Big River to increase Grafton workforce by 30%
THE Clarence Valley is set to benefit from a major decision by Big River Group to consolidate its plywood manufacturing business.
Big River Group chief executive officer Jim Bindon announced the timber manufacturing company will phase out one of the state’s two plywood mills at Wagga due to insufficient log resources in the Riverina after the Black Summer bushfires.
To offset the loss of production, operations will be ramped up at the Grafton site on the North Coast where there is an “excess of pine log availability”.
“We’ve been here on this site for 60 years and the upgrading of the site here will result in a further 20 jobs,” Mr Bindon said.
“Unfortuntately Part B of the project is gradually over the next couple of years we’ll be phasing down our Wagga factory.
“Because of the severe fires in the Tumut region our plywood factory at Wagga hasn’t got a sustainable supply of logs available to it.
“Forty per cent of the Hume Forests were lost in the fires that started on New Years Day. We analysed other options, and there was effectively no sustainable model for such a large plant to operate.”
It is anticipated up to 50 jobs will disappear from the Ausply site in Wagga, where workers were notified of the decision on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Big River Group secured a $10 million ‘dollar-for-dollar’ Bushfire Industry Recovery Package grant co-funded by the NSW and Federal governments to assist in consolidating its operations and enhance its Grafton-based facility.
“It will be an expansion here with new equipment, and extra capacity as we will have to do what Wagga used to do,” Mr Bindon said.
“Grafton’s always been a high value added specialist site. We’ve got some really good work going on with our full engineered bridge systems. So part of the project will be increasing our capacity and capability for that product range, which is a really good news story for regional and country roads.”
The wood veneer is turned into a whole range of products at the factory, from formply for the placement of concrete structures, to intricate interior designs.
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said he was focussed on backing projects that created and retained jobs in his electorate.
“This project will enhance the production capacity for all plywood products, including high quality formply products, architectural panels and high strength plywood for civil construction,” he said.
NSW Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said it was important to back projects that put people back in work, retain existing jobs and stimulate local economies.
“There is currently an excess of pine log availability in our region, providing a sustainable resource for Big River,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“While this has been a difficult decision for the company, it is a positive outcome for our community and comes at a critical time after back-to-back challenges.”