SA mills to recommence operations
Friday 23 Jul 2021Timber mills across South Australia recommenced operations after being listed an essential service.
The billion-dollar industry was forced to shut down for about 24 hours after it was left off the list of essential services released mid-week. It was a significant blow for the industry, which has been working to address the national shortage of structural timber available to the construction sector.
Key stakeholders worked around the clock to seek clarity on the issue, which was eventually provided by SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens at a press conference. The uncertainty also left thousands of forestry workers in limbo amid the state's seven-day snap lockdown.
Commissioner Stevens said timber mills were considered to be primary industries. "There was some concern about the impact of the direction, which was an earlier version of the direction that restricted timber mills from operating," he said. SA Forest Products Association chief executive Nathan Paine said the industry received written confirmation that operations could recommence.
"Our initial reading was – certainly for larger mills – that they wouldn't be able to operate under these rules and there was a risk that we might not even be able to get harvesting activities occurring in the forest," Mr Paine said. "That was yesterday — today I'm really pleased to be able to say that the government has recognised the concerns of the industry and consumers of wood products."
But the delay did come at a cost. Green Triangle union official Brad Coates said the lack of clarity from the outset caused "massive disruption" to the industry. "The two largest sawmills, OneFortyOne here in Mount Gambier and Timberlink in Tarpeena, they shut down, so it's the cost of shutting everything down and sending everyone home to then have to start up the following day," he said. "It is a cost that the companies and the employer will have to bear."
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