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TAS Country : November 17th 2011
16 Friday, Novem Feature Tasmania's veneer industry A company which takes less than perfect timber and turns it into a valuable export is making its name on the world stage, writes ROGER HANSON BEHIND THE VENEER: Operations manager Paul Woolley, left, and executive director Simon Kang inspect a load of billets. Taking timber to t TASMANIAN timber is literally float- ing in international markets. Eucalypt veneer, manufactured by Ta Ann Tasmania (TAT), produced from billets (short-length logs) supplied from regrowth and plantation forests, is used throughout the world. The veneer is made domestically and internationally into high-value flooring, such as floating floors, lami- nated veneer lumber and plywood products. A small amount of veneer products from the Huon plant is being used for flooring at the University of East London's new multi-million dollar sports facilities, which will be used by athletes in the lead-up to the London Olympics. The company is also looking at further value-adding opportunities at its plant at the Southwood industrial complex south of Huonville or at the company's second plant at Smithton. The business requires veneer from both plants to give sufficient scale to be internationally competitive. ''We optimise the whole part of the wood we buy from Forestry Tasmania. We buy the timber in billets, or short lengths, after Forestry Tasmania has removed unacceptable defects, and we use almost everything from that billet. ''There is very little waste as we produce veneer or use the cut-offs for the boiler to dry our veneer,'' oper- ations manager Paul Woolley said. Mr Woolley, who also has experi- ence in the shipping industry, comes from a long lineage of family members who have worked in the forest indus- try in the Huon Valley. Mr Woolley said the timber was supplied by contractors of Forestry Tasmania. ''Ta Ann's timber products have a very strong reputation inter- nationally for quality and it is heartening to learn that some of the teams training for the Olympic Games will be playing on wood sourced from Tas- mania's sustainable managed forest. It is a real feather in Ta Ann's cap,'' Forestry Tasmania's general manager corporate relations Ken Jeff- reys said. Mr Woolley said Ta Ann was not a logging company, but a manufacturing company. ''We do not grow or move the wood, it is delivered to Forestry Tasmania's merchandising yard and Ta Ann buys the billets at point of delivery for the mill,'' he said. While the Tasmanian Country was visiting the plant, a load was delivered to the merchandising yard and then put in a line where it was graded by removing defects, cut to required billet sizes and sent through to the veneer plant. ''Any logs that are sawlog quality are sent to the Green Mill, which is owned and oper- ated by another company,'' Mr Woolley said. He said they did not need perfect logs to work with. ''We can work around it with the processes Forestry Tasmania and Ta Ann employ. We process the low-grade wood, regrowth previously exported as woodchips -- the wood that no sawmil- ler wants -- then we process it and value-add it for the domestic or export market.'' Ta Ann received the Australian and Tasmanian Emerging Exporter of the Year award in 2008. The Huon veneer plant opened in 2007 and the Smithton mill in 2008. Mr Woolley corrected a common misrepresentation about the origins of the timber. ''We do not use old-growth forest billets. They are not required or capable of being peeled,'' he said. ''The old-growth wood cannot be turned by our lathes and is not suitable for TAT veneer.'' Only regrowth logs with a diameter of less than 70cm from areas desig- nated for wood production is supplied to Ta Ann. The selected wood then moves along an automated line, is cut into the required sized billets at the merchan- dising yard, then into the processing plant building. In a one hectare-sized building, the processing plant houses the lathes that shave the timber into veneer and the lines to sort, dry and pack the veneer for export. It is a hi-tech operation that requires careful judgment and eye for detail by the operators. Mr Woolley said the Tasmanian operation had company board ap- proval to investigate further down- stream processing. Mr Woolley said the strength and toughness of Tasmanian hardwood produced an attractive resilient product. ''Plywood, if in-laid with Eucalypt is really strong. A 19-ply can be used in shipping sea containers,'' he said. ''It's very durable and lasts the life of the container, and is especially good for heavy metal. ''Thinner ply makes high-quality flooring and veneer can also be used in laminated veneer lumber. ''There are world-wide opportunities for various types of plywood, and we have the potential to make it at our Smithton or Huon plants, which will mean more jobs. We don't need any further timber resources if plans work out to go ahead. ''We are looking at opportunities as part of the government strategy on uses of wood. ''New investments require the right quality resource supply and absence of sovereign risk. ''Suitable pruned plantations can be used as they come on-stream, but most plantations were planted for the pulp.'' TAT's products have the Program Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which is an internationally- recognised certification proving the timber has come from sustainable forestry. TAT executive director Simon Kang, who has lived in Tasmania since 1984, is keenly aware of resource supply and the importance to the Tasmanian
November 10th 2011
November 24th 2011