THE massive shadow of the ‘for sale’ sign darkening Heyfield’s horizon looks to have lifted.
After months of apprehension the community can breathe a little easier, with the town’s major employer likely to change ownership and continue operations.
A Melbourne-based consortium headed by the Hermal Group has bought the Gunns hardwood sawmilling business for a reported $28 million.
The sale is expected to completed by May 22, or the end of the month at the latest.
Hermal Group chief executive Clinton Tilley told the Gippsland Times that Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) had exchanged contracts with Gunns to acquire the Heyfield hardwood sawmilling business.
The Heyfield operation is the largest hardwood sawmill in Australia, with the ability to process 155,000 cubic metres per annum of logs, sourced from certified environmentally sustainable regrowth forest resources in Victoria.
“The Heyfield business is a very important employer in this region and is of major strategic importance to the state of Victoria,” Mr Tilley said.
“Around 200 people are employed by the mill, with another 4000 workers and their families directly benefiting from its operation.
“Over 20,000 Victorians regularly work with the products manufactured in Heyfield,” he said.
Mr Tilley confirmed the Heyfield ASH operation would be operated as a stand alone enterprise with its own management team.
The mill has been operating at reduced capacity since Gunns, with a multi-million dollar debt to State Government timber agency VicForests, last year said it would sell the operation.
ASH is understood to be planning on operating the mill at full capacity.
News of the mill’s sale has lifted community spirits, according to Wellington Shire’s Cr Malcolm Hole.
“Everyone knew the mill would survive but we were unsure in what shape or form and how well,” he said.
For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.