A major restructure of Big River Group’s operations will see 20 new jobs created in the Grafton area while up to 50 will disappear from the Riverina region.
One of the Clarence Valley’s largest timber companies, Big River Group currently has two main operating facilities located in Junction Hill and Wagga Wagga.
Unfortunately, following the Black Summer bushfires, the long term supply of logs for their operations in southern NSW was severely impacted and it became apparent there was insufficient log resources in the Tumut region to sustain the Wagga Wagga facility, leading to a decision to consolidate operations at Junction Hill, where a sustainable supply of hardwood and softwood logs exist to supply productions.
Big River Group has recently been successful in securing a $10 million grant, provided through the Bushfire Industry Recovery Package, co-funded by the NSW and Federal Governments and matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the business, to assist in consolidating its operations and enhance the Junction Hill site.
Big River Group CEO Jim Bindon and General Manager of Operations for Big River Group in Grafton Jason Blanch were joined by Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons for the official announcement on November 4.
Mr Bindon said the business, which started in Grafton more than a century ago, has a rich history in the local area.
While he conceded he was disappointed to see employees lose their jobs in Wagga Wagga due to a “lack of sustainable supply following the devastating fires”, he said the funding was a positive investment for the Junction Hill facility which operates as a plywood mill and also laminates a wide range of timbers into sheet products on site which are used in heavy construction, architectural and civil applications.
“We’ve been on this location (Junction Hill) for 60 years and the upgrading of the site will result in more jobs being created,” he said.
Mr Hogan said the announcement was “a wonderful day for the Clarence Valley and our timber industry.”
“We know the industry was devastated by the bushfires last year and this is all about creating jobs in our local region and it ensures the viability of the industry,” he said.
Along with the capacity to create 20 new jobs, Mr Hogan also said the $20 million project secures the jobs of the current 60 full time employees.
“This is terrific,” added Mr Gulaptis.
“It means more jobs in the Clarence Valley and Big River Group can continue on with the great work that they do.
“Grafton is a timber town, Big River Group have been here for decades, they’re an integral part of our community and we want to see them here well into the future.”
While he too concurred the closure of the Wagga Wagga facility was a sad event, Mr Simmons said he was pleased more jobs are being created in the Clarence Valley.
The Wagga Wagga facility will cease operations in 2021.