New mill rises from ashes
IT WILL be six years in September since fire destroyed the Norply plywood factory in Kyogle taking with it the jobs of more than 140 people and one of the town's biggest spenders.
But timber processing is set to again deliver jobs for the community following the commissioning of a new $10 million hardwood mill on the old Norply site by Hurford Hardwood Pty Ltd.
Now managed by a third generation of the Hurford family, the Lismore-based company has employed 25 people to operate the new mill at Kyogle over two shifts, which will see it operating 12 hours a day.
Andrew Hurford is the managing director of Hurford Hardwood. He admits getting the mill up and running presented some challenges and that it has taken about a year longer than planned.
But the new mill incorporates state-of-the-art and custom-developed milling technology with old-style equipment tough enough to get the job done.
“There have been many advances in sawmilling over the last 20 years and it has always been hard to integrate those into the Australian hardwood context,” he said.
“Australian hardwood on the world scene is not a big part of the industry, so while we can look at what is the latest (technology) it is not always directly usable because of differences with the resource.
“Australian hardwood is harder, heavier, stronger and harder on the gear.”
He said the company had overcome difficulties with the new machinery and had achieved better efficiency and less wastage in its milling by adopting a “twin-edge” sawing method.
That means two fine blades do the cutting – one from the top and the other from the bottom – rather than one large blade. Advances in worker safety have been also achieved.
“Most of our operators are working from air-conditioned cabins, and we've worked to minimise any heavy physical work and to keep people away from points of danger,” Mr Hurford said.