Manager of NK Collins Industries' Tambo, Australia, sawmill blames critical labor shortage for closure, accuses Queensland government of prioritizing mining industry

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

Nov 16, 2011 – Industry Intelligence

LOS ANGELES , November 16, 2011 () – The closure of NK Collins Industries' sawmill in Tambo, Australia, last week, has highlighted a critical labor shortage in the Queensland timber industry which the government must address urgently, a sawmill manager says.

NK Collins Industries says it was forced to close the Tambo facility because it could not fill nine vacancies needed to keep the mill operating, according to a report by Queensland Country Life. The company has also had to close its mills at Augathella and Mungalalla within the past 18 months.

NK Collins has operated the Tambo mill at a loss for most of this year with six employees, hoping it would eventually be able to fill the vacancies.

The company was Australia's largest cyprus pine exporter, and has operated in Queensland for more than 60 years. But it is now running just one cyprus mill at Mitchell, and employing six workers at its Surat mill to process hardwood. General manager Sean Gribble said the business could employ up to 220 people across its five mills in the state and processing and distribution plant at Toowoomba, but has not been fully operational for three years.

Gribble said the mining sector posed the biggest threat to the sawmill industry as mining royalties make the industry the government's biggest priority. "The rest of us are all expected to just stand aside," he added.

Gribble said the Tambo mill had tripled the community's population and doubled the size of the school. He said immediate government action was needed as closing the mills impacts the viability of the head office operations in Toowoomba, which employs 80 people.

Timber Queensland CEO Rod McInnes said the industry would not survive unless the Federal Government allows visa exemptions for skilled workers in regional and remote areas.

The primary source of this article is Queensland Country Life, Ormiston, Australia, on Nov. 16, 2011.

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