Hope for successful outcome for ASH
AS THIS edition of Australasian Timber was being produced there was hope that the possible planned closure of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods' (ASH) Heyfield Mill could be averted. ASH is the main employer in Heyfield with over 250 workers.
The row between ASH and the government is over future log supplies for the nationally and internationally recognised business.
The ASH board on 8 March 2017 stated that as a sign of good faith the ASH board agreed in January to put a hold on the implementation of the forced closure procedures due to the Victorian government’s failure to supply the logs needed to maintain a viable business.
"ASH had been attempting to discuss timber supply with the Andrews government for two years to no avail. On January 17 we were shocked at the offer from the government of less than half our current supply level.
"ASH at that time of making the decision to hold off on closure, provided government with a road map to move this industry from the 1939 regrowth areas of the forest through into plantation over the forward 20 to 25 years.
"In January the government had sought a delay of four weeks and we agreed to provide five. The ASH board met on 7 March and considered a request to a further delay of seven days before implementation of the forced closure actions.
ASH were advised that the government was close to a decision on being able to provide the necessary supply and conditions that could mean the mill would remain open and believed that the premier Daniel Andrews was personally committed to saving the jobs of the mill’s workers.
However when the offer was received it was rejected by ASH as not sustainable and would see the business lose over $10.5m per year. Additional proposals were then put by ASH to the government but these were not accepted.
Meanwhile more than 100 workers from the mill rallied in Melbourne (15 March) to try to save the company and their jobs.
The ASH board scheduled an extraordinary board meeting on 16 March to decide the future of the mill.