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Local MP Darren Chester has announced the Federal Government will invest $1.7 million in an innovative advanced manufacturing facility in Heyfield to secure and create local jobs.

Mr Chester said Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) would use the money to establish a manufacturing line for huge section mass plantation pine columns and beams not currently produced in Australia. ASH will contribute $1.7 million to the $3.4 million project.

“These plantation pine columns and beams are used in the constructions of multi-story government, commercial and residential buildings,” Mr Chester said.

“ASH is an exceptional local business and the largest manufacturer of timber products in the country. Its high-end timber products are a feature of notable buildings around Australia and the world, including the Sire John Monash Centre in France.

“This funding will allow ASH to continue to innovate and adapt to support local jobs in a changing operation environment.”

ASH Managing Director Vince Hurley said the funding would allow the business to diversify its manufacturing feedstock and markets.

“Predominately ASH manufactures MASSLAM 45 from native timber, this investment means we will begin to manufacture plantation radiata pine product MASSLAM 33,” Mr Hurley said.

“This project enables beams up to 1300mm wide by 900mm deep to be efficiently produced complying with structural and fire requirements in ASH’s target markets.

“With a decreased availability in hardwood due to the bushfires, this is the perfect time to expand our manufacturing potential for radiata pine and keep as many locals in their jobs as possible.

“This project secures the already 110 jobs at the Heyfield plant and adds another 16 permanent positions to our team.”

Mr Chester said the funding was an important investment in Gippsland’s timber products industry.

“The forestry sector is one of the cornerstones of Gippsland’s economy, so ensuring it has the means to innovate and adapt is incredibly important for all Gippslanders,” Mr Chester said.

“This investment will help to boost the mill’s resilience against natural disasters and other disruptions to its operations.”

ASH is one of 14 applicants to receive between $1 million and $5 million through the Federal Government’s $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund. The fund was designed to support and help the forestry industry to recover from the summer bushfires.

Successful projects include upgrades to existing facilities and technology, installation of new facilities that complement existing activities, and adjustments or diversification to make businesses more resilient.

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