Millions up in smoke: HVP

The colossal costs of the February bushfires continue to emerge, with extensive burning in Hancock Victoria Plantations sites across Gippsland ringing up a damage bill in excess of $10 million.

HVP general manger Simon Gatt said about 3000 hectares worth of trees had been burnt across five separate fire fronts, including the Hernes Oak and Strzelecki Highway fires, at a cost of “somewhere between $10 and $20 million”.

Mr Gatt said HVP would be able to salvage about half of the burnt tree stocks, which otherwise would have gone to Australian Paper or Carter Colt Harvey.

“We’ve been able to salvage the majority of trees in the older age classes, so we can recoup some value from those trees, but the younger aged trees, we lose those completely,” Mr Gatt said.

He said the salvageable wood was being exported to Japan, where specifications were less stringent, allowing a degree of charcoal within paper manufacturing processes.

“Australian customers don’t want charcoal in their products, which means Carter Holt Harvey can’t sell off the off-cuts from their milling process either.”

Mr Gatt said HVP had resorted to similar export cost salvaging after the 2009 Delburn Complex and Black Saturday bushfires.

Massive swathes of plantation have been cleared along the Strzelecki Highway, while clearing is currently underway in plantations adjacent to the Maryvale Mill.

“The priority for us was to salvage the trees as quickly as possible, because once they get burnt they have shelf life of about eight to 12 months.”

“The worst thing of it here is it robs a local industry of a resource, and that has a considerable impact on the local economy,” he said.

Mr Gatt said a 2.5-year replanting schedule would embark this month.