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Friday analysis: Alliance brings hope

At a time when good news can be a bit hard to find, Alliance Timber’s decision to extend its Dartmoor operations in the Green Triangle is a tiny ray of light. Source: Bruce Mitchell

The Alliance Timber Group’s Dartmoor mill site is looking to extend its opening hours to 6am to 10pm seven days a week, as opposed to 7am to 4pm at present, and has lodged an application with Glenelg Shire Council.

It’s not much, but it’s better than any possible alternative.

Alliance Timber Group is looking to significantly boost its workforce at the same time it also received two unexpected boosts from the coronavirus pandemic, which ironically saved it from reducing staff.

Alliance Timber co-owner Dean Montgomery said the company was “breathing life back into a very tired old factory”.

Alliance bought the mill in 2018, about 10 years after being closed by former owner Carter Holt Harvey.

The mill has been lucky during the CoVid-19 disruptions. While the South Australian government introduced tough cross-border restrictions, Alliance Timber was one of just three businesses given special dispensation to allow staff to cross the border.

Sadly, Timberlink’s decision to shut down its Blenheim sawmill with the loss of 75 jobs will hit Blenheim, a town of around 30,000 people in the Marlborough region on New Zealand’s South Island hard.

It’s not as though Timberlink didn’t give it its best shot. The company invested $10 million in the mill since it took control in 2015.

Unfortunately, high log costs, the strong NZ dollar, and low prices in export, especially Asia seem to have spelt the end of the venture.

The Victorian Association of Forest Industries’ days are also effectively now numbered.

VAFI It will be replaced the newly formed Victorian Forest Products Association.

On the surface it appears to be bloodless revolution.

The new Association will span Victoria’s forest industry value chain including plantations, native forestry operators, sawmills and pulp and paper making.

It will be administered through the Australian Forests Products Association in a bid to ensure greater alignment between Federal lobbying and our State lobbying activities.

VAFI has done a good job in its 134 years.

It began life in 1886, when sawmillers met at the Orient Hotel in Melbourne, then morphed into the Hardwood Millers’ Association of Victoria, the Victorian Sawmillers Association, and finally, the Victorian Association of Forest Industries.

But times have changed, and the many messages from many voices have become perhaps a little fragmented.

“The idea is to bring back a more cohesive timber industry,” VFPI interim chairman Tony Price said.

That certainly worked in Tasmania where the message was a little fragmented until the creation of the Timber Forests & Forest Product Network.

If 2020 has taught us anything it is that working together works far better than working alone.