AN innovative advanced manufacturing facility will be built at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, Heyfield.
The new facility will establish a manufacturing line for huge section mass plantation pine columns and beams not currently produced in Australia.
ASH will contribute $1.7 million to the $3.4 million project, with the federal government providing the remaining $1.7 million.
ASH managing director Vince Hurley said the funding would allow the business to diversify its manufacturing feedstock and markets.
“Predominately ASH manufactures MASSLAM 45 from native timber, this investment means we will begin to manufacture plantation radiata pine product MASSLAM 33,” he said.
“This project enables beams up to 1300 millimetres wide by 900mm deep to be efficiently produced complying with structural and fire requirements in ASH’s target markets.
“With a decreased availability in hardwood due to the bushfires, this is the perfect time to expand our manufacturing potential for radiata pine and keep as many locals in their jobs as possible.
“This project secures the already 110 jobs at the Heyfield plant and adds another 16 permanent positions to our team.”
The plantation pine columns and beams are used in the construction of multi-story government, commercial and residential buildings.
Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said the funding was an important investment in the region’s timber products industry.
“The forestry sector is one of the cornerstones of Gippsland’s economy, so ensuring it has the means to innovate and adapt is incredibly important for all Gippslanders,” he said.
“This investment will help to boost the mill’s resilience against natural disasters and other disruptions to its operations.
“ASH is an exceptional local business and the largest manufacturer of timber products in the country. Its high-end timber products are a feature of notable buildings around Australia and the world, including the Sir John Monash Centre in France.
“This funding will allow ASH to continue to innovate and adapt to support local jobs in a changing operation environment.”
The announcement is welcome news to many in the industry, as the dark cloud from the state government’s decision to phase of native timber harvesting by 2020 still hovers – something Mr Chester said was an ongoing battle.
“That’s a fight that’s still to be had,” he said.
“The state governments decision in relation to harvesting timber is an appalling decision and one I will never support,”
“But we are working with ASH to make sure it’s a more diversified, more resilient business, and one that will keep creating jobs.”
Elsewhere, timber from ASH will feature in the new Latrobe Creative Precinct.
A number of ‘trees’ have been created to be used in the precinct’s stunning light-filled foyer in Traralgon.
Following a tough year for many local businesses, ASH employees were all given a voucher for Christmas to be used specifically for purchases in Heyfield.