Bega high school students gain appreciation of timber industry

Students aged between 14 and 17 and teachers from Bega High School stayed at Bondi Forest Lodge in Bondi State Forest on 9 and 10 March to gain an appreciation of the timber industry.

State Forests planning forester Monaro Region Matt de Jongh said a Lucas portable sawmill owned by Mr Ray Stewart was on site at the lodge and students under supervision participated in the processing of logs donated and supplied by State Forests.

Mr Eugene Collins, the teacher in charge of the excursion and a former forestry student, proposed the initiative as a practical means of reinforcing what is taught in the classroom.

“It will be a great learning experience as the processed timber is being taken back to Bega to be used by the school’s wood work classes,” Mr de Jongh said.

Industrial arts head teacher at Bega High School Steve Harris said the excursion had a dual purpose.

“On the one hand we wanted our students to experience first hand the practices involved in plantation forestry and other we saw that it may be a chance to help our school budget by milling our own timber using a portable sawmill,” he said.

“We asked State Forests to supply the timber and organise the visits and we were delighted with the response and the time, effort and emphasis on safe practices Mr de Jongh put into the excursion.

“This excursion was an excellent example of cooperation between two government departments and the private sector and the big winners are our students.”

Before the timber was processed students measured the logs, then measured them again after they were processed, thereby calculating the recovery rates from the sawmill.

“This helped them understand how well the resource was being utilized,” Mr Harris said.

“A rate in excess of 65 per cent was achieved in most logs thanks to their high quality and Mr Stewart’s expertise.”

The students also visited an active harvesting operation within a pine plantation, where they saw the processes involved in mechanised harvesting.

“As well as gaining an appreciation of the commercial side of the business they gained an understanding of the environmental and social considerations taken into account when an area is harvested,” Mr de Jongh said.

On one of the nights at the lodge the students went spotlighting.

Mr de Jongh said State Forests used spotlights to survey an area with the particular aim of identifying rare or endangered animal species.

”It was very interesting for the students as they got a close view of animals such as wombats and possums.” he said.

Students were introduced to tree measuring in the forest, an assessment method employed by State Forests’ staff to estimate the volume of standing timber and its size distribution.

They also visited the local sawmill, Willmott Timbers, which produces a number of products ranging from gardening timber to sleeper to structural material.

“Our intention was to give the students and teachers an insight into the timber industry and an understanding of how important it is to the local economy and we certainly think we achieved this goal,” Mr de Jongh said.

Mr Harris and Mr Collins agreed that both students and teachers had enjoyed an excellent excursion.

Media contact: Matt de Jongh on (02) 6458 3177 or Eugene Collins on (02) 6492 9000. Photos available by contacting Matt de Jongh.