Australian hardwood operation discusses mill options

Friday 3 Feb 2017

On Monday evening, ASH board member, Group CEO Clinton Tilley, along with the CFMEU and staff from Australian Sustainable Hardwoods mill, met with government representatives - including the Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford.

This was the first time that the company had had an opportunity to meet with the Minister. The meeting came in the context of the mill having to announce its closure due to substantially lower levels of supply than are required for the mill to be feasible.

Mr Tilley said “ASH took to the meeting a proposal that would enable a move to even less sensitive areas of the ‘commercial’ forest area in around 5 years and then a complete transition into plantation in around 25 years.”

“For this to occur though, the mill needs to have supply from the 1939 regrowth areas for 5 to 7 years while a transition occurs to the smaller sized trees. This supply also needs to remain close to the 150,000 cubic metres we currently receive from VicForests,” Mr Tilley said in a statement.

“Moving so quickly to the smaller trees will also require massive re-tooling of the business and if the government wants this industry to survive, if it wants to keep the jobs and the thousands of downstream jobs, it will have to assist in the transition costs. No business of our size can afford to make this change on their own.”

“Moving out of the mature 1939 regrowth timber to smaller diameter logs (in less sensitive areas) and then through to total plantation supply in around 25 years is not our first choice, however, this business needs certainty and long term certainty of supply if it is to remain viable.”

“The board has agreed to delay implementation of the forced closure plans for four weeks, so as to give the government time to find a way to keep the industry alive. “I think the meeting was a good start and one where the players around the table all understood the challenge and the consequences of not meeting that challenge”.

A meeting with the local community has also been held this week. Understandably the issue has become heated and is of concern as evidenced by the more than 1,000 turning up. Coverage of the meeting can be read here.

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