Newly-appointed Agriculture Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie has met with management at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) in Heyfield, less than a week since being sworn into the position.
Local MP Darren Chester arranged the visit by Senator McKenzie to meet with some of Gippsland’s leaders in the fishing, horticulture, agriculture and timber sectors. Senator McKenzie also met with representatives from local councils and farmer groups.
“ASH is now the largest timber component manufacturer in Australia. It’s important Bridget has a chance to familiarise herself with the scale and success of the operations in this area, and to be aware of the challenges faced by the industry,” Mr Chester said.
“Bridget will be able to hear first-hand about key issues of concern affecting the local business and the timber industry more broadly; and to learn about the success of ASH, which remains a key employer for the Gippsland region.”
ASH employs around 150 permanent staff.
The business received $1.2 million from the Federal Government’s Regional Jobs Investment Package to invest in new technologies and cater for new markets.
Mr Chester said he would continue to work with his Parliamentary colleagues on supply issues to keep the Gippsland timber industry viable and support the jobs it provided.
“The vast majority of Victoria’s forest is protected and only a small percentage is available for harvesting on a rotational basis,” Mr Chester said.
“We have a world-class and sustainable timber industry, which is much better than importing products from countries with lower environmental standards.
“Supply issues not only affect local timber industry jobs, but also downstream users, including staircase, window, door, furniture making, cabinetry and the building industry.”