Australian Sustainable Hardwoods: Supply blow fells Heyfield mill

In February 20, 2017

VICFORESTS  told Australian Sustainable Hardwoods as recently as last year it could provide enough timber for its Heyfield mill for up to 15 years , according to the embattled company.

Mill chief executive Vince Hurley said he was shocked by the amount of timber offered by Government-owned VicForests as ASH negotiated its next supply contract.

“A little over six months ago I was informed by VicForests that they had sufficient supply of suitable sawlogs available for 10 to 15 years,” Mr Hurley said.

“For VicForests to turn around and say the best they can do is less than half our contracted volume over three years, just six months later, doesn’t make any sense at all.”

ASH says it needs at least 130,000 cubic metres of timber to break even, but VicForests says it has only enough logs to provide 80,000 cubic metres next year and 60,000 cubic metres a year for two following years.

VicForests spokesman David Walsh said it had presented “information to a number of groups in May 2016 showing that approximately 36,000 hectares of 1939 regrowth forest are potentially available to supply timber to the Victorian hardwood industry, but also noted that not all of this area can be harvested due to regulatory and logistical constraints”.

“The presentation did not discuss future supply volumes to the industry or any individual customers,” Mr Walsh said.

It comes as a working group advising the State Government on the future of the mill held its first meeting this week. The group, including senior bureaucrats and representatives of ASH and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union met to discuss how 230 full-time and 20 contract positions at the mill might be saved after the mill warned of closure as early as September.

It is understood the working group will consider “the possum formula” (how the population of the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum is calculated); how Victoria’s timber reserves are allocated; and a proposal to retool the mill so it can process smaller logs, before a meeting with senior government ministers at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews has intervened in the State’s Forest Industry Taskforce.

The taskforce, comprising conservation, industry and union groups, was an election commitment to provide long-term recommendations to Government about the management of state forests. It began in November 2015 but so far has agreed on little.

The Government will now consider issues within the taskforce’s terms of reference.

The Heyfield community is pulling out all the stops to get its message across to the Victorian Government.

AFL premiership footballers and self-described Heyfield boys Leigh Brown and David Wojcinski have written to the Premier.

“The people we speak to in our town are shocked and bewildered at the news. We can’t understand or believe that the timber is not available,” they wrote

A Gippsland crowd-funding campaign to advertise a letter to the Premier in the Herald Sun about the impact the mill’s closure is closing in on its $12,000 target. The GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $10,000.

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods: Supply blow fells Heyfield mill by Kath Sullivan.  Available from <> [February 8, 2017 12:00am] Photo Credit:  Photo: DANNIKA BONSER




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