Heyfield timber mill: Victorian Government completes purchase

Friday, September 15, 2017

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UPDATE: THE Victorian Government will not say how much it has spent to buy the Heyfield timber mill.

A spokesman for the Government said the figure was confidential, but The Weekly Times understands the business was independently valued at close to $40 million.

Employment Minister Wade Noonan will be responsible for the timber mill, which will be run with a board of management and existing Australian Sustainable Hardwoods management. It is not clear yet who will be on the board, or which managers remain.

It is also not clear how many jobs could be lost, or how the mill operate commercially, based on the reduced timber supply offered by VicForests.

“While we are pleased that the mill will remain open for the immediate future, we are still mindful that there will be some redundancies and the mill will be operating at a smaller capacity than before,” Wellington Shire Mayor, Carolyn Crossley said.

“The timber supply has only been secured for the next three years and at a level that is quite below full operating capacity.”

The purchase, months in the making, has angered green groups calling for an end to native logging and the establishment of the Great Forest National Park in Victoria’s eastern Central Highlands.

“The Andrews Government was elected on a platform of delivering outcomes for forests, workers, industry and wildlife,” Wilderness Society’s Amelia Young said.

“Now that the Heyfield sawmill sale has been finalised, Premier Andrews must immediately commence a process to create new national parks in this term of office.”

Committee for Gippsland chief executive Mary Aldred said news of the deal would provide some certainty to the community.

“Timber is a foundation industry in Gippsland, and for the town of Heyfield, a future for the timber industry is critically important,” Ms Aldred said.

“The potential alternative of not having a mill in Heyfield was simply unacceptable as an outcome.”

Timber lobby Victorian Association of Forest Industries chief executive Tim Johnston welcomed the deal.

“It is great to see that sawmilling, and associated wood manufacturing will continue in Heyfield, as it is a vital industry for both the local region and Victoria more broadly.

It is also important to acknowledge the mill workers, and the wider Heyfield community, as this has been a difficult time for all involved,” Mr Johnston said.

Mr Noonan said there would be more announcements about the mill to come.

“We have secured the future of this mill — saving jobs, protecting the timber industry and ensuring the local Heyfield economy is supported into the future,” Mr Noonan said from Melbourne.

Earlier in the year Premier Daniel Andrews promised to meet with workers from Heyfield, it is not clear when he intends to do this.

He was in Northcote for an education announcement on this morning.

The Government today confirmed there have been 24 voluntary redundancies taken from ASH over the past month.

Nationals leader Peter Walsh called on the Government to commit to no more job losses at Heyfield.

“Labor is desperate to paint this deal as a win for the community to cover up the fact jobs have already been lost at the mill and that they have not guaranteed there won’t be further losses to come,” Mr Walsh said.

Meanwhile, the Greens have questioned how the Heyfield mill can compete with privately owned-mills for the state-owned and managed timber resource.

“The Andrews Government will have a stake in the mill. This means it will compete against privately owned mills for a share of the dwindling supply of logs that are supplied by the Government-owned logging monopoly, VicForests. This is anti-competitive and anti-environment,” Greens MP Samantha Dunn said.

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