After 58 years of business, Walker’s timber mill in Corryong, Victoria’s upper Murray River region, will soon be powering down for the last time.
The closure follows the state government’s decision to bring forward the end of native timber harvesting by January 1, 2024 … “to better protect the environment and the native wildlife that depends on it”.
The ABC reports that northeast Victorian resident Gary Williams has worked at the local timber sawmill for 42 years, following in his father’s footsteps.
“I grew up here as a kid around the mill,” he said.
“My father started here in the 1970s, so I guess I’ve been around here for a long time.”
Like Mr Williams, co-worker David Crane grew up around the timber industry.
“Been around the timber industry, which was related to my father’s work, since I was 10, and I’m 61 now,” Crane said.
The mill predominantly makes timber pallets and will continue to operate until it runs out of wood, which is expected before the end of the year.
Its 21 workers will receive redundancies from the Victorian government.
However, Davide Crane says the community will lose more than jobs.
“I feel for the young people in Corryong,” he said.
“They are the ones that need to have a future, and there is no future without this industry.
“I think the whole future of small communities is being pushed to the brink and moved to the cities.”
“You can’t move a country bumpkin to the city,” Crane said.
“Sadly, I see the town going backwards.”
Owner of Walker’s Sawmill Graham Walker took over the management in 2017 when his father, 94, became too ill to continue.
“My grandfather around Yackandandah originally started the sawmill. They would go and cut the timber for a house or a shearing shed and then move to the next farm and do the same there,” Walker said.
“We’ve supplied the one national company for 58 years with pallets and timber.”
In May, he announced to his employees the decision to hand back their licence and close the mill by the end of the year.
“We needed to decide because if we continued, our employees wouldn’t get a redundancy from the government,” he said.
“Sadly, this situation should never have occurred. The forests are sustainable, and there’s plenty of future there.”
Corryong, about 120 km from Albury-Wodonga, is considered one of Victoria’s most isolated towns, with a population of about 1400.
The area’s primary industry is agriculture, mainly dairy and beef farms.