Down but not out, McKay Timber – the largest family-owned sawmilling business in Tasmania’s south – is back online.
Earlier this month unclear and conflicting reports carried by some mainstream media stated that McKay Timber had stood down 40 staff.
But Brett McKay, operations manager of McKay Timber, was determined to get the mill firing again.
He told Daily Timber News that the 12 workers temporarily stood down would be back at work on Monday the 20th of February.
“The only thing that’s going to stop us would be a mechanical error,” he said during the mill’s closure.
The day after the mills scheduled reopening Brett had some good new to share with Daily Timber News.
“We didn’t have any mechanical errors. It’s up and running,” he said.
A temporary stand down for receiving sawmill residues at the Artec export woodchip facility in Bell Bay caused the company to temporarily shut its two sawmills.
“There are no facilities at these mills to store sawmill residues,” McKay said.
“This temporary stand down has affected both of the companies mills, one at St Helens and the other at Bridgewater and directly affects 12 employees who have been temporararily stood down , with others taking leave or being relocated to other sites within the company.”
McKay sawmilling operations previously sent its sawmill residues to the now closed Triabunna export chip facility.
With the closure of the Triabunna facility McKay Timber and all other southern sawmills have had to send their sawmill residues to the export wood chip facility at Bell Bay, run by Artec.
The temporary stand down of that facility meant the local sawmilling industry had no export facility to cart their sawmill residues to.
“Unfortunately a solution has not yet been identified that would permit the reopening of the St Helens mill.
“But we are seeking approval for a proposed storage location with the Environment Protection Authority and we are hopeful that, given approval, that mill too may reopen soon,” McKay said.
“It should be understood that the stockpiling solution for the Bridgewater Mill residues does not constitute a sale of the residues, rather it is simply removing the woodchips from the site to permit sawmilling operations to be able to be continued.
“This will be at considerable cost to the company and could not be continued indefinitely,” McKay said.
“Clearly it is imperative that longer term solutions to the disposal of harvest and processing residues within the Tasmanian forest industry must remain a very high priority for the industry, the union and Governments if further stand downs are to be avoided into the future.
“In particular it is important that either the Triabunna mill reopened at the earliest possible time or failing that, Governments must turn their minds to the alternative specified in the Intergovernmental Agreement to renegotiate the terms of that agreement.”
McKay said the company was ‘incredibly’ grateful for the “cooperation and tolerance displayed by their workforce at both mills throughout what has been a very difficult and highly stressful period”.
When news of the mill’s closure broke, Forestry Industries Association of Tasmania CEO Terry Edwards said: “We’ve had a meeting of a number of industry players this afternoon (31/1/12) with a view to identifying alternatives to deal with the issue in the short term, the medium term and the long-term.
“And we are hopeful that an alternative will be identified to enable McKay’s and other mills to continue to operate while longer term solutions are sought.”