Fire has again dealt Tasmanian business Neville-Smith Forest Products a savage blow.
The business, which has mills at Mowbray and Southwood, near Huonville, had to shut operations at its southern site after it was affected by the bushfires that tore through the Huon Valley.
This comes only 18 months after the Mowbray mill was targeted in an arson attack, which cost the business about $800,000.
Neville-Smith Forest Products chief executive Andrew Walker said the Southwood mill had not been operating since January 22 due to fire risk.
“Our southern mill on the Southwood site houses us and the Ta Ann business. Both businesses have been affected by the fires for the past couple of weeks,” Mr Walker said.
“There is infrastructure damage to both mills. Ta Ann was more heavily affected, but our mill suffered superficial damage.
“It’s not good for either our business or Ta Ann.”
Beside the impact to the mill itself, Neville-Smith's forest perimeters were impacted by fire, along with processed logs waiting in the mill yard.
We don’t know what resources we will still have and we don’t know when the power will come back on.Andrew Walker
“The logs in the yard have been heavily affected by fire. Even if we wanted to operate we couldn’t because the timber is burnt or fire affected,” Mr Walker said.
“We had people on site dealing with ember attacks, with the TFS and STT. The site got hit a number of times with direct fire attack.”
A figure cannot be put on the cost of stock lost in the fires or on lost operations yet, but more will be known once Sustainable Timber Tasmania had conducted a survey of forests, he said.
“STT will do a survey on the forest to get an understanding of what effect the fires have had,” Mr Walker said.
“We source our saw logs from the southern region native regrowth forests, so we are waiting on STT. We’re not even sure of the extent of the damage yet.”
The Southwood mill is located in the middle of forest, 20 kilometres inland from Huonville, so has also been impacted by the loss of power in the region.
No time frame around when that power will be restored has been set.
“There is no power to the site due to power poles burning down. We won’t be operating for the short term while we have no power,” Mr Walker said.
“It could take months to restore power to the site. Obviously TasNetworks is overwhelmed right now.
“We have no access to the resource or power. We don’t know what resources we will still have and we don’t know when the power will come back on,” he said.
Neville-Smith Forest Products employs 30 people at the Southwood site and 45 at Mowbray, and will “continue to pay our staff until the mill is up and going again”.
“It’s our intention to reopen the site,” Mr Walker said.
Despite the uncertainty with its core product, business will continue as usual at the Mowbray mill.
Neville-Smith Forest Product’s production process happens in stages, with trees felled and logs processed at the Southwood site, with sawn logs transported to the Mowbray mill.
Once at Mowbray the logs are stored on site to dry for 12 months before being sold and shipped throughout Tasmania, Australia and internationally.
“Our Southwood mill feeds our Mowbray mill. It’s not having an immediate affect on the Mowbray site, but the quantum effect is not known at this time,” Mr Walker said.
“There won’t be any affect [at Mowbray] for at least 12 months. Mowbray will remain unaffected now, but there may be some effect in the future.”
Private Forests Tasmania said 39,097 hectares of private forest had been burned in these bushfires, up to February 5.
Hardwood plantations, like the forest products Neville-Smith processes, account for 3239 hectares of that figure.
The remaining 35,858 hectares is made up from softwood plantations, industrial estates and private forest estates.
While you’re with us, did you know you can now sign up to receive breaking news updates direct to your inbox? Sign up here.