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AUSTimber wrap, it’s a good rap

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With an estimated $100 million worth of forestry equipment on display, an internationally recognised in-forest site and perfect weather, everything jelled to ensure the success of AUSTimber2016 near Traralgon. Source: Timberbiz

In fact, more than 7500 people attended the event.

And, just a week before the time for an election was made very clear, Senator Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources with a responsibility for Forestry, attended AUSTimber.

Senator Ruston spent the day in Traralgon visiting the AUSTimber forest site and then the welcome dinner in Morwell.

She took a long and slow trek through the two-kilometre forest walk speaking with large and small sized businesses involved in the forestry industry.

It was not merely a snappy meet and greet exercise as she was open to spending whatever time was necessary at each display to gain a better understanding of the industry.

“We need to tell everybody else what a fantastic industry it is. I’m happy to do that with you,” she said.

“It’s about selling your story to people to have your vision … the perception is so far from the reality,” the Senator told the more than 400 people at the dinner.

Generosity of timber industry

Generous to a fault … that’s the only way to describe people in the forestry and timber industry and that was exemplified at the AUSTimber welcome dinner and fundraising night when larger than life MC David Foster (world champion axeman) and world-leading auctioneer Adam Mountjoy ‘encouraged’ people to dig deep to support Gippsland Rotary Centenary House.

About $30,000 was raised for GRCH, a community-based not-for-profit accommodation facility for patients and their families who are attending the Gippsland Cancer Care Centre at Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH).

The philosophy is to provide affordable, comfortable, supportive and secure accommodation so that the stress of travelling and treatment is minimised. The GRCH project was initiated by Gippsland Rotary Clubs to mark the Centenary of Rotary International. Komatsu Forest was the major sponsor of the night.

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Hall of Fame

Love the work. Love the industry. Love the people …. they were the constants during acceptance speeches at the Australian Forest Contractors Hall of Fame induction night in Traralgon (held in conjunction with AUSTimber).

So, too, was the reference to “having a go”. It’s hard to imagine what the industry would be like now if the pioneers hadn’t shown the initiative, the ingenuity, the intestinal fortitude and the will to have a go.

All the newly-inducted Hall of Famers spoke about the industry with obvious pride and with passion. They spoke with pride, too, about their families and their communities.

About 190 industry representatives attended the HoF dinner, many taking family with them, underlying the fact that many contractors are family businesses with quite a large number of second and third generation contractors.

In the forest

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At the in-forest activities and Komatsu Forest marketing chief Mike Jones was full of praise for the event and paid special tribute to the work of HVP in the preparation of the site … “their presentation of the site was above and beyond expectations,” he said.

“They contributed heavily to the success of the event.”

Mr Jones said that although a number of contractors did not attend … “they said they were too busy, working flat out and couldn’t spare the time. That was the main reason” … the quality of the crowd was very good, though, with lots of serious inquiries and leads coming from the show.

The Komatsu camp had 10 international visitors and all expressed positive comments about the site and in particular Komatsu’s display.

Praise for the in-forest site came from every segment of the industry including from Phyllis Pearce, marketing coordinator/event planner for Caterpillar Forest Products based in North Carolina and a regular at forestry equipment exhibitions around the world, EcoLog Sales Marketing Director Philippe Wion (he had just come from a major event in Canada), and Norbert Schalkx, Ponsse’s Area Director for Asia-Pacific and Africa.
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An impromptu arrival of a Chinese delegation of forest machinery traders added to the international flavour with visitors coming from New Zealand, the US, Canada, Chile, Italy, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa and Thailand to name a few.

The Chinese delegation included representatives of Ponsse China, a subsidiary of the Finnish-based Ponsse Ergo Group, and potential partner Liu Qun, chairman of the China Forestry Machinery Association and state-owned company China Foma Group.

The delegation was keen to discuss forestry machinery development and markets with the Australian industry.

A number of exhibitors reported sales being made at the event and healthy prospect lists for later follow up.

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A few have already put their name down for 2020 while one truck manufacturer who did not exhibit has since contacted the organisers to ask to be added to the list of prospects for the next time.
“The forest site delivered by our sponsor and partner, HVP, was a credit to that organisation and its Gippsland team,” said Laurie Martin, GM of AUSTimber 2016.

“It was a real pleasure dealing with site logistics manager, Travis Healey, who not only got what we were looking for when it came to presenting the best possible face for the industry and delivering sites for exhibitors that gave them the best opportunity to demonstrate their gear but often made suggestions or recommendations that further enhanced the overall visitor experience.”
Latrobe City, the event’s other major sponsor and partner also took their role a step further when, after discussions with the AUSTimber2016 organisers at the time they were considering locations for the event, decided to adopt Australasia’s first Wood Encouragement policy.

“Not only did they adopt their WE policy and commit the resources of the city’s Events team to assisting us stage the event, they went the extra mile and spent considerable effort recruiting more local government areas around the country to the cause of encouraging local economic activity based on wood fibre.”

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The owner of the AUSTimber event, the Australian Forest Contractors Association, is keen for the event to present a whole of industry face to the public while, at the same time, bringing new technology and systems to industry.
“Our team invested considerable time and effort in building the manufacturing/processing component of the event and believe we made some progress with AUSTimber2016 but we still have some way to go when it comes to the secondary and tertiary sectors embracing the opportunity this event offers. ”

Despite the success of the in-forest segment, the wood products display centre (at the Traralgon Showgrounds) did not meet with much success, according to exhibitors. They maintained there was insufficient traffic and not “traffic conducive to their businesses”.

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Now, AFCA will need to weigh up the needs and opportunities of the processing sector and decide how best they might be included in AUSTimber2020.


* Aerial photo courtesy Australian UAV (