Redmond Sawmill Falls: WA Forest Plan Claims Another Victim

Hard to walk away with a huge financial loss’

Tue 09 May 23


After an investment of $12 million Redmond sawmill near Albay, WA, will shut the gates on nearly 30 years of business at the end of June,

Under the company’s contract with Forest Products Commission, it was scheduled to receive 8000 tonnes of material by December, averaging 660 tonnes a month.

Managing director Corey Matters said the company had not been supplied enough logs to stay afloat through the winter. In the lead-up to winter, Mr Matters said he had expected more than the monthly average.

“During the warmer months, they’ were supposed to deliver above 660 tonnes a month to ensure we had stock available for those wet months,” he said.

“This year, they haven’t done that, despite the fact that two large sawmills have closed.”

WA Forestry Minister Jackie Jarvis has denied allegations that the contracted timber volume could not be supplied.

“I’m not sure why they feel they don’t have enough timber … they’re on target to get 50% of their annual supply by June,” she said.

Ms Jarvis said the sawmill had already received more than 50% of its contracted karri and asked for Forest Products Commission not to deliver any more.

Gavin Butcher, a former director at the WA Forest Products Commission, said the minister’s statement was quite misleading.

“In WA, harvesting is highly restricted during winter due to dieback and soil conditions, and as a result you need to receive 70% of the annual intake before the start of winter to ensure you can get through,” he said.

“If you have only 50% as stated by the minister, you will run out, so Corey Matters is correct in his claim.”

In late 2022, Gavin Butcher assessed the WA Forest Management Plan for Wood Central.

About 20 workers will be made redundant due to the mill’s closure.

“The feedback I’ve been getting is that the workers will have to take a significant pay cut; there’s not a lot of high-paying work in Albany for an ex-sawmiller type person,” Mr Matters said.

“There will be a significant change for their livelihoods.”

He said the business was allocated about $1.4 million in compensation from the government as part of the transition package.

“But it’s not enough,” said Mr Matters, who has owned the sawmill since 2015,

He has invested just under $12 million in that time, with a big upgrade in 2019.

That upgrade was a response to a lot of positive news from the government about the industry.

“It is very disappointing to walk away from the industry with a huge financial loss,” he said.

The WA government will end the harvesting of native forests by investing in softwood plantations, a plan Premier Mark McGowan says will save around 400,000 ha that would otherwise have been at risk of being felled.

Mr McGowan said the government would spend $350 million on softwood plantations across the state’s south-west to preserve karri, jarrah and wandoo forests.

From 2024, timber from native forests will be limited to forest management activities that improve forest health and clearing for approved mining operations, such as Alcoa.

In September 2021, the state government announced that all native forest logging would cease in 2024, the end of the current 10-year Forest Management Plan..

Footage courtesy of @NineNewsPerth

The decision was made without consultation with the timber industry, the public or government agencies.

The reasons given for the decision were to ‘save’ the forest and to preserve carbon stocks.

Future timber supplies would come from softwood plantations, boosted by 33,000 ha of plantation to be established over the next 10 years.

Strip mining for bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is produced, is conducted by Alcoa and South32 under State Agreement Act leases that cover 47% of the south-west public forests.

Jack Bradshaw, who participated in developing the WA Regional Forestry Agreements, discussed the increased strip-mining Jarrah for Bauxite in an op-ed exclusively for Wood Central.

The Forest Management Plan has no control or influence over mining activities.

Bauxite mining in the jarrah forest started in 1965 with a government commitment to mine 10 ha a year. Mining has progressively increased to 1000 ha a year with a proposal for further expansion and includes the mining of two million tonnes of unrefined bauxite for direct export.

About 90,000 ha of the best jarrah forest has been mined or is fragmented by mining.


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