Burnt log recovery begins to wind up

The last of the burnt logs were unloaded at Hyne in Tumbarumba this week.

The last log truck carrying salvaged, burnt logs from the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires was waved into the Hyne Tumbarumba Mill yesterday.

The salvage operation has seen over 1.6 million burnt plantation pine logs processed at the Hyne Mill alone.

The burnt bark is removed, and the logs are processed into quality, sawn timber.

75.5 million linear metres of timber has been processed from salvaged logs which would almost wrap around the world twice.

Hyne Timber’s CEO, Jon Kleinschmidt, said the last log truck marks the end of a historic event of collaboration and incredibly hard work.

“To still be accepting burnt log 15 months after the fires has completely exceeded industry expectations of 3 to 6 months,” he said.

“We have been able to maintain the mill’s capacity and supply of locally grown timber throughout the high demand we have experienced for which we thank the Morrison Government’s Home Builder stimulus.

“The efforts of all involved from the growers, the harvesting crews, the haulers, the staff here at the Tumbarumba Mill and our by-product customers has been remarkable and deserves to be celebrated.”

Hyne Timber’s CEO, Jon Kleinschmidt.

Mr Kleinschmidt said that they were able to surpass expectations and process the burnt logs for so long due to favourable climate conditions, as well as changes in their process – in terms of storage, dust control, drying and grading and more.

“I know for our team here on site, it has been hard, coupled with the uncertainty of the future,” Mr Kleinschmidt continued.

He acknowledged that the bushfires and thereafter have been a “concerning time for employees”, but reassured that Hyne Timber is here to stay in Tumbarumba for the long term and are not forecasting any job cuts in the near future.

“We’re going to work with our growers to look at bringing log in intrastate and interstate to maintain our production levels, and that’s really about providing security of employment,” Mr Kleinschmidt said of the company’s future plans.

“Whilst it has been quite challenging through the bushfire area, we’ve been able to show that we can successfully transport log in from longer distances to support this facility and maintain jobs and maintain a solid community in Tumbarumba.”

When asked if the mill had any plans to scale down operations if new resources couldn’t be acquired from other states, Mr Kleinschmidt said this wasn’t being forecasted.

“We’ve invested heavily at this site and at our sister site … at Wodonga and really it’s about not being here for the short term but being here for the long term,” he assured.

“We’ve been working hard to access resource to make sure that we can sustain the volume running through the mill.

“There’ll be ups and downs as we bring wood in, but it’s really about maintaining a stable supply to our customers in the market.”

Mr Kleinschmidt said that Hyne currently has a number of job vacancies, encouraging people to consider joining the industry and supporting the supply of quality, Australian timber to the construction sector.

“I thank all those who have worked collaboratively with us to reach this milestone and with ongoing support, the positive future ahead,” he concluded.

A number of the growers were represented at the Tumbarumba Mill to mark the occasion on Tuesday and enjoy a site barbecue with employees.

Dean Anderson, Regional Manager of Forestry Corporation of NSW, said it was good to see that, despite the devastation of the bushfires, much of the damaged pine plantation could be salvaged.

“Coming to the Hyne Mill to see the last of our burnt loads being unloaded for processing 15 months after the fire is incredible,” he said.

“Just the Dunn’s Road fire was one and half times the ACT, covering an area of 3,500 square kilometres.

“Over 45,000 hectares of pine plantations were impacted by fires in the local area, which is just under 40 per cent of the area planted. More than half of the area affected by fire was too young to salvage and our focus has been on getting all the trees older than 19 years old and as much as possible of those older than 12.

“Thanks to the significant cooperation of our customers and contractors we have managed to just about achieve this, except for a few steep areas, salvaging over 2.7 million tonnes in the Tumut and Tumbarumba region.

“This makes this operation one of the longest and the largest salvage operations in history, a testament to the resilience of the local forest industry.

“Well done to all involved.”

Dean Anderson, Regional Manager of Forestry Corporation of NSW.

Mr Anderson estimates that the salvage operation will be completely finished within the next month, depending on the rain.

“This will be the last [delivery] for Hyne, there’s a couple to go to AKD and then export will just go a little bit longer, and luckily the pulp mills can take the logs for a bit more,” he explained.

“We’ve managed to salvage all the country we can harvest in the wet weather and now we can only access area that you can only do in the dry, so if we keep getting this rain it will be finished in the next month or so.”

There is roughly 15,000 hectares of burnt forest left to clear, and Mr Anderson said this will be cleared using chains – including the chain from the Pasha Bulker. 

The focus for Forestry Corporation once salvaging is complete, is replanting.

“The focus now is to replant and to also keep the mills serviced with the green logs that we’ve still got,” Mr Anderson said.

“At about 12-15 [years] we’ll take out half [of what is being planted now], they’ll go to Visy to make cardboard boxes, then about 22-25 [years] we’ll thin them out again and they’ll come to Hyne, and then at 30 [years] we will take out the remainder; they will come to Hyne to make housing frames, and then we’ll start again.”

When asked if there is enough wood to meet the housing market’s demands, Mr Anderson replied honestly, “No.”

“It would be nice to have more, but the fire did have an impact,” he explained.

“It’s taken about half of our sawlog capacity out of this area and luckily the mills have worked tirelessly to find other sources of timber.”

In terms of Forestry Corporation’s workforce, he said there was no change in their staffing numbers but there will be a decline in the number of contractors needed over the next six months.

“In terms of number of people, by the time we get through to Christmas there could be 40 less people working in the forest,” he said.