RE­VEALED WOODCHIPPING RE­TURNS TO SOUTH TASSIE

Pro­posed $42m ex­port fa­cil­ity Fore­casts of 145 jobs, $55m boost

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - SIMEON THOMAS-WIL­SON

THE con­struc­tion of a $42 mil­lion ex­port fa­cil­ity for wood­chip pro­cess­ing in the Huon Val­ley will sup­port 145 on­go­ing jobs and breathe new life into the strug­gling forestry in­dus­try in the South, pro­po­nents say.

South­wood Fi­bre, which al­ready has a sawmill and pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity in the re­gion, has submitted a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion to the Huon Val­ley Coun­cil for the pri­vate pro­posal it says could gen­er­ate $55 mil­lion each year in eco­nomic stim­u­lus.

Un­der the pro­posal — which will take up to two years to build should the coun­cil ap­prove it — cer­ti­fied plan­ta­tion forests in the area will be pro­cessed at the ex­ist­ing South­wood fa­cil­ity for trans­port on a log­ging road to a sin­gle-use load­ing fa­cil­ity at Strath­blane, just south of Dover, for di­rect ex­port.

Only prod­uct cer­ti­fied to Aus­tralian Forestry Stan­dards and/or For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil re­quire­ments will be ex­ported from the fa­cil­ity.

South­wood Fi­bre chief ex­ec­u­tive James Neville-Smith, who is also ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Neville-Smith For­est Prod­ucts, which owns South­wood — said the project had been two years in the mak­ing.

“There are three fun­da­men­tal is­sues with set­ting up a wood­chip plant and an ex­port ter­mi­nal,” he said.

“One is the noise and prox­im­ity to res­i­dents, an­other is truck move­ments and an­other is vis­ual amenity. There’s all sorts of places that are bet­ter lo­ca­tions for what we are do­ing but where we have cho­sen has ticked those boxes.

“So where we are go­ing, we don’t go past a sin­gle res­i­den­tial house on the freight route, we will be do­ing the noisy part of the process at South­wood which is a ded­i­cated forestry fa­cil­ity and the site for the pack­ag­ing and dis­patch­ing of the chips is at an off­shoot of Strath­blane.”

Ever since for­mer forestry pow­er­house Gunns sold the Tri­abunna mill for $10 mil­lion in 2011, south­ern Tas­ma­nia has been with­out a wood ex­port fa­cil­ity, with prod­ucts freighted to Bell Bay in the North to be shipped.

In 2014, Ho­bart busi­ness­man Den­nis Bew­sher pro­posed a Huon River barge to ship wood­chips down the river to a 40,000-tonne wood­chip car­rier at South­port, which sparked strong com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion and ex­posed di­vi­sions at the Huon Val­ley coun­cil.

Mr Neville-Smith said he was con­fi­dent this pro­posal would not en­counter such stiff op­po­si­tion, es­pe­cially with a KMPG re­port say­ing it would gen­er­ate more than $100 mil- lion of eco­nomic stim­u­lus and 135 jobs dur­ing con­struc­tion and then $55 mil­lion each year and 145 on­go­ing di­rect and in­di­rect jobs once op­er­a­tional.

He said the busi­ness would di­rectly em­ploy 20 to 25 peo­ple once op­er­a­tional.

“So you will have a wave of new in­vest­ment here in har­vest­ing equip­ment, ad­di­tional crews, trucks, peo­ple will buy food and cof­fee — it just goes on,” he said.

Mr Neville-Smith said it would be a 100 per cent pri­vate project and the funds would be raised through debt or debt to eq­uity.

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