by | Jan 14, 2022

Tumut – the centre of Australia’s timber production universe

In this special report, AKD Softwoods reveals how the company has recovered from the 2019/20 bushfires and how they expect to keep up with heavy supply demands throughout 2022 and beyond.

Managing the pandemic over the last two years has made the bushfires fade a bit in our collective memories. However, those bushfires came very close to home for our employees and also had a big impact on their communities.

For now, there continues to be so many rumours along our supply chain that, “Tumut is closing or will never recover”. This article will hopefully put some of these ongoing negative rumours to bed for good. 

For AKD, the areas of Tumut and Gilmore are positioned for the long term, and both have a promising future. The team at Tumut has resiliently fought the challenges of the last couple of years to now be at the centre of our universe – both literally and figuratively.

AKD Tumut’s location make it the natural geographic centre to service the East Coast markets due to its central proximity to both the Sydney and Melbourne markets. 

Today, there is a renewed sense of purpose and commitment at the AKD Tumut site and this is being felt by both the seasoned sawmillers who have already committed much of their careers to this business, the industry and their community.  This is because we have committed to a $30 million capital investment program for the site, which we understand is the single largest improvement project at the Tumut site in its history. 

“Tumut might be described as just another “timber town” but its prime regional location and lifestyle, along with its people, make it a great place to live and work”, AKD Tumut’s Facility Manager, Rab Green said recently.

The industry in the region did a stellar job recovering and processing salvaged logs and extracting value for the forestry and construction industries. The recovery operations required the AKD Tumut sawmill run more hours than it ever has in a year, resulting in record volumes of sawlogs processed and timber produced.

Tumut’s fighting spirit means it is creating a future. 

The fact that ongoing log supply to the AKD Tumut mill for the foreseeable future has halved just means the goal posts have shifted, but we are now just starting to play a new game. In a global industry that has typically applied capital investment to gain volume efficiencies, AKD has now committed approximately $26 million to the Tumut sawmill, which will focus on processing less logs but extracting much higher recoveries and value from the changing log diet.

AKD’s footprint in the Tumut area includes the Gilmore processing site just a few kilometres down the road from the sawmill. This is where the company’s well-known Ironwood® sleepers are made. We are pleased to advise of several developments being undertaken for this part of our business as well.

Given that Tumut is the centre of the universe, in terms of servicing both New South Wales and Victoria demand, AKD is investing approximately $4 million in the 30-acre Gilmore site as a warehousing and distribution centre (DC). 

The new DC set-up complements the direct delivery service offer and enables AKD to hold a much higher volume of inventory, proving a superior outcome for a wide range of customers. The site is quickly evolving to meet this new service offer.

There has also been ongoing product development at the Gilmore site with the new Ironwood Edge™ sleepers delivered to market last November.  It is undoubtedly the marriage of the Ironwood® product range, new technology to maximise structural recovery and the Gilmore DC, that will ensure that Tumut remains the centre of the universe. 

In addition, AKD recently announced 30 new apprentice and graduate positions for 2022. Tumut is part of this process recruiting for additional apprentices and university graduates, as is every other AKD sawmill site on the East Coast.

Well done to the AKD Tumut/ Gilmore teams for not just surviving the challenges of the past two years but for thriving under duress to create a future for themselves and the industry in this region.

Timberlink investment for Bell Bay

Timberlink Chief Executive Officer Ian Tyson with Bridget Archer MP and The Hon Michael Ferguson MP announce the $63 million investment at Timberlink Bell Bay.

A $63 million capital investment at Timberlink’s Bell Bay manufacturing plant in Tasmania will see an increase of more than fifty per cent in on-island sovereign timber manufactured from sustainability managed pine plantations. The project will commence in 2022 with commissioning expected by the end of 2025. 

The expansion project installation and construction will run in two stages, from 2022, with full output achieved at the end of 2025. The upgrade includes: 
• Offline log debarking and sorting.
• Saw mill expansion.
• Residue and energy optimisation.
• Additional continuous kiln for drying of timber.
• Planer infeed systems.
• Site infrastructure improvements.

Timberlink Chief Executive Officer Ian Tyson said once the project is completed, the combined output of Timberlink’s manufacturing facilities in Bell Bay Tasmania and Tarpeena South Australia will position Timberlink to increase supply of manufacture of structural timber for use in the construction of homes in Australia.

“The project has been brought forward by over two years in order to support additional supply into the Australian market,” Mr Tyson said.

Federal Member for Bass, Bridget Archer said the significant investment is yet another example of Timberlink committing to the region. 

“As an elected representative, I have had a long-standing relationship with Timberlink since they began production in Bell Bay in 2008 and I appreciate the ongoing economic and social benefits the company provides to our local area,” Ms Archer said. 

The upgrade is expected to increase both the volume of renewable plantation pine logs that can be processed and the yield per log, creating a workplace of the future, with high tech machinery, improved accuracy, safety and job security.

The planned investment is in addition to major upgrades completed two years ago and the construction of Tasmania’s first Wood Plastic Composites manufacturing facility announced earlier this year for the Bell Bay site. 

In addition to the creation of 25 contractor jobs during the capital upgrades and expansion, Timberlink expects that this project will create 18 new permanent full-time jobs at the facility for the next generation. It is estimated that the Timberlink Bell Bay manufacturing facility supports approximately 600 direct and indirect jobs within the region.