Logs are being transported more than 900 kilometres by rail from northern New South Wales to prop up supply to sawmills on the south-west slopes as part of bushfire recovery.
- More than 45,000 hectares of pine plantations on the south west slopes were burnt in the 2020 bushfires
- Saw logs from the northern tablelands will be transported by train to bolster local supply
- Hauling the logs by rail is estimated to save three million litres of diesel
Nearly half the pine plantations supplying timber to mills in Tumut and Tumbarumba were burnt in the 2020 bushfires.
Over the next three years, about 270,000 tonnes of logs from government-owned plantations at Walcha on the northern tablelands will be diverted from the export market to supply the mills.
Forestry Corporation NSW Snowy region manager Dean Anderson said it was the first time in decades that logs had been transported by train in the state.
“Because it’s been a long time since people have transported logs on open rail carriages we had to go and build the cradles and get them fitted to carriages,” he said.
The first trainload arrived in Wagga Wagga at the weekend and was hauled by truck on the final stretch to the mills to be processed for use in housing construction.
Forestry Corporation NSW said transporting the logs by rail instead of road would save up to three million litres of diesel.
Snowy Valleys Mayor Ian Chaffey said transporting the timber by rail had a number of other advantages.
“The move towards rail transport is one of more efficiency and obviously less of an impact on the environment,” he said.
“Also, it minimises the impact on the road network.”
Keeping the mills open
Mr Chaffey said ensuring timber supply to the mills was important for the local economy.
“Essentially, they’re the major employer of labour in both Tumut and Tumbarumba, so if the volume they can handle is no longer available, our communities will suffer and suffer significantly,” he said.
Manager of the AKD Softwoods’ sawmill at Tumut, Rab Green, said access to timber grown outside the region was important as it would take a long time for local supply to recover from the fire.
“Logs don’t grow real quick, it takes about 30 years to be replaced,” he said.
“So having this resource to top up our [local] resource is fantastic for Tumut and for the market because timber is so scarce at the moment.
“It gives us the opportunity to retain the staff that we have got and to continue to put cash back in the local community.”
He said in the long term, the mill would need to continue to bring in logs from other regions and was applying for grants to subsidise the cost.
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