Minister meets mill workers

Carter Holt Harvey workers and local unions met with State Agriculture and Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford in Morwell on Thursday to discuss their options if the company’s Morwell sawmill closes in August.

Ms Pulford met with workers and local unions at the Latrobe Valley Authority’s office on Princes Drive, Morwell where they discussed the company’s decision and what transition services are available to them.

On Tuesday last week, workers were summoned to a site meeting where they were told the company was considering closing by the end of August due to a lack of plantation timber supply.

The sawmill uses plantation pine sourced from Hancock Victoria Plantations to produce structural-grade timber products used in residential houses.

Carter Holt Harvey said bushfires had destroyed about 15 per cent of HVP’s pine plantations since 2003, forcing the decision.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Ms Pulford said transition arrangements and services put in place for workers affected by the Hazelwood closure would be extended to Carter Holt Harvey’s workforce.

She said those services were discussed at Thursday’s meeting.

“People have a pretty good level of understanding of what’s available, what’s also been provided to the community as well as the other things the government’s doing,” Ms Pulford said.

“We had a discussion about the future of the Latrobe Valley as well and the types of industries and work that will be dominant in the local economy in future years.”

When quizzed on whether there was anything more the company could do, Ms Pulford pointed to the government’s decision to increase the first home buyers’ grant for people building in regional Victoria and cuts to payroll tax.

“The government said to the company earlier this week ‘what can we do? Is there anything we can do to change your mind here?'” she said.

“They said that this was plainly about timber supply and that’s not something we have any capacity to shape.

“We will continue to work with the company, the unions and the workers have some questions, of course as we’d expect in these circumstances.”