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Friday analysis: Tumbarumba troubles go viral

Tumbarumba is in trouble. Big trouble. To be more specific Hyne’s Tumbarumba Mill is in trouble, and that means the entire district is in trouble. Put simply, there is just not enough timber to go around following last summer’s bushfires which decimated 40% of Hyne’s local log supply at Tumbarumba alone. Source: Bruce Mitchell

Hyne has a solution. It says it has confirmation that at least 441,000m3 of sustainably grown, plantation pine from Victoria and South Australia can be made available to the mill over the next three years.

The company says that, with government support, it can secure 181 jobs directly and $70 million in wages and salaries pouring into the local economy.

Hyne is happy to put in over $40 million of its own money.

But a way needs to be found to transport the logs to the mill because the logs are situated in other states and transport costs are the sticking factor. And that is going to cost another $30 million over three years.

Currently, neither the NSW nor the Federal Government have a mechanism for supporting Tumbarumba’s cause because their grant programs don’t include transport costs.

As Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce President, Ken Dale said: “They are not asking for a handout, they are asking for a hand up”.

Nor is the community looking charity. It just wants to survive and is asking the community in general to get behind the TimberforTumba campaign.

The TimberforTumba Facebook page was launched last week as an avenue for the community to help and get involved, attracting hundreds of “likes” and followers within hours.

The first of a series of short videos went viral, viewed by thousands of people with hundreds of shares.

The forestry industry in the South West Slopes of New South Wales supports over 5000 jobs, or one in every two jobs in the region, and creates $2 billion in economic activity per annum.

Hyne says that as long saw logs are allowed to be exported, there will be jobs lost in Tumbarumba.

And that is something the town simply cannot afford to happen.

In Queensland polling in regional seats have seen voters wanting more Government action to grow the local forest and timber industry.

That must be of some comfort for the industry in that State.

Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens has already warned that the industry is concerned increasing native log exports are eroding opportunities to grow local jobs.

There are concerns the growth potential for domestic processing is being eroded and may not be in the long-term interests of the timber industry.

But the polling took place in the electorates of Warrego, Morayfield, Gympie, Maryborough and Cook, electorates that already have and rely on forestry and timber production businesses.

It could be fair to say their votes are already in the bag.

The challenge remains in the remaining week before the 31 October poll to get that level of consensus in the non-timber seats.