Timber industry wants $20m for key road upgrades

Malcolm Alexander and Peter Crowe at Norske Skog.

Snowy Valleys, Greater Hume and Cootamundra-Gundagai regional councils, forest industries and Softwoods Working Group (SWG) are calling upon the State Government to immediately commit $20 million for crucial road work  across this region.

The roads identified for crucial upgrades are Bombowlee Creek Road (Tumut area, Snowy Valleys Council); Taradale/Westbrook Roads (Batlow area, Snowy Valleys Council); Coppabella Road (Eastern area, Greater Hume Shire Council); and Redhill/Nanangroe Roads (Gundagai area, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council).

“These roads must carry one million tonnes of raw materials (plantation logs) to regional processing sites a year for the next 10 years, and without upgrade funding there will be substantial road failures and safety issues, inevitably resulting in a major blow to the timber industry in the region,” SWG chairman Peter Crowe said.

“The plantation timber industry in the South West Slopes region contributes $1.015 billion to annual gross regional product, or value-added for the region, and supports more than 50 per cent of all jobs within the Snowy Valleys Council area, with a total value of output generated within this region of $2.46 billion each year,” he said. 

Wood Supply manager at Norske Skog, Malcolm Alexander, said the imminent failure of Coppabella Road, which serves 13,500 hectares of softwood plantation, next winter due to serious safety and road surface issues would create a major wood supply issue for Norske Skog.

Director Engineering Greater Hume, Greg Blackie, said it was inevitable that his council would have to close Coppabella Road to logging traffic if a wet winter occurred, due to its very poor condition.

Mr Crowe said the road funding application to State Government for $20 million across the three council areas has a very strong focus on road safety, highlighted by the proposed realignment and reconstruction of the Bombowlee Creek Bridge, where there has been three fatalities and numerous accidents. 

“The detailed funding application has a very strong business case and has already received very positive feedback,” he said.

“The South West Slopes region forms part of the largest plantation wood basket in Australia and also contains the greatest concentration of wood processing in Australia.

“The State Government must act now to support the upgrade of roads that are the lifeblood of the timber industry in this region. These road upgrades cannot be ignored.”