The aromatic smell of milled cypress pine is drifting over Tambo six years after its sawmill closed down, as yet another success story is chalked up by the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council.
Recently announcing a telecommunications deal offering super-fast internet to even the most remote resident, and staging the first organically certified cattle sale in Queensland, the council has built on a plan begun by its predecessor that has seen the sawmill at Tambo re-open and 12 jobs return to the small community.
R&R Logging has taken on the lease of the mill and is in the throes of moving its operation from Yuleba, in the face of strong competition from the Chinese operators of the Womblebank mill at Injune.
Owner Bob Sladden said they were guaranteed a 23 year supply at Tambo, and if all went well, they could look at re-opening at Yuleba in the future.
The sawmill, begun with the assistance of then-Primary Industries Minister Henry Palaszczuk, was in operation for eight years before its closure by NK Collins in 2011.
Although the timber allocation had been surrendered and NK Collins put in liquidation in 2013, the council at the time set about persuading state government authorities for a harvest allocation, as well as spending $425,000 in buying the mill and renovating it.
This was offset with just over $600,000 from both state and federal governments, through Royalties for Regions and drought relief economic stimulus packages.
Arrangements were finalised in August 2016, when the council announced that the mill had been given a new life.
According to BTRC mayor Andrew Martin, the reopening has meant a 10 per cent increase in employment for Tambo, with more to come once a planing machine to dress timber is installed in September.
“I don’t think there’s a spare house in Tambo at the moment,” he said.
Mr Sladden said seven houses were being rented and people were buying fuel and groceries locally.
He would like to employ a couple more bush crew in a harvesting capacity and while he was willing to train interested people, he said experienced people with near-up-to-date accreditation would suit him best at this stage.
While there have been a number of breakdowns, Mr Sladden said that wasn’t surprising considering how long the equipment had been idle, and they were ironing them all out.
Even so, the mill was eating up all the timber provided for it, a roadtrain a day.
Crews have started at the closest point, 75km from Tambo, to build up a stockpile before they venture out to the 180km limit of the permit before the summer wet season.
They are harvesting cypress at present, all of which is sent south in a rough-sawn state to Victorian markets.
Mr Sladden said customers there were also interested in Ironbark and Spotted Gum hardwood timber, which he would investigate once the Tambo operation was more established, along with the more lucrative dressed timber market that the planer would make possible.
“I’ve had people from Sydney on the phone too,” the third generation timber industry operator said.
He expects to sell a roadtrain of logs a fortnight to the Chinese operators at Injune, who have been exporting their product straight to China.
An official opening is set down for September 29.