Heyfield mill optimistic

TIMBER harvesting in Victoria’s mountain ash forests will be reduced from 2017, but Heyfield’s Australian Sustainable Hardwoods is unlikely to suffer major impact.

VicForests, the state owned business regulating forest harvesting, announced last Thursday it would reduce its sale of high quality saw logs by more than 25 percent.

VicForests chief executive officer Rob Green said previous outlooks had projected the sale of 300,000 cubic metres of high quality ash sawlog per year, but this year’s outlook had revised this figure to 215,000 cubic metres per year, a reduction of more than 25 per cent.

The change will be fully implemented from July 2017, along with new procedures for saw log sales.

“This is a tough decision but the reduction is a direct result of the impact of large scale bushfires on areas of forest available for timber production.

“As a responsible forest manager, it is vital VicForests continues to balance the social, economic and environmental benefits provided by the six percent of native forest in Victoria which is available and suitable for timber production.

ASH chief executive officer Vince Hurley explained the Heyfield operation had invested in value adding capabilities that ensured ASH made the most of the logs it purchased. “Nothing in life is a lay-down misere but we are unlikely to be severely effected by it.”

Mr Hurley was cautiously optimistic ASH’s size and efficiency would ensure it could cope with the new regime.

“We are in a good position to ensure our long term because we are able to extract more from less.”

Mr Green said the reduction in harvesting brought forward a reduction in harvesting which had been forecast in previous resource outlooks.

“The change ensures future harvesting will continue at a sustainable level and future timber sales will be based on the reduced volume,” he said.

Mr Green said the cut would ensure the sustainability of the timber industry in Victoria and provide long term certainty to the businesses, families and regional communities relying on the timber industry.

“We believe it also considers the affect of the fires on habitat for a range of species, including the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, by reducing the level of harvesting in ash forests by approximately 500 hectares per year,” he said.

“The commencement of our major sawlog sales event for 2013 will enable customers the ability to secure supply certainty beyond 2017.”