Whittakers sawmill to reopen

THE former Whittakers Greenbushes saw-mill is to reopen despite criticism from the Conservation Council.

Regional Development Minister Hendy Cowan said the mill would reopen as part of an integrated centre combining saw milling, furniture manufacturing and decking production.

The Conservation Council has condemned the Government assistance for the project.

The mill will be run by Blueleaf Corporation Pty Ltd, a consortium involving Bushmills Timber, Hamilton Sawmills and Donnelly Timber Company.

Blueleaf must raise the $6.5 million required for the project with Government assistance provided in the form of an interest subsidy of 4 per cent a year on the loan.

The total assistance would amount to about $2 million over a ten year period loan.

The WA Government will also provide a $2 million guarantee as security for the loan.

The company is also to be given a rebate on stamp duty incurred on the purchase of the site – amounting to about $116,000.

The company will also be given a further grant after ten years providing employment targets are met.

The new venture is expected to create seventy jobs in Greenbushes which was hit hard in August last year by the Whittakers’ closure.

Forest Products Minister Paul Omodei said the venture had a clear focus of adding value to native timber resource while creating new and different employment opportunities, particularly for mill workers displaced by the closure of Whittakers.

“The re-establishment of milling operations at the Greenbushes site will also have direct economic spin-offs for other businesses in the area to the tune of about $1.5 million a year,” Mr Omodei said.

Responding to the Conservation Council, Mr Omodei said Blueleaf Corporation had not received any special favours.

“The Government assistance would have been available to any individual or consortium which could have arranged to purchase Whittakers mill from the receiver,” Mr Omodei said.

Mr Omodei said the most significant comment in the Conservation Council’s statement issued on the matter were the words ‘whatever the reality’ which were used to preface criticism of the consortium and the Government.

“It is a clear admission that, whatever the reality, the Council will not stop its denigration of the timber industry and anyone involved in it,” he said.

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