PROJECT UPDATE 20th July 2021
Bernie Farquhar clearly remembers sitting back listening to Ingrid Biram and Glen Schaeche at Simon and Fran Conn’s residence for a BBQ last June 14th 2020. It was a think tank of ideas flowing from tool libraries to picnic tables to assist Fire affected people. But it was the Lucas Mill that had been loaned to the Biram’s that set us on a journey together. He was representing the East Gippsland Rotary Fire aide group. His part in the group was coordinating fencing materials donated from around the country and purchasing from grant money applied for through Rotary international, working alongside Blaze Aid who were doing external fencing only and only went where materials were supplied. The realization of the extent of replacing fences internally was overwhelming and a looming issue for Farmers across the Burnt-out East Gippsland.
Driving through areas such as Sarsfield, Buchan and Bete Belong talking to farmers about future needs was heart breaking and overwhelming, how were we going to assist so many. While on the day it was nothing more than an idea that was discussed in General, the bells started to ring and Bernie started the discussion with others in Rotary, and with Ingrid Biram’s constant ringing, the first monies was raised by 5 Rotary Clubs of Melbourne when he had our first Mill.
Initially it was thought a group of volunteers could supply labour to operate the mill and things would be great, Then we saw the mill and realized this had to be operated by well-trained operators or a disastrous accident could occur. Insurance, training, transport, security, privacy and above all safety issues all needed addressing and the East Gippsland Timber Milling project was Born, a group of amazing volunteers who knew the end goal was to assist Farmers, but no way did we consider how important and how well received it would be with sponsors and more importantly by Farmers.
The East Gippsland Timber Milling Project was imagined to utilise all trees fallen during, and because of, the 2019/2020 summer bushfires. The trees are located on private landholdings throughout East Gippsland. The project mills these trees and turns them in to a useable resource for the landholder at nil cost to them. The common uses for this repurposed timber are for the construction/ replacement of fences and stock yards. This assists the landholder in their personal recovery. In the terms of farming land holdings this assists their agri-business recovery as well
As Rotary had bought the Lucas Mill financial support was sought from DELWP and the Australian Lions Foundation. ALF was to provide vehicle and trailer and DELWP operational funding to deliver the project. Both organisations provided generous support allowing the project to proceed. The project was launched at Sarsfield Recreation Reserve on 26th of February this year. It’s a project between the Lions Club of Bruthen and The Rotary Fire Aid Group.
Two not for profit companies were set up with the express intention of providing milling for the project. Each company providing one employee. These contractors were unemployed East Gippslanders who now possess an Accredited Tafe Trained certificate in the safe operation of a Lucas Mill and other timber milling best practices. Training was provided by Forestec a part of TAFE Gippsland, and funded Rotary. Both companies were offered mentoring / assistance in their setup and ongoing business operation by the qualified financial manager Ray Mengler who is part of the project.
Milling commenced at the Kennedy property in Clifton Creek on the 15th of March. This property had very large logs in 2 locations on their property. The timber milled will be used to rebuild their cattle yards, which were burnt beyond repair. The Kennedy property had a fantastic outcome not only for the client, but also for the project. Our contractors were able to hone the skills learnt during training, and to understand how to do operate efficiently. This is one of the largest jobs undertaken by the project to date. Both in size and number of logs.