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ASH will go to Tasmania

ASH will axe 250 jobs and move to Tasmania after the owners say the Victorian government failed to make a “genuine offer” to keep its production on the mainland. Source: AAP

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods’ Heyfield Mill will close in August, ahead of its original September closure date, as the owners blamed VicForests for falling short in its promised log supply.

The company said VicForests had suffered significant harvesting losses due to exclusion zones for the Leadbeater’s possum.

“VicForests will have now failed to meet its contractual timber supply arrangements for four out of the last five years,” the company said in a statement.

It’s understood Premier Daniel Andrews’ government offered more than $20 million to buy the mill – which the company says falls far short of its true value.

“No fair commercial offer has been forthcoming from the Andrews government and any suggestions that there has been any form of intense discussions or negotiations of any form with the government are simply wrong,” the statement said.

“Government were neither serious about making a genuine offer for the mill, nor were they ever serious about addressing either the supply level and contract tenure needed to operate this profitable high class facility.”

But the government says the job losses were “unnecessary and avoidable”.

“The Andrews Labor government has provided a fair and reasonable offer to the Hermal Group, which would keep the mill open and secure local jobs. This offer remains on the table,” a state government spokesman told AAP.

It is understood that the business has about $50 million in stock, is owed $10 million from debtors, and has assets land, buildings and machinery. Management said they had looked at “all options to keep the mill open”.

Instead, they will now begin negotiations with the Tasmanian state government to send the mill to Burnie, in Tasmania’s northwest.

“My heart is with my staff and has been so throughout this whole fight,” ASH chairman Ron Goldschlager said.

He praised the CFMEU, the Greens and the Nationals for trying to work to keep the mill open. Owners, union members, and affected staff will meet on Monday to discuss the closure.