Tasmanian non-profit that secured AU$4M to set up laminated hardwood flooring enterprise, create 46 jobs, unable to proceed until money is released; state's premier accuses federal government of sitting on AU$100M promised under forestry agreement

HOBART, Australia , October 16, 2013 () – A HOBART business operator says he could employ 46 jobless forestry workers if the Federal Government releases the millions of dollars promised under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

Oak Tasmania chief executive John Paton says the charitable business Oakdale Industries is ready to start making a laminated hardwood product called Hardlam for flooring. Its proposal earned $4 million from the TFA.

``We're hoping to employ up to 46 Tasmanians but we can't proceed because we don't have the money,'' Mr Paton said.

``We can't even secure a site to operate from and we can't employ people. We're a charity so we don't have the money to do this, without that [money].''

Mr Paton said Oak wanted to employ staff from Tasmanian Timber Engineering and the Kelly Mill at Dunalley.

``We're hoping to employ people who are out of work but experienced in this area,'' he said. ``We need to order the machines from overseas and we have a fluctuating dollar. But I have no idea when the money is coming.''

He said Oak had been working with Forestry Tasmania on Hardlam.

``It's a fabulous product and beautiful to look at,'' he said.

Most of the laminate would become flooring and some would go to Forestry Tasmania for fine furniture and other products.

Oakdale is one of the leading producers of timber flooring in Australia. Most goes to Victoria and some is bought in Tasmania.

Mr Paton said although the new operation was for able-bodied workers, it was hoped that eventually some workers with disabilities would be able to be employed, as they are in some other Oak businesses.

The issue of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement money was raised in Tasmania's Parliament yesterday.

Liberal Leader Will Hodgman blamed Premier Lara Giddings for the jobless queue.

``Is it not a fact that your so-called jobs plan is a total failure?'','' Mr Hodgman asked Ms Giddings.

The Premier said the allocated $100 million was for jobs but was being ``sat on'' by the federal Liberals in Canberra.

``That $100 million would be providing jobs right now in Smithton with the plywood mill, in the aquaculture industry, the cider industry and in industries around this state, like the tourism industry,'' she said.

``They [the Federal Government] could have signed the cheque. It is all ready to go. They made the promise.''

She also said the NBN was a big job creator but its future was uncertain in Tasmania.

michelle.paine@news.com.au

(c) 2013 News Limited

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