Charles Lane Poole

Charles Lane Pool
Charles Lane Pool (Courtesy of Phyllis Hamilton)

A forester of the Empire

Charles Lane Poole first worked as a forester for the Commonwealth Government in 1922 when he was sent to survey the forests of Papua and New Guinea. His education and early career had taken him around the world, from his birthplace of England to the French National Forestry School at Nancy, to the forests of South Africa and Sierra Leone and then Western Australia.

He held strong opinions on forestry issues. For example, he regarded a national policy as essential, and believed that forests should be managed by a professional and scientific elite. He also advocated for the long-term conservation of natural forests.

Since the 1850s, Australian botanists and public figures had recognised that some forests needed to be conserved, rather than cleared for agriculture, and that waste must be reduced. In the 1880s and 1890s eminent foresters from India were invited to advise the Victorian Government on forest policies. In 1914 the Government of Western Australia invited another eminent Empire forester, DE Hutchins – Charles Lane Poole's old mentor in South Africa – to advise on its forest policy.

The states passed forest legislation (between 1909 in New South Wales and 1920 in Tasmania) based on an imperial model. It involved permanently dedicating areas as state forests and setting up distinct administrations (variously departments, sub-departments or commissions) to manage them. Agricultural interests and state lands departments frequently opposed the reservation of land for state forests. A few overseas-trained foresters – such as Charles Lane Poole – were appointed to run the new forest services. Most of their field staff had practical training in supervising logging on Crown Lands. The forest services sought to manage the forests to sustain the supply of timber in perpetuity protect them from fire and other damage.

The heads of the state forest services met every few years at interstate forest conferences from 1911 and recommended national coordination to train foresters professionally in Australia. The heads of forest services across the Empire also met every few years to discuss forest policies and technical matters. Charles Lane Poole attended the first Empire Forestry Conference held in London in 1920. At the conference, he collaborated with Lord Novar (formerly Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, Governor-General of Australia 1914–20) in founding the Empire Forestry Association. Charles Lane Poole and his small staff in Canberra provided the central organisation for the third Empire Forestry Conference that was held in Australia and New Zealand in 1928. The conference held sessions and inspected forests over two months as it toured from state to state, before moving to New Zealand.

Charles Lane Poole invoked resolutions of interstate and Empire forestry conferences to support arguments he put to government. He believed that the Empire forestry conference was the supreme authority on forest policy and that its resolutions expressed the view of 'the Empire's best foresters'.

Papua and New Guinea

Charles Lane Poole with the remains of a radio, broken when his camp at Ramu, New Guinea, was attacked.
Charles Lane Poole with the remains of a radio, broken when his camp at Ramu, New Guinea, was attacked. (Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, 1925)

It was fortunate for Charles Lane Poole that a job to survey the forests of Papua, and later New Guinea, was offered to him when he resigned from his position as Conservator of Forests for Western Australia at the end of 1921.

Australia had taken over the administration British New Guinea in 1901 and declared it the Commonwealth Territory of Papua in 1906. It had acquired German New Guinea in 1920 under a mandate from the League of Nations after World War I. The two territories were administered separately from Port Moresby and Rabaul, respectively. In the 1920s and 1930s, Territory patrol officers were extending the frontier of contact with the indigenous peoples of Papua and New Guinea. Expeditions by scientists sought to advance scientific knowledge and to locate resources that might be developed. The rugged nature of the country, the risks of hostility from the local people and tropical diseases made the tasks difficult.

Desire for forest surveys

In Australia, little was known about Papua's forest resources. Some of the mission stations established throughout the territory by various Christian churches had set up sawmills to supply their own needs, but these endeavours were on a small and local scale. A preliminary survey of the coastal areas was made by a Queensland forest inspector, Gilbert Burnett, in 1907. In 1918, the Commonwealth tried unsuccessfully to obtain a forester with tropical experience in the Philippines or India to 'inspect the timber resources' in Papua and report on 'the best means of conserving and developing these resources'.

Australian companies were also looking to Papua for potential timber resources. The Melbourne timber importer, Victor Trapp, arranged for one of the timber companies to investigate the possibilities of obtaining case, match and plywood timber from Papua. No investment followed this investigation.

When news spread of Charles Lane Poole's impending resignation as Western Australia's Conservator of Forests in 1921, Victor Trapp was quick to suggest that the Commonwealth should secure his services. Following Trapp's suggestion, the Chief Commissioner of the New South Wales Forest Service, R Dalrymple Hay, stated that the Commonwealth 'could search the world over and not find a better man'. After some negotiations, which caused worrying uncertainties for Charles Lane Poole, and following a medical examination that proclaimed him fit for duty, he was finally appointed for 12 months. Charles arranged for half his salary of £1500 a year to be paid monthly through Australia House in London to Ruth after she returned to Ireland from Western Australia in 1922.

His surveys

From his experience in Sierra Leone, Charles Lane Poole knew that the species of tropical trees he encountered in Papua would need to be identified scientifically. Before he left Australia, he visited botanists in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane and arranged for the Queensland Herbarium to identify the specimens that he would collect and send to them.

Once in Papua, he travelled extensively through the forest regions, measured trees in sample strips in timber areas and collected specimens. Charles found that the volume of commercially useful species per hectare was too low in the coastal areas to warrant investment. He needed to explore the mountain areas. In November 1922, his position in Papua was extended to June 1923 to enable him to undertake an expedition into the high country of the Owen Stanley Range in company with the Government Geologist, Evan Stanley. They worked well together and Stanley valued Lane Poole's surveying skills. Stanley wrote in his report that Charles Lane Poole's:

services proved valuable to my work throughout. I am indeed exceedingly grateful for his assistance from time to time in determining our positions at the various points of observation (NAA: A1, 1923/25024, p. 20).

Stanley's report gives a feeling for the arduous nature of such expeditions. After several days trekking, they established a base camp at Laruni, 4762 feet (1450 metres) above sea level, where Charles Lane Poole found stands of valuable conifers to assess. They climbed through mossy forests to the top of Mt Obree, measured its elevation at 10,264 feet (3130 metres) and then crossed the headwaters of the Kemp Welch and Brown Rivers until they reached the Kokoda trail. On the way, they visited villages where the indigenous people had had little or no contact with Europeans. The exhausting series of climbs and descents can be seen from the record of the heights that they measured as they went.

As the valuable species in the mid-mountain forests were inaccessible, Charles concluded that there were no immediate prospects for developing a timber export trade from Papua. While this work might have satisfied many foresters at the time, Charles' investigations extended well beyond just timber. He took broad-ranging notes of other forest products such as resins, edible nuts, essential oils, rattan, tan barks, fibres, medicinal plants and the nipa palm, which might be used to make industrial alcohol. To finish his report, Charles asked for more scientific and statistical information about these forest resources to be sent from Australia.

When Charles Lane Poole's appointment in Papua was about to end, Senator Walter Kingsmill – who was a keen advocate for forestry and knew of his work in Western Australia – urged the new Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, to keep him in Commonwealth employment. Charles' work in Papua had shown his considerable abilities and extending the survey to New Guinea was an obvious priority, but the forests in the other Territories would also need Commonwealth management. Charles was asked to survey New Guinea's forests for a year and was offered a subsequent two-year appointment as Forestry Adviser to the Commonwealth. After returning to Australia to recuperate and to consult the Queensland Botanist in Brisbane and the Department of Home and Territories in Melbourne, Charles went to Rabaul in September 1923.

As in Papua, Charles travelled through New Guinea measuring timber, collecting herbarium specimens and making extensive notes. He could identify many of the tree species from his earlier work. He made two expeditions, accompanied by carriers and police, into remote areas where there had been little or no previous contact with the indigenous people. His camp was attacked in the Ramu area and much of his equipment lost or smashed.

Charles Lane Poole returned to Melbourne at the end of 1924 and he was joined at last by Ruth and their three daughters, the youngest of whom, two-year-old Phyllis, he had never seen. Throughout the lengthy separation, their relationship had continued through a steady stream of correspondence. Awaiting Charles when he returned to Melbourne from Papua in 1923 were one parcel, three newspapers, one book and 13 letters sent from Ireland and held at the Department of Home and Territories until he arrived back in Australia.

Charles worked at a furious pace during January and February 1925 to prepare a lengthy, wide-ranging report covering his work in both Papua and New Guinea. In it he recommended that a small forest service be set up in each territory and that plantations of commercially valuable species should be established. It was printed and published as a parliamentary paper in August. Copies were distributed within Australia and to forest services throughout the Empire. The economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s meant that his recommendations were not followed until the late 1930s when they were adopted in New Guinea.

Australian Forestry School

The Governor-General, Lord Stonehaven, delivering an address at the opening ceremony of the Australian Forestry School, 24 November 1927.
The Governor-General, Lord Stonehaven, delivering an address at the opening ceremony of the Australian Forestry School, 24 November 1927. (A3560, 7606)

Charles Lane Poole passionately believed that educating a professional cadre of foresters was essential and he argued successfully for a national forestry school in Canberra. He spent 20 years as its principal. Keeping it open proved to be a consuming task.

Building the school

When Charles Lane Poole was appointed Commonwealth Forestry Adviser in 1925, he recommended that the Commonwealth establish a national school to train professional foresters. Cabinet approved the establishment of the Australian Forestry School in the same year. It was a cooperative venture between the Commonwealth and the states. The Commonwealth would provide the buildings, staff and tuition, while the states would nominate students to attend and pay for their subsistence in Canberra for two years. The students first had to complete two years of a science degree course in their home state universities.

Adelaide University hosted the Forestry school for its first year and appointed Norman Jolly as its foundation professor and principal while the school building and principal's residence were being erected in Canberra. At the end of the year Norman Jolly resigned to become Commissioner of Forests in New South Wales and Charles Lane Poole, by then the Commonwealth Inspector-General of Forests, took over as its Acting Principal.

Norman Jolly and Charles Lane Poole had decided that the new school building in Canberra was to display the best of Australian timbers. This added to the cost of its construction, some of the money for which was donated by the states. Rather than rely on the Federal Capital Commission's Furniture Officer to supply the furniture, Charles Lane Poole specified the timbers and provided the designs for the chairs and tables.

Opening the school

In April 1927 the students arrived in Canberra and the courses started, although some of the arrangements were makeshift at first. The school was officially opened by the Governor-General, Lord Stonehaven, in November 1927. It was a proud moment of achievement and recognition for Charles.

Charles Lane Poole demanded that the students do both serious academic study in the library and energetic practical work in the forests, nursery and arboretum where a different species of trees were planted to see how they would grow. The school was adjacent to what are now known as the Westbourne Woods Arboretum and the Yarralumla Nursery, which had been established in 1913 by Charles Weston, the Federal Capital Commission's first officer-in-charge of the Afforestation Branch. These areas served as outdoor laboratories for some of the Forestry School students' studies and there was an annual camp to extend practical training in a different state each year.

The Forestry School's flag was flown at these events. The flag was most likely designed and made by Ruth Lane Poole in 1927. It bears the Latin motto Mihi cura futuri – 'I serve posterity' – and was placed over the door of the Forestry School. Ruth's design was also used as the centrepiece of the logo for the Forestry Bureau.

In 1927 there were 15 students at the school – six from New South Wales, four from Western Australia, two from Victoria and one each from Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. The staff consisted of Charles Lane Poole as Acting Principal, three lecturing staff, a librarian and a secretary. Four scholarships were offered to enable students to study abroad and return to the Forestry Bureau in staff positions. It was a small but promising start.

The struggle to remain open

Charles Lane Poole struggled hard through the Depression years of the 1930s to keep the Forestry School open. Its existence depended on the states sending their students and the Commonwealth providing funding, while its reputation depended on the universities recognising the calibre of its diploma. These difficulties were compounded by the nature of relations between the Commonwealth and the states, Charles' bitter personal conflicts with some of his state counterparts, and differences of opinion within the forestry profession about the relative merits of formal training and practical experience.

An average of nine students entered the school each year in the late 1920s. The number fell to five for the rest of Charles Lane Poole's time at the school. When only three students entered in 1931, the Commonwealth government wanted to close the school. Charles Lane Poole urged his state counterparts to have the school kept open, and at the 1931 Premiers Conference, the premiers of New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia persuaded the Commonwealth to retain it.

The fall in admissions was due to the states' own financial woes and to Victoria retaining its own School of Forestry at Creswick, north of Ballarat. For the first four years, Victoria sent a few of its Creswick graduates to the Forestry School in Canberra for further training. But Charles Lane Poole denigrated Creswick as a mere 'woodsman's school', and fell out with the chairman of Victoria's Forests Commission, AV Galbraith, to the extent that Victoria stopped sending students to Canberra after 1930. Equally serious was the deterioration in relations with New South Wales when Harold Swain became Commissioner of that state's Forestry Commission and stopped sending students between 1936 and 1941.

Although student numbers at the school fell, the course taught there gained academic recognition. When the Forestry Bureau Act 1930 finally became law, it provided for a Board of Higher Education made up of university representatives and Charles Lane Poole. The Board advised on the curriculum and examinations with the result that most state universities agreed to recognise the school's diploma as counting towards a Bachelor of Science degree.

By the time Charles Lane Poole retired in 1945, some 80 students had graduated from the Australian Forestry School. Although his difficulty in negotiating with the states had almost brought the school to its knees, his dogged persistence enabled it to survive and gain recognition.

Commonwealth Forestry Bureau

Charles Lane Poole in the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau, 1930s
Charles Lane Poole in the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau, 1930s (Collection of D.A.N. Cromer, courtesy Robin Cromer)

Charles Lane Poole drafted the Forestry Bureau Act that was assented in 1930. It created the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau whose functions were to advise the Commonwealth territories on forestry matters, conduct forestry research and disseminate forestry information. It provided the Commonwealth's central point of forestry contact with other countries and with national forestry organisations. The Australian Forestry School was part of the Bureau's responsibilities. Charles argued for the Bureau to have control of the forest products laboratory, but this remained with the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Melbourne where it was close to industry.

Charles Lane Poole regarded the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau as his main responsibility even though he had to devote much of his time to the Australian Forestry School. The Forestry Bureau provided advice to the Australian territories and conducted investigations when special funding was provided. It undertook some small research projects in the Federal Capital Territory. With the states, the Bureau's role was limited to cooperation and coordination. It had insufficient funds to initiate major research projects and could only undertake them in the states when invited to do so.

At first Charles Lane Poole had only the Bureau's secretary, RG Keppler, a librarian and a typist to help him. However, in 1928–29 he was able to select three students for postgraduate study overseas so that they could fill research positions on return. The Depression of the 1930s, followed by World War II, meant that the Commonwealth provided for very little increase in the Bureau's staff before Charles retired in 1945.

Advice to the territories

As Inspector-General of Forests, Charles was in charge of the Bureau responsible for providing advice on forestry to the administrators of the Australian territories. During his time with the Bureau, Charles Lane Poole both oversaw and undertook work in the Federal Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, the Northern Territory, Papua and New Guinea.

Federal Capital Territory

Charles Lane Poole recommended expanding the small afforestation program started by Charles Weston on the hills around Canberra. His advice was accepted and GJ Rodger was appointed to head the Territory's Afforestation Branch when Weston retired in 1926. Rodger and Lane Poole worked well together and the Bureau and the Forestry School used the forests and plantations around Canberra as research and study sites.

Charles Lane Poole had previously developed arboreta in Sierra Leone and Western Australia. He and Rodger started one in the Brindabella Hills, south of Canberra, to test a number of conifers for their suitability to the region. The forestry students did much of the work.

Norfolk Island

Charles Lane Poole first visited Norfolk Island in 1925 when he was appointed Forestry Adviser. He recommended the creation of timber reserves to protect the stands of Norfolk Island pine. He recorded growing conditions in various parts of the island and photographed young pines springing up in an area that had been fenced to keep stock out.

Norfolk Island pine was a popular ornamental tree in coastal areas of Australia and overseas, and there was a world-wide demand for its seed in the 1920s and 1930s. Charles Lane Poole introduced a system of testing the seed's viability and the Bureau acted as a clearing house for seed orders. Charles arranged for a young man from Norfolk Island, EV Stephenson, to be trained at the Forestry Bureau in Canberra during 1933 so that the seed collection and testing could then be done on the island.

Demands on Charles Lane Poole's time as head of the Forestry Bureau ranged from the fraught domain of national forest policy, to the botanical science of threatened species, to mundane practical matters. When rabbits on Norfolk Island threatened the survival of an endemic hibiscus in 1933, the Administrator sent him plant specimens and seeds and asked how much strychnine poison to use on the rabbits.

Northern Territory

Little was known about the Northern Territory's forests when the Commonwealth took over its administration in 1911. Charles Lane Poole never visited the Territory but sent his research officer, Max Jacobs, there for 12 weeks in 1933 to examine their potential. The Northern Territory bore the travelling costs.

Jacobs' report showed that there were few timber resources that could be exploited. He recommended that an experimental plantation of cypress pine should be started. Jacobs also collected specimens of 16 species of eucalypts that had not previously been identified. His work added knowledge to the field, but his plantation recommendation was not followed up in Lane Poole's time.

Papua and New Guinea

In 1935, Charles Lane Poole was asked to go back to New Guinea to examine the forests around Bulolo and Wau (in Marobe Division, now Marobe Province) where timber was required by the gold mines. He recommended plantations to 'replace the wasting industry – gold – by a permanent industry – timber'. He took the opportunity to reiterate the recommendations he had made in his 1925 parliamentary paper – that a small territory forest service be set up and plantations be established. He drafted an ordinance and regulations to give effect to these recommendations. His recommendations were largely followed in New Guinea in the improved economic conditions of the late 1930s, although not in Papua. The ordinance was put into effect by appointing two former graduates of the Australian Forestry School in 1938.

Special investigations

The Commonwealth Forestry Bureau conducted several special investigations into forest policy, plantation and water catchment issues during the 1920s and 1930s on behalf of other agencies who provided part or all of the funds. Charles Lane Poole selected the investigators and kept in close contact with them as the projects proceeded and while the reports were being written.

Development and Migration Commission Inquiry into Tasmania

One of the investigations Charles Lane Poole led was an inquiry into Tasmanian forestry. It was inspired by Tasmania's Conservator of Forests, LG Irby, and funded by the Commonwealth Development and Migration Commission. The Commission assessed proposals to use British funds to develop resources and settle British migrants on the land in Australia.

Tasmania became a signatory to a British migration agreement in 1923. LG Irby proposed a 'Forest Plantation Homes' scheme along the lines of the Fairbridge Farm scheme, which had been established in Western Australia a decade earlier. Irby planned to bring 150 British boys – orphans or homeless children, referred to as 'waifs' – per year to Tasmania to plant 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) of pines in return for training and their keep. Irby needed Commonwealth endorsement and British funds, and the matter was referred to the Development and Migration Commission when it was set up in 1926 for a formal and wide-ranging inquiry into Tasmanian forestry. The Commission funded the Forestry Bureau to conduct an investigation.

In 1927 Charles Lane Poole appointed GJ Rodger, Chief Forester for the Federal Capital Territory, to examine the economics of the Tasmanian sawmilling industry, the possibility of establishing economical plantations, the assessment and regeneration of the hardwood forests, and the reorganisation of the Tasmanian Forestry Department.

The Development and Migration Commission published Rodger's report, with a long introduction by Charles Lane Poole, in 1929. Rodger removed a reference to 'unscrupulous and irresponsible Governments' before it was published so as to avoid giving unnecessary offence to the state government, but it was critical of Tasmania for 'mining her forests' rather than managing them to supply a sustained yield. Irby lost his position as Conservator of Forests in 1928 for other reasons and his scheme died with the onset of the Depression.

River Murray reconnaissance

In another project, Charles Lane Poole oversaw a survey of part of the Murray River catchment during construction of the Hume Weir at Albury.

The largest dam on the Murray River, the Hume Weir was built by the River Murray Commission under an agreement between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. Construction started in 1919 and was finally finished in 1936. The weir was built to manage water for irrigation through three states – New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The agreement had no provisions to control land use in the catchment. However, while the weir was being built it was realised that soil erosion in the catchment might result in silt being deposited in the dam, which would reduce its water capacity and hence its usefulness. The extent of erosion from grazing in the high country was of particular concern.

Charles Lane Poole realised that the Forestry Bureau could be used to address the problem with research and policy recommendations. In 1928 he proposed a grand scheme to control fire and grazing in the high country and to plant extensive areas with conifers. He proposed that the good offices of the Development and Migration Commission be used to launch a 'large co-operative scheme'.

Charles Lane Poole suggested a preliminary reconnaissance survey of the catchment area, but even this was dependent on agreement between the Commonwealth and the states. Charles enjoyed a good relationship with the New South Wales Commissioner for Forests at the time, Norman Jolly, and they readily agreed on a joint investigation. However, Victoria did not agree. It was during the Depression, and money was short, so the proposal was abandoned. JG Murphy from the Prime Minister's Department explained that, 'It is a case of hanging on till better times arise'.

But, Baldur Byles, one of the students that Lane Poole had sent overseas for postgraduate training, returned in 1931 to take up an appointment as a research officer in the Forestry and Timber Bureau, paid from existing Forestry Bureau funds. The Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs gave approval for him to survey the New South Wales portion of the catchment. The investigation went ahead on a shoestring budget with some assistance from the New South Wales Forestry Commission; nothing, for instance, was given in the way of travelling expenses for Baldur Byles to return to Canberra from the small mountain township of Khancoban for Christmas. He had to make do with tinned plum pudding.

Lane Poole and Byles kept in close contact. Byles reported his progress, while the Forestry Bureau Secretary, HG Kappler, obtained maps and hydrological and lease information for him. Byles travelled on horseback, camping out across the mountain catchment, much of which now forms part of Kosciuszko National Park. His detailed report on the upper part of the catchment was presented to the River Murray Commission in May 1932, and printed the next year with a foreword by Charles Lane Poole. It clearly showed that the headwaters of the catchment were not being protected. The Commission decided to have the lower portion investigated by a soil expert from the University of Sydney.

Research and coordination

Charles Lane Poole put a clear stamp on Commonwealth forestry policy and practice. The heads of the states' forest services recognised the need for research into 'forest problems of economic importance' when they met in the Interstate Forestry Conference in Canberra in 1934. They recommended that 'the personnel of the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau should be strengthened to enable it co-operate effectively with the states'. Doubtless, Charles Lane Poole drafted the resolution. He then prepared a comprehensive research plan for Australia and asked for a new building and an extra £34,633 in the Bureau's budget estimates for 1935. It was an ambitious bid given the economic circumstances of the time and he had to wait until 1941 for any real expansion of the Bureau.

Although Charles Lane Poole had the general agreement of his state counterparts, he had prepared his plan without consulting them. Some of the states criticised his plan as over-ambitious. Some thought that certain topics would be better handled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but all were sensitive to the way the states and the Commonwealth worked together on forestry issues. Sam Steane, Conservator of Forests in Tasmania, pointed out that any research cooperation required prior agreement. Charles Lane Poole was only able to develop a cooperative research partnership with South Australia, where a joint research station was opened at Mt Burr in the southeast of the state in 1937 to examine nutritional problems in pine plantations.

Commonwealth–state relations

Letter from CE Lane Poole to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, 22 December 1936
Letter from CE Lane Poole to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, 22 December 1936 (A2430, 1936 CONF 23A, pp. 2–4)

Charles Lane Poole was unsuited by background or temperament to negotiate the sensitive relationships between the Commonwealth and the states in the decades between the two world wars. In the French forestry school and the British Colonial Service, where Charles learned his profession, strong direction and professional leadership were the norm. He held his forestry principles strongly and sought to implement them by energetic action. He was neither sympathetic to democratic processes nor tolerant of their outcomes if they cut across what he regarded as good forestry.

The interwar years were a sensitive time for relations between the Commonwealth and the states. Coordinating institutions such as the Loan Council (formed in 1923 and formalised in 1929), the Development and Migration Commission (1926) and the Commonwealth Grants Commission (1933) were still being developed. There were dramatic conflicts, such as the dismissal of the New South Wales premier, JT Lang, by the state governor in 1933 and Western Australia's vote to secede from the Commonwealth federation in 1933.

It was a difficult time for Charles Lane Poole to establish the cooperative atmosphere needed to make the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau and the Australian Forestry School successful. As the Commonwealth had no jurisdiction over state lands and forests, state cooperation could only be achieved by persuasion, negotiation or economic assistance. Charles needed tact and patience to achieve his desired outcomes, as he had no economic inducements to offer, but instead he became embroiled in bitter conflicts with some of his state counterparts. These conflicts arose from his assertion that many of his state colleagues were not properly qualified for their positions and his belief that forestry should be a national rather than a state concern.

New South Wales and R Dalrymple Hay

Charles Lane Poole offended his state counterparts from the first year of his appointment as Forestry Adviser in 1925. The need for a national school to give foresters professional training had long been recognised by the states and in his report to Parliament on forest policy, Charles had successfully argued for the Commonwealth to establish it. However, in doing so he gave the number of graduates that he termed 'fully trained men'. He listed none for New South Wales and the inference that New South Wales was in a 'parlous forestry condition' caused great offence to the Chief Commissioner of the New South Wales Forestry Commission, R Dalrymple Hay. The offence was compounded by Charles' criticism of the Australian Forestry Journal put out by the New South Wales Forestry Commission.

In the mid-1920s, Lane Poole and Dalrymple Hay were at loggerheads over the development of the Australian Forestry School. Hay felt that Charles had deliberately deceived him by supporting the appointment of Norman Jolly as Principal of the school. Their acrimonious correspondence reached a peak when the Premier of New South Wales, WJ McKell, forwarded a statutory declaration by Dalrymple Hay to the Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, complaining about Charles' conduct. Charles wanted the Commonwealth to take legal action to 'vindicate his reputation', but the Commonwealth just wanted 'to allow the matter to end'. The Prime Minister's letter to McKell ominously warned that 'the important matter of forestry development ... must inevitably be seriously prejudiced by the continuation of recriminations', and the matter ended.

Constitutional Commission

In 1927, when a Royal Commission was established to review the Australian Constitution and recommend any changes that might be needed, Charles Lane Poole saw an opportunity to advance his view that forestry should be a Commonwealth, rather than a state responsibility. In his words, 'the States have shown themselves incapable of taking the long views that are necessary to ensure a continuity of forest policy throughout the life of the forest'. Charles Lane Poole laid some of the blame for the condition of the forests on the fact that they 'had fallen into the hands of clerical men who had been engaged in the work under the Lands Departments'. Although New South Wales did not completely rule out some Commonwealth involvement in developing plantations, the other states and the Royal Commission rejected his proposal for national forests.

Charles' evidence left a lingering suspicion of his motives in the minds of his state counterparts. Victoria refused to allow the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau to even survey the Victorian part of the headwaters of the Murray, as Baldur Byles did in New South Wales.

Although the Constitutional Commission rejected his proposal to give the Commonwealth constitutional control of Australia's forest resources, Charles Lane Poole drafted an Act to create national forests to be controlled by a Commonwealth Forests Commission and managed by professionally trained foresters. It envisaged that the states could be persuaded to hand over some or all of their state forests to the Commonwealth for the purpose. It was a politically unrealistic proposal that was soon discarded once his draft left the Forestry Bureau.

The 'professional' heads: Jolly, Kessell and Rodger

Although none of his state counterparts agreed with his dream of national forests, some supported Charles Lane Poole's other initiatives. Their ability to enter into cooperative projects was severely constrained by the Depression, but Charles developed friendly professional relationships with those who met his criterion of being 'fully-trained men'. Most notable were Norman Jolly, who with experience in the Indian Forest Service was principal of the Australian Forestry School for a year before he took over from Dalrymple Hay as Forestry Commissioner in New South Wales; Stephen Kessell, who succeeded Lane Poole as Conservator of Forests in Western Australia; and GJ Rodger, who became Conservator of Forests in South Australia after working in the Federal Capital Territory. These men had all obtained the postgraduate diploma in forestry from Oxford University. They sent students to the Australian Forestry School whenever funds permitted and they conducted a 'personal and confidential' correspondence with Charles Lane Poole to share views on policies and people.

'Forest enemy No. 1': Harold Swain in New South Wales

Charles Lane Poole had strained relations with some of his other state counterparts. In particular, Charles strongly disliked EHF (Harold) Swain. Swain, like Lane Poole, was intelligent, energetic and knowledgeable. But unlike Lane Poole, Swain had taught himself forestry while he worked his way up through the Forestry Branch of the New South Wales Lands Department. In 1918 Swain became head of Queensland's forest service (Director of Forests, 1918–24; Chairman of the Forestry Board, 1924–32). Much like Lane Poole, Swain disagreed with his state government's land policy and lost his job. He then worked as an industry consultant (1933–34). Their different backgrounds influenced their ideas on forestry. Lane Poole looked to European models to control the timber industry through strict plans, while Swain looked to American models of forest development and sought to build economic partnerships with the timber industry.

Charles described Swain as 'Australian forest enemy No. 1'. Jolly, Kessell and Rodger shared some of this feeling, but Charles took extraordinary steps to counter Swain's influence and prevent his appointment as Commissioner for Forests in New South Wales.

When Norman Jolly's term as Commissioner of Forests ended in 1933, the New South Wales government engaged Stephen Kessell to review its Forestry Act. Kessell supported the continuation of a Commission, rather than a departmental structure. Echoing Charles Lane Poole, he stressed the need for professional forestry qualifications.

When the Forestry (Amendment) Bill was presented to state parliament, it gave greater power to the state minister than Charles Lane Poole thought desirable. In addition, it did not insist on graduate forestry credentials for senior positions. Harold Swain, without a degree and then working as a consultant, was eligible to apply for the Commissioner's position.

The New South Wales Forestry (Amendment) Bill went against all the forestry principles Charles Lane Poole espoused, and against what he saw as 'the interests of national forestry'. Never a man to avoid action, he embarked on a covert political campaign to have the Bill changed. He prepared a background paper, 'Forestry Legislation', that he probably leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald in March 1935 and he wrote to the editor on 8 April 1935 to criticise the Bill under the barely veiled pseudonym of 'Expert' from Canberra.

As the Bill had already passed the New South Wales lower house, Charles Lane Poole concentrated his efforts on the Legislative Council. He criticised the New South Wales Minister for Forests, Roy Vincent, in a long paper circulated to members during the debate and he prepared very detailed comments about how the Bill should be amended. His campaign was partly successful as the Legislative Council amended the Bill to retain a Forestry Commission. However, he did not manage to prevent Harold Swain's appointment as its Commissioner.

Charles Lane Poole then did everything he could to discredit Harold Swain by preparing a secret 'dossier' of his alleged professional mistakes over the past 16 years. Swain was an effusive man whose writings enabled Charles to point out inconsistencies in his thoughts over the years.

The most important issue almost certainly came from GJ Rodger, by then Conservator of Forests in South Australia. When he was a consultant, Swain had surveyed the plantations there on behalf of Australian Paper Manufacturers to see if the development of a pulp and paper mill was feasible. He had reported failures, the need for thinning and suggested that South Australia should not charge for the wood removed in the process. He had effectively criticised Jolly's and Rodger's management as economically inadequate.

Charles Lane Poole came to their defence by including their views in the 'dossier'. In an extraordinary move for a senior Commonwealth officer, he sent the 'dossier' with a 'private and confidential' letter to A Heath, the New South Wales Agent-General in London; FH Cork, Secretary of the Sydney and Suburban Sawmillers Association; and AA Howie MLC. He asked them to destroy their letters, but kept copies on a Bureau file.

Harold Swain could not have been unaware of Charles Lane Poole's hostility or his endeavours to prevent him being appointed as Commissioner, a position he held successfully from 1935 to 1948. With Swain as Commissioner and Lane Poole as Inspector-General, forestry cooperation between New South Wales and the Commonwealth became impossible. New South Wales stopped sending students to attend the Australian Forestry School in 1936, which almost forced it to shut. For Charles Lane Poole, this was yet another cause of complaint for him to note. Swain relented in 1941 and started sending students again.

Charles Lane Poole's personal style may not have nourished relations with his state counterparts, but over his 23-year career in the Commonwealth public service, his dedication to Australian forestry did not waver.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019