Woodchipping – it’s never been more precarious

The financial situation of the SE NSW and E Gippsland woodchipping industry has recently seen some interesting changes:

1. Jobs cut by 30% at the Eden chipmill, coming on top of an earlier round of redundancies this year. A drop from 72 down to 46 jobs.
2. Reduced number of woodchip ships taking loads out from Eden. Some were even turned back.
3. Mill is working at reduced capacity and is closed for days at a time.
4. The Eden SEFE mill (previously Daishowa) is Nippon Paper’s weakest performer (analysis of annual financial statements by Nippon’s subsidiaries).

In response, the logging/woodchipping industry is now pushing for native forests to be burnt for electricity as ‘renewable energy’ and to gain subsidies. This is a major part of their five year plan to maintain logging operations and profits.

The ABC reported on 28 September that the CFMEU warned the move could have dire implications for the entire timber industry. As sawmills are not permitted to burn their waste products sawmills are going to be squeezed without a market for their waste wood.

Also – the Bega Cheese factory has been burning sawdust from the chipmill to generate power for several years. Recently they have installed a gas fired power generator saying, “With the logging industry under threat of cutbacks, having this secondary boiler would also reduce the risk of running out of fuel,” he said. So, it is not just the CFMEU who is talking about the possibility of the chipmill closing.

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