Doubling production

Doubling production

Neville Smith Forest Products (NSFP) is set to increase production at its Southwood mill between Geeveston and Lonnavale from July 1.

The expansion will immediately create 30 new fulltime jobs in the Huon Valley.

NSFP CEO Andrew Walker said it was planned to commence a full second shift at its Southwood operation as the business stepped-up its domestic value adding capacity.

“We will begin the recruitment process for additional employees almost immediately, as the new team members will require around two months training in customised production operations, as well as the critical area of workplace safety,” said Mr Walker.

“We are hopeful that a majority of new employees will be recruited from within the Huon Valley, including school leavers.”

Mr Walker said the company is an equal opportunity employer and is particularly interested in hiring female employees for the mill.

The workforce at Southwood is currently exclusively male, but Mr Walker said there is no reason why females cannot join the NSFP team.

“We are committed to training, career development and a safety-first workplace culture,” he said.

To this end, work experience, multiple trainee- ships and ongoing employment will be offered to students and school leavers in the Huon region.

There are a range of jobs available at NSFP Southwood, ranging from unskilled labour to apprenticeships and, with an increase in staffing and further plans to expand operations in the future at the site, Mr Walker said there will also be administration roles to fill.

Neville Smith Forest Products has been operating in Tasmania since 1924, already employs some 120 people in the state, and has recently formed a long-term strategic partnership with Oak Possability, providing training and employment outcomes to the disability sector.

Huon Valley Mayor Bec Enders says after visiting the Southwood site and speaking with staff, she is impressed with NSFP’s philosophy of not only looking after their employees, but also their commitment to providing meaningful work for those in the disability sector.

“The technology of today in forestry does requires a highly skilled labour force, which is good news for the people that Neville-Smith will invest in and develop to operate their complex and computerised machinery,” said Mayor Enders.

“Creating the opportunity to employ local youth and women confirmed to me that NFSP really want to address the overrepresentation of job losses for youth and women resulting from COVID-19.”

Mr Walker said the decision to increase production at Southwood was a sign of the confidence the company had in Tasmania’s renewable forest industry and in the growing demand within Australia for high quality native timber and plantation products.

“This demand is and will continue to drive the company’s commitment to value-added downstream processing for Tasmanian and Australian consumers,” said Mr Walker.

“The additional resource required to underpin the second shift at the Southwood will be procured from a mix of sustainable, fully certified public and private plantation and native timber growers.”

Both Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) and Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) have welcomed the planned increase in production at Southwood.

PFT CEO Penny Wells says that it will be a major lift for private landholders who own plantation lots and/or commercial native forests in southern Tasmania.

“The expansion of the mill’s operation will enhance domestic processing in Tasmania and pro- vide an additional market for timber grown on private land in the Huon Valley,” said Ms Wells.

“This will provide a much-needed boost for the sustainable forestry sector, and many local timber growers will welcome the opportunity to sell their timber into the local market.

“This is particularly good news following the devastating fires in 2019, the closure of the Ta Ann Mill at Southwood in 2020 and in the current constrained export market.”

State Minister for Primary Industries and Water Guy Barnett said the Tasmanian Forest Industry is a critical contributor to the state’s economy.

“Tasmanians should be proud of our responsible, sustainable Forest Management System and the Government’s commitment to continually improve practices, while supporting the sector which employs thousands of Tasmanians, injects more than $1.2 billion into our economy and supports regional communities and families,” said Minister Barnett.

“Our Government is passionate about protecting and growing the forestry sector, because dur- ing the greatest health and economic crisis in a generation, every job counts.”

Workers at the mill have been living with uncertainty for a long time, with a temporary mill closure due to fire damage following the Riveaux Road bushfires in 2019, disruptions to supply chains due to COVID-19 and China trade tensions and the Federal Court Case brought against the State Government’s regional Forest Agreement by the Bob Brown Foundation threatening supply.

Long-time employee and Southwood greenmill manager Jonathon Burrows said it was a boost to staff morale to have two messages of good news in one week, with the announcement that the Regional Forest Agreement would stand and the doubling of the workforce at Southwood.

Huonville High School Year 10 students Joel Burrows and Brandon Russell also welcomed the news, both interested in undertaking work experience during Year 10 and securing employment at the mill when they finish their education.