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ASH receives $1.2M for hardwood plant just when timber supply is limited

Masslam used in the construction of the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) at Heyfield has received a $1.2 million state government grant to expand its plantation timber manufacturing operation. The new funding will help build a new $2.4 million specialised MASSLAM (Glue Laminated Timber) production line with timber sourced from plantation shining gum. Source: Philip Hopkins for Timberbiz

MASSLAM is an engineered wood product made from hardwood that is helping to revolutionise the role of timber in construction. Regular timber boards are pressed together under high pressure to create large beams and columns that are as strong as steel. They have been used in numerous projects, including the new prestigious Government Hub that is being built in Bendigo.

The grant will expand the specialised MASSLAM manufacturing plant and create 12 new full-time jobs and help retain the mill’s existing 172 roles.

ASH’s managing director, Vince Hurley, said plantation shining gum was a key pillar in the future of MASSLAM production.

“The investment will mean that ASH can continue to produce Australian-made, large-scale section columns and beams,” he said.

The facility will also be able to manufacture more products from plantation timber in the future such as mass flooring systems, engineered floorboards, kitchen benchtops and components for staircases, windows, doors and furniture.

ASH uses mainly Vic Ash timber, but supply is increasingly constrained because Supreme Court injunctions resulting from legal action by environmental groups have closed down about 80% of timber harvesting coupes in Victoria.

Sawmills in Gippsland are running out of timber, with the mill at Newmerella near Orbost in East Gippsland announcing last week that the situation would force it to close. The State Opposition blames the timber shortage on the Andrews Government’s inaction on not updating the Timber Code of Practice, which would nullify the legal action.

The Minister for Agriculture, Gayle Tierney, who visited the Heyfield mill to announce the grant, said the Government was proud to support ASH, local jobs and the manufacture of world-renowned timber products into the future.

The mill previously received $1.6 million from the state government to install a new manufacturing line to produce engineered flooring from plantation shining gum and Australian pine plywood, and to expand both its online and retail outlet.

The retail space has recently been completed, and customers can buy staircase and furniture components directly from ASH.

The engineered floorboard line is expected to be up and running by the end of the year.

The grants come from the Victorian Timber Innovation Fund, part of the Victorian Forestry Plan, which aims to close the state’s native forestry industry by 2030.