The revival of the timber industry in Tambo, underlined by the re-starting of the town’s sawmill last August, was marked with an opening ceremony on Saturday.
Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, whose electorate includes Tambo, made it official while in town to open the local show.
With workers and shire residents looking on, he congratulated the community for its drive in pursuing the project that brought 18 jobs during construction, and 13 ongoing jobs for bench saw and planing machine operators, timber harvesters, log carters and mill labourers.
“I thank the state government for coming on this journey with us, but no matter what governments do, unless you have a community to drive it, jobs won’t come,” Mr Littleproud said. “I take great pride in the fact that we could get more jobs into regional Queensland and rural Australia.”
In a media release, his colleague, Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Minister, John McVeigh, said the federal government was investing in local projects that created jobs and stimulated the economy in areas affected by severe drought.
“The Tambo Sawmill upgrade was funded under the $35 million Drought Communities Program, part of the Coalition government’s commitment to revitalising local economies affected by drought conditions,” Dr McVeigh said.
The project was jointly funded, with the federal government investing $340,550, the Queensland government $262,250, and Blackall-Tambo Regional Council $261,319.
Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick, said the sawmill was bringing $1 million a year into Tambo and and had the potential to bring $4 million a year into the regional economy.
Also commenting was state Agriculture Minister, Mark Furner, who said the mill’s revival after being mothballed for seven years, was having flow-on effects.
“As people move to town to work at the mill, their children attend the local school, buy goods at the local shops and contribute to the local economy.”
Blackall–Tambo mayor, Andrew Martin, agreed, saying the mill had given the central west region a long-term, environmentally sustainable, economically viable and diversified asset.
“Not for several decades has the Tambo housing rental market been over-subscribed, and the Tambo State School was swamped with an almost one-third increase in enrolments, bringing student numbers to levels not seen since the 1980s,” he said.
“I would estimate that the percentage increase in population, economy, employment, school enrolments and general social activity in the past 12 months is unprecedented in not only inland Queensland, but would be well up there in overall ranking across eastern Australia.
“In a small town like Tambo with 359 people, 15 direct jobs is a big jump in employment.”
The Blackall–Tambo Regional Council bought the disused sawmill in 2014, since overseeing a $1,108,293 project that included buying the timber sales permit, a $683,000 upgrade, and granting of a lease and operating rights to family company, R&R Logging Pty Ltd.
The upgrade included the installation of a solar system to reduce electricity costs, and the new planing shed and specialist planing equipment will allow the finishing of timber on-site.
Bob Sladden said 100 per cent of the mill’s finished insect-resistant cypress pine product was being sent to Victoria for verandahs, pergolas and fences, while logs were in demand in China, where they were being used to make coffins.
He said while they were training staff, they were in need of experienced qualified machinery operators to help keep up with demand.
The state’s financial contribution came from Building our Regions funding, which Mr Dick said was giving Queensland councils the opportunity to boost regional economies.
“Building our Regions has been most successful in generating construction jobs and other shorter-term benefits throughout regional Queensland – 1762 jobs through 174 projects in 62 councils – and this next round of funding is ramping up the emphasis on projects that deliver real economic development clout,” Mr Dick said.
“The Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning is working closely with eligible councils to help them identify and prioritise the most appropriate projects and will support councils to prepare robust submissions for the two-stage application process.”
While the closing date for Building our Regions expressions of interest was 27 April, councils with Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements activations due to the March 2018 flood events have until May 25 to submit their applications.