Investment to boost timber industry's economic contribution on the north coast

The Australian Solar Timbers (AST) sawmill at Kempsey is a prime example of what the timber industry can achieve though a commitment to innovation and new technology, Director General of the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Barry Buffier, said today.

Speaking at the official opening of the upgraded mill, Mr Buffier said the hardwood timber industry -comprising forest management, timber harvesting and processing operations - was a major contributor to the economic prosperity of the NSW north coast.

“The industry provides direct employment for more than 4,500 people on the north coast and contributes in excess of $375 million to the regional economy each year,” Mr Buffier said.

"The State Government’s industry reforms are designed to deliver even greater security for the industry and the regional communities that rely on a sustainable timber resource.

“By promoting more effective use of native timber resources and encouraging industry investment and innovation, the State Government can encourage continuing industry development.

"Australian Solar Timbers is an example of how innovative ideas and technology can enable the industry to expand and generate increased job opportunities in the region.

“Since the early 1990's AST has been transformed from a small pallet and paling mill into a state-of-the-art processing facility dedicated to the production of solid hardwood flooring products.

"At the same time the number of people employed at the mill has increased almost five-fold from 14 to 68, significantly boosting the contribution of the business to the local economy.

"All this has been achieved though capital investment of around $10 million on new equipment and innovative technology.

"AST is one of a number of major north coast timber processing companies to enter into new 20-year wood supply arrangements with Forestry Corporation.

"These new agreements will underpin the continuing development of the north coast hardwood industry by providing unprecedented resource security.

"They provide assured long term timber supply and a secure platform from which AST and other hardwood processors can move forward with security and confidence.

"As well enhancing supply arrangements for high quality sawlogs, the new agreements extend long term supply security to a wider range of logs including lower quality sawlogs.

"This will help to ensure optimum use of the available timber resource.

"It also means that many timber processing businesses will, for the first time, have certainty in the form of a legally binding long term wood supply agreement.

"These agreements will provide the security of assured volume and allow AST and other north coast hardwood processors to proceed with confidence with further capital investment, innovation and market development."

Media contact: Bill Frew on 0429 144 776.