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Big River Group employees joined visiting dignitaries during the official opening of the Junction Hill facility last week following a major restructure and site upgrade. Image: Emma Pritchard

Local timber industry employees celebrate site upgrade

Emma Pritchard

There was plenty of cheering and applause as soon as the ribbon was cut on April 3, signalling the official opening of the Big River Group’s operating facility at Junction Hill following a major restructure made possible by 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, the upgrade includes the installation of state-of-the-art machinery, equipment, and technology, which will substantially increase Big River Groups productivity and enable them to provide an unprecedented volume of high-quality timber products.

One of the timber industry’s largest employers in the Clarence Valley with 71 manufacturing staff employed on site, 20 new jobs have been created following the major restructure.

Speaking with the Clarence Valley Independent last week, General Manager of Operations for Big River Group in Grafton Jason Blanch said the company has also consolidated operations locally following the closure of its Wagga Wagga site after the devastating Black Summer bushfires severely impacted the long-term supply of logs in the Tumut region.

He revealed new technology now available at the Junction Hill facility, which produces a variety of high value products including architectural panels and decorative applications, will allow staff to extract more wood from resources and utilise timber more efficiently.

“It is pretty special,” he said of the major restructure and site upgrade, describing it as providing a substantial boost for the local economy.

“During the project we supported a lot of local contractors, and that money was spent within the Grafton community which was a really positive incentive.

“It’s provided and secured more local jobs and enabled us to enhance our high skilled workforce, which is great.”

Big River Group CEO John Lorente emphasised the importance of the site upgrade during the official opening, and said the business aims to be a leading provider of timber products while continuing to grow within the Clarence Valley.

“The resilience of the team we have here (at Junction Hill) is our number one asset, and I extend my sincere gratitude to the NSW and Federal Governments for facilitating the Bushfire Industry Recovery Package which has delivered the funds to help enable us to modernise the site.”

Member for Clarence Richie Williamson said the major restructure is a positive outcome for the local community.

“It’s important to back projects that put people back in work, retain existing jobs and stimulate local economies as well as deliver high-quality timber products to the construction industry well into the future,” he said.