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Forestry and timber stories

Forestry grows strong

Edition 200_Timberlink

Hot on the heels of news that Timberlink is investing $100 million in its sawmills – including at Bell Bay – Tasmania’s state-owned forestry company has turned a profit for the first time in a decade.

It’s been a good few months for forestry.

Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) – formerly Forestry Tasmania – has delivered an operating profit of $6 million for the last financial year.

This turnaround is an improvement of $20 million on the previous year, with increased wood production volumes and higher logging prices, helping to push the business back into the black.

Furthermore, this is the first time in a decade that the public forest manager has been debt free.

The figures were revealed with the tabling of STT’s annual report in State Parliament last month.

STT Chairman, Rob de Fegely, told The Mercury: “Following the successful plantation sale, the business is debt free and we have a much stronger balance sheet to manage future risks.”

The STT turnaround comes on the back of further good news for a rebounding forestry industry.

In September, Timberlink announced a major investment upgrade at its Bell Bay mill.

The company intends increasing production by 15 per cent over the next three years, by investing $100 million in its Australian mills; Bell Bay in northern Tasmania and Tarpeena in South Australia. Bell Bay is set to gain $10 million.

Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, David Littleproud, recently visited the Bell Bay facility to see first-hand how this investment will translate into jobs and economic growth.

“The plantation timber industry is vital to regional Tasmania, and it is great to see an Australian manufacturing business make an investment of this size,” the Minister said as he toured the mill last month.

He added this was “great news for regional Tasmania” securing 1,350 direct and indirect jobs around the country, 650 of which are in northern Tasmania.

The new investment program will be rolled out in stages.

Timberlink says ninety workers will be employed at Bell Bay during the first stage – the construction phase – which will commence early next year.

This will include the installation of a state-of-the art contraflow kiln, new planer mill equipment, as well as an upgraded internal road system for improved safety.

Six new permanent full-time positions will also be created at the mill.

Bell Bay is the only large scale, plantation softwood sawmill in Tasmania, and transforms sustainably grown pine into quality timber products used in construction and manufacturing, such as structural framing and fencing. 

Timberlink – which is the leading producer of plantation timber in Tasmania – took over Bell Bay in 2013, and since that time has invested $15 million upgrading facilities which has already resulted in a 50 per cent increase in capacity.

But that is just the start, and according to Timberlink, the latest investment announcement is a further tick of confidence in the future of forestry.

“This is a substantial re-investment in the Timberlink mill facilities and continues to demonstrate the strong recovery of the Australian forestry sector under institutional investor ownership,” Timberlink Chairman, David Brand said.

“Timberlink has become a leading wood products business, and I expect it will continue to innovate and grow, creating new manufacturing jobs in regional areas.”

It will also help to correct a timber shortage which has occurred in Australia over the past 12 to 18 months.

“Our integrated business model allows us to optimise and guarantee our supply from the forest, all the way to our customers’ door, and at its core, this program is about increasing and securing that supply of timber,” Mr Brand added.

Footnote: It appears Timberlink’s innovative “Made in Tasmania” campaign is having a big impact. Launched in February, it is the first mass media campaign conducted by an Australian softwood sawmiller. The high visibility promotion includes billboards, print, television, radio and digital media, and was launched in February with the tagline: “Together we build.” According to Timberlink, survey results show the number of builders who prefer to use Timberlink timber after the campaign has trebled, while positive perception amongst builders about the product has doubled.

Image courtesy of Timberlink

9 November 2018, Edition 200

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