The Hermal Group is pressing on with its North -West Tasmanian timber mill plans despite “losing a year” to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Melbourne-based company in 2018 said it hoped to start construction of the $190 million plantation-based hardwood mill and manufacturing plant that year and aimed to start production by 2020.
However, the pandemic and associated movement restrictions hit hard. “We lost a lot of time because of COVID,” Hermal chief operating officer James Lantry said. “It’s hard to explain how much effect last year had.”
He said the company had been unable to get machinery installed and processing approvals and testing had also been affected.
“Now we’re catching up and getting all the systems and those sorts of things down pat,” Mr Lantry said. The mill had been expected to be built at Hampshire. That is not certain. Mr Lantry said it would depend on approval processes but the company was planning to go ahead with the project in the Burnie area.
Hermal currently employs 40-50 people in Tasmania, predominantly at two sites at Wynyard.
Mr Lantry said the business had not qualified for the JobKeeper wage subsidy as it was a start-up, but elected to keep paying its workers through the period.
Employment is expected to grow to about 200 people when the main mill is fully operational.
When the Hermal North-West plan was announced in 2018, then-premier Will Hodgman described it as a game changer for the region.
The government agreed to provide $13 million in grant and training support for the mill project.
A $30 million loan would also be available.
Article courtesy of The Advocate Newspaper