Helen Haines MP says long-awaited bushfire recovery funding of $10.4 million is vital for Indi-based timber processing companies to innovate and protect jobs.

The Independent Federal Member for Indi said Wangaratta’s Alpine MDF, Benalla firms D&R Henderson and Ryan & McNulty and Wodonga’s XLam have shared more than a quarter of the $40 million national Forestry Recovery Development Fund to build competitiveness, invest in new technologies and lower energy costs following the Black Summer bushfires last year.

“The fires at Shelley in the Upper Murray and at Abbeyard near Myrtleford burned almost 6400 hectares of plantation timber and had a major impact on softwood supply,” Dr Haines said.

“The industry worked very quickly to put together a comprehensive, fully-costed support package and liaise with my office so I could raise it directly with Agriculture and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud, who saw the plantation damage with me in the Upper Murray 11 months ago.

“I also made the case to Assistant Minister for Forests Jonno Duniam for urgent action and, with the industry and Bushfire Recovery Victoria, briefed National Bushfire Recovery Agency deputy co-ordinator Major-General Andrew Hocking on the ground at Ovens in March, last year.

“Forestry and timber processing provide 900 jobs in Indi, with about 550 people working in mills and manufacturing and another 340 managing softwood plantations.

“So it’s a really welcome vote of confidence that more than a quarter of these competitive grants are flowing to Indi businesses to help fund new processes and product lines, technology investment and support vital jobs in our communities.”

The Fund provides D&R Henderson with $3.294 million for a new heat plant that will use waste products as a fuel source to power kilns, saving energy costs and reducing the amount of waste to landfill.

Ryan & McNulty was awarded $1.188 million for new technology to process smaller, lower-grade sawlogs and produce a quality, value-added product suitable for structural beams and furniture manufacturing.

Alpine MDF Industries will use $4.379 million for remanufacturing, using new plant and equipment to innovate and increase capability for the production of primed mouldings and painted flat panels.

XLam has received $1.529 million to update equipment, reduce production costs and improve competitiveness.

Recipients are required to match 50 per cent of the project costs.

“I thank the government for acting,” Dr Haines said.

“It’s very welcome after months of work with the timber industry last year to get the government to publish the Fund’s guidelines and open applications for this public-private investment program.”

IMAGE: Looking at Ryan & McNulty Sawmillers’ products with Greg McNulty and Guy Mounsey at the firm’s Benalla plant.

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