Gunns sale signed

AUSTRALIA’S biggest hardwood sawmill and timber processing operation at Heyfield has new owners.

Previous owners Gunns last week appeared gun shy, the Tasmanian company refusing to sign documents relating to the $28 million sale of the mill, despite announcing the sale the week earlier.

But last week Gunns settled its contractual dispute with new owners Australian Sustainable Hardwoods.

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods chief executive officer Vince Hurley told the Gippsland Times ASH was a private company formed for the purpose of buying and operating Heyfield and was owned by the Hermal Group and equity partners.

“The operation is a stand alone business with its own management and systems — all operated from Heyfield,” he said.

“The Heyfield operation is the largest hardwood operation in Australia and only purchases regrowth ash certified under the Australian Forestry Standard.”

Mr Hurley said the operation had 200 direct employees and was already looking to expand its workforce, advertising for administrative staff and appointing sales staff.

He was particularly emphatic the operation was beneficial to the district’s economy, pointing to its direct wages bill of $11 million.

“All suppliers of transport, hydraulic, pneumatic, engineering, clothing, electrical and goods and services are Gippsland -based,” he said.

Mr Hurley also emphasised the operation took its environmental impact seriously.

“The operation purchases regrowth ash (timber) certified under the Australian Forestry Standard,” he said.

“The operation is certified to ISO14001 International Environmental Standard, AS4801 Australian Safety Standard and AS4707 Chain of Custody for Certified Wood and Forest products.”

In addition to the sawmilling operation, ASH Heyfield produces manufactured timber products for domestic and international markets.

“These products are for the manufacturing market such as staircase, window, door and furniture and the merchant market such as beams, flooring, architraves and dressed boards,” Mr Hurley said.

“Despite the high Australian dollar, the company has increased the number of import replacement products and has success in the finger jointed laminated product range.”

With the purchase of the operation concluded, Mr Hurley said ASH could look to its long term viability, with legislative changes now allowing longer term timber supply contracts to be signed with the State Government’s timber entity VicForests.

“The Victorian Government is putting the Timber Industry Action Plan in place,” Mr Hurley said.

“This will enable the resource security for ASH to invest in more high value product lines.”

“Deputy Premier Peter Ryan was instrumental and supportive in enabling the establishment of ASH,” he said.