Sale secures mill’s future

THE Kalangadoo Gunns timber plant has been sold to a South East forestry company as part of the wood processor’s divestment program of non-core assets.

News of the sale was broken to the site’s 18 employees early yesterday morning, confirming South East Pine Sales had secured the deal.

The Border Watch understands the employees were jubilant with news their jobs would be transferred over to the new owner, given the uncertainty in the sector.

The sale follows ongoing concerns that the site – which has been operating since the 1930s – was on the verge of being mothballed.

The Gunns Auspine mill at Tarpeena – which employs around 200 people and is one of the largest processing sites in the region – has yet to be sold.

A spokesperson for Gunns yesterday confirmed an agreement had been reached between the parties.

While the sale price had not been released, she said Gunns was pleased it had been sold as a “going concern” and all jobs would be transferred.

“It is good news for the mill employees and the township of Kalangadoo,” the spokesperson said.

South East Pine Sales co-owner Karen Forster said she was pleased with the company’s new purchase.

“It will be business as usual at Kalangadoo,” Ms Forster said.

Explaining she had confidence in the long-term future of the timber sector, she said the industry was cyclical and experienced “peaks and troughs”.

She said they planned to expand the business and grow market opportunities.

“We will be under pressure for the short-term to reach our goal ahead,” said Ms Forster, who has been involved in the sawmilling sector since 1986.

“Our plan is to better the business – we think we can do it better.”

While explaining they sold the majority of their products into the Melbourne market, she said they intended to expand into other key areas.

According to a Kalangadoo Gunns worker, who did not want to be named, there were just 18 people left at the plant after it was downsized in recent years.

“All the workers are pretty pumped with the news because of the uncertainty over the future of the site,” the worker said.

“There is a really good vibe here.”

The employee said it was also great news for the small township of Kalangadoo.

“In the past 17 years, 14 businesses have closed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wattle Range Mayor Peter Gandolfi welcomed the news of the sale yesterday.

“It is very positive news for Kalangadoo and the workers at the mill,” Mr Gandolfi said.

He said the future of the Kalangadoo plant had been in doubt because of Gunns’ financial position.

“There were fears that it was on the verge of closing,” Mr Gandolfi said.

“I am very pleased the plant is back in local hands and has been bought by a family-owned business.”

He said the sale was timely given the uncertainty in the regional timber industry.

“It shows there is still confidence in the region,” Mr Gandolfi said.

OPTIMISTIC: South East Pines Sales co-owner Mark Forster stands with stacks of timber at his sawmill near Mount Gambier.