A proposed $42 million export facility for woodchips in southern Tasmania is the missing link in the rebuilding of the sector, the forest industry has said.
Southwood Fibre has lodged a development application with the Huon Valley Council for the facility at Strathblane, near Dover, which could create 145 jobs.
Currently bulk wood products from the state’s south are trucked to an export facility at Bell Bay in northern Tasmania, where the product is processed and shipped to export markets.
The proposal would see Southwood Fibre process certified plantation forests at the existing Southwood processing facility before being transported on forestry roads to a purpose built loading facility at Strathblane, and then packed into vessels for export.
The chief executive of Southwood Fibre, James Neville-Smith, said it could generate $55 million of economic activity every year.
“The forest industry in southern Tasmania has had significant headwind since the closure of the Triabunna mill, and there is literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of standing plantations in the ground that are worthless until such time as there’s appropriate infrastructure to take that product to market,” he told ABC Radio Hobart.
Terry Edwards says the facility has the potential to unlock the value of private plantations. (ABC News)
“It will go to the existing markets in Japan or China, there’s a huge demand for the products at the moment and that’s expected to continue to rise as plantation volumes in other areas of Australia and other areas of the world diminish so there’s no doubt there’s the market for it.”
The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) welcomed plans, saying the closure of the Triabunna woodchip mill had severely affected the industry.
“This facility has been the missing link in the rebuilding of the Tasmanian forest industry and the Southwood Fibre development in very welcome,” chief executive Terry Edwards said.
“The creation of a dedicated export facility for forest products in the south of the state has the potential to unlock the value of plantations on private property that have significantly lost value in the wake of the collapse of the managed investment schemes.”
The company said there would be no wood chipping at the loading facility, but it had applied for a permit to process 800,000 tonnes.
The proposal is expected to create 135 jobs during construction and 145 jobs on an ongoing basis when complete.
“I’m inviting further investment, further economic stimulus into the south of the state by seeking to get this proposal off the ground,” Mr Neville-Smith said.
Company not expecting problems
Mr Neville-Smith is not expecting opposition to the plan.
“At the end of the day we’re talking about certified plantations, we’re talking about chipping the produce in an area that is designated for wood processing in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
“We’re talking about using forestry roads to get the process to a suitable location to put it onto a dedicated loader and onto a vessel. I can’t for the life of me understand how people would have a problem with that.
“We’re talking about 130 to 140 jobs through the construction and ongoing employment through the project, we’re talking about $100 million of economic stimulus into the region through the construction phase and $55 million worth of economic stimulus on an ongoing basis.”
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