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Liberals pledge $10m to AKD Softwoods

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attended AKD Softwood’s Caboolture sawmill with local LNP candidate for Longman Mr Trevor Ruthenberg to announce a $10 million pledge towards the $50 million expansion of the mill. Source: Timberbiz

It is expected that this expansion will add 100 new jobs to the operation and double the mill’s capacity.

AKD Softwoods is a privately-owned company with a history of 60 years in the forest industry, employing around 600 people nationally across six separate sites.

AKD Softwoods’ Caboolture operations processes approximately 215,000 cubic metres of sawlog into a range of timber products for the Queensland and Northern NSW markets, which will double to around 450,000 cubic metres by 2022.

“Now, you know one of our big economic priorities is to process more timber in Australia. We export far too much timber and we don’t process enough of it here,” Mr Turnbull said at the announcement.

“We export far too many logs, is what I mean. Now right here, we have here in this plan, which AKD Softwoods has acquired, we have the opportunity, they have the opportunity, to double the production of this plant – 450,000 cubic meters a year and to add another hundred jobs.

“We are providing $10 million of support through our Regional Development Funds. Because this is a great example of where you can combine industry – a sustainable industry – in a regional area, creating more jobs.

“You know, we’ve got huge growth in this region. Huge demand for all of these softwood beams which are going to go into trusses and houses and they should be produced here. There are pine forests, a plantation, just to the north of Caboolture. Right now, most of those logs go on trucks down to Brisbane and overseas, creating congestion on the roads.”

Mr Shane Vicary, national CEO of AKD also spoke at the event.

“Well I’d like to thank the Turnbull Government for unlocking this potential … You know we’ve got 100 fantastic employees, and they’ve really given us the confidence to make this investment,” he said.

“It is another 100 jobs and those 100 jobs will be processing Australian logs for an Australian company to build houses here in Australia. Not just in Australia, but right here in Queensland.

“Look our mantra is to be internationally competitive, it’s that innovation and technology that we’re deploying with our investment which will see this facility be one of the premier facilities in Australia.”

Mr Vicary went on to say that he expected the expansion to take about two and half years to complete.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the $10 million pledge.

AFPA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ross Hampton, said the commitment was a significant endorsement of Australia’s forest industries’ potential to create new jobs and investment in regional Australia.

“Australia’s renewable forest Industries contribute about $24 billion to the economy each year and employ around 120,000 people across the full value chain. With record global demand for quality timber products like those made at AKD Softwoods’ Caboolture operations, we must ensure that the policy settings are right to capitalise on this opportunity,” Mr Hampton said.

Mr Hampton said with record global demand for timber, sawmill expansions such as this could be replicated around the country if Australia can urgently address the growing shortage of plantations, which is preventing sawmills from expanding to global-scale operations.

“Australia is currently importing more than 780,000 cubic metres a year of sawn softwood a year – the equivalent of 65,000 new house frames, which in turn increases construction costs and fails to capitalise on the record global demand for timber.

“That is why AFPA is calling for national policy leadership to drive investment in new forest plantations of the right trees, in the right places and at the right scale.

“AFPA will continue to push the case with both the Coalition Government and Federal Labor Opposition to make sure that our policy needs, like getting 400,000 hectares of new plantations in the ground, are committed to by both sides of politics as we head towards the Federal election,” Mr Hampton said.