Timber has long been central to the life of the small Alpine town of Myrtleford. With some locals working in the old Sawmill since the 70’s, a healthy timber industry has been important to the town and surrounding businesses. That’s why the transformation of the existing mill into a state of the art plywood mill, undertaken by Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts (CHH), is not only big news for the Australian timber industry but also big news for Myrtleford.
CHH purchased the Sawmill and Pulp Mill at Myrtleford in 1995. They have been operating the mill since but in recent years, running costs and reliance on outdated processes were no longer competitive, or sustainable. CHH have therefore invested heavily in a new plywood mill. To keep up with today’s standards, the systems had to be improved and transformed. The new mill will ensure that production of the increasingly popular CHH plywood products is efficient and reduces the demand for off-shore demand. It’s an investment in the future of the timber industry in this country.
In mid 2010, CHH began a ‘phase out’ transformation of the old mill site. That is, they began installation and replacement of outdated equipment, while the mill continued to operate during this construction phase. The sawmill will eventually be decommissioned (other CHH facilities taking on that role) and the Myrtleford mill will be ‘purely ply’ and, in fact, the biggest plywood producer in Australia.
One example of the upgrade was the introduction of a high-speed lathe. The precision and speed of this lathe will allow for the production of thin ribbons of veneer, used in the layup construction of plywood, at a speed of one log ‘peeled’ every 9 seconds. Truly cutting edge technology.
The transformation has been an engineering feat. Many of the existing saw mill facilities were retained where they could still be utilised, with some of the boilers and kilns and the original buildings remaining. Meanwhile, CHH has been transforming the whole facility, drawing on European and Canadian design ideas to construct the new plant.
The new design plant is far more efficient, with drying processes providing an improved product of consistent specifications. Overall, there will be an increased supply to the market in the long term. There are also environmental improvements with less emissions, lower water use, better air quality and even noise reduction. Safety also remains a fundamental priority and the plant’s design will provide a safer workplace, with fenced safety zones and automated handling of product where there is any risk.
“Investment in the mill is transforming Myrtleford into an enterprise that’s long term, sustainable and profitable”, said Nicole Sumich, General Manager of CHH Plywood, “which fits perfectly with the CHH key deliverable of being ‘Australia’s leading Wood-products Business’.”
The commissioning of this world-class plant by CHH is also an investment in the Myrtleford community. The majority of existing employees are being retrained and up-skilled in advanced technologies. Along with the demand for the supply of plywood, the future is looking far more secure.
The completed facility was officially opened on 22 June of this year, by The Honourable Richard Dalla-Riva MLC, Minister for Employment & Industrial Relations, Minister for Manufacturing, Exports & Trade and State Member for Eastern Metropolitan Region. This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry under its Forest Industries Development Fund program, as well as the Victorian Government.
With its proud history, the resource rich region of Myrtleford is the ideal site for the CHH plywood mill. Logs are to be sourced from sustainable managed plantations in the surrounds (with Forest Stewardship Council ‘Chain of Custody’ certification available for the responsible handling of the timber from production to customer) and local skills and knowledge will be a vital part of the Australian timber industry’s future.