resources became more apparent than ever. Demand for timber products increased in line with the state’s expanding population while imports from southern states and overseas cost $100 million a year.

The conservation of natural timber-producing areas and the continuation of a vigorous conifer plantation program remained an important objective for both present and future generations.

With the introduction of sawlog allocations in the central Queensland zone, all sawmills in Queensland were entitled to operate Crown native timber resources, an equitable allocation system that considered purchaser performance in distributing the allowable cut.

All zones were on five-year allocation periods, with the determined allowable Crown log supply made available to mills based on a sustainable cut.

Evaluation of large areas of Crown pastoral holdings potentially suitable for state forest reservation continued by means of aerial photo interpretation and subsequent ground inspections for verification of timber types and quality.

This work was considered most important in adequately securing future timber resources, often in areas remote from harvesting operations. Preliminary investigation of the feasibility of using Landsat imagery was also under way.

In the period, the production of high-standard planting stock from the department’s field nurseries totalled almost 6.75 million seedlings. A new vacuum drum precision sower was installed at the Toolara nursery and used successfully for the 1982 winter sowings. The machine not only bedformed and sowed in one operation but accurately placed each seed at the desired spacing.

During the period, 4830 ha of plantations were established, consisting of 4318 hectares of exotic pines and 512 hectares of native hoop pine, with the total planted estate reaching 143,266 hectares.

More than $742,000 was spent on land acquisition, the major outlay being a further payment in connection with the purchase of about 10,300 hectares in the Toolara area, which was acquired for the extension of the department’s planting program in the region. It reserved as state forest in the early part of 1984.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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