Strong work ethic and a passion for ply lauded
There is no doubt Gary Holmes was influential in steering Austral Plywoods on a course for success. When Gary joined Austral in 1985 it was a ‘break even’ business that would soon be sold back into private ownership, under the management of Mal Matthews and Freddie Clark. The year was 1986, and at the time fellow industry competitors were already predicting Austral’s demise within 2-3 years.
How wrong they were.
Gary suggested a change of direction, dropping traditional product lines such as formply and bracing ply, instead steering production towards higher quality product lines such as Marine ply and ‘A’ faced panels. This direction was no doubt pivotal to Austral’s success as the Australian plywood market became increasingly dominated by imports. Austral couldn’t compete in a high volume, low margin market.
Under Gary’s guidance, Austral remains the last plywood producer in Queensland.
Gary has earned the respect of those in the plywood industry. A survey conducted by the PAA (now the EWPAA) in the late 1990’s that measured the quality of business relations between plywood manufacturers and their distributors found that generally relations were poor across the industry. There was, however, one shining light, Gary Holmes. The PAA CEO of the time Kevin Lyngcoln said that Gary Holmes was the only one who came out ‘smelling like roses’.
A true company man, Gary would fly the red eye on Perth trips to save money yet still turn up to work early in the morning with only a few hours’ sleep. Such is Gary’s commitment and work ethic, he almost never has a day off work and proudly drives around Brisbane with his personalised plates – PLY000.
This August we celebrated Gary’s plywood industry career spanning 42 years and wish Gary and his wife June all the very best in their retirement.
-- Scott Matthews