Meet the Finalists - Alberton Timber
Alberton Timber is a long-standing family business, owned by the Olarenshaw family for the last 25 years, located on the South Gippsland Highway in Alberton.
The business is known for creating a product that is high-quality, sustainable and in demand, supplying treated pine poles, construction timbers and other timber products.
Cambio posts are a relatively new product proving very popular with vineyards in Gippsland and beyond.
Wood chips and wood waste are in high demand, most commonly sold to farmers and garden supply stores.
Their rudimentary, but effective sawmill that has been operating for decades has recently undergone a series of upgrades, with more to come.
These upgrades have resulted in a significant increase in capacity; improvement in working conditions for their staff; and an increased ability to minimise waste.
Much of the plant has been built by the Olarenshaws with the new facility has been specified by Luke Olarenshaw in collaboration with European companies where the new equipment has been sourced from.
Luke visited similar mills in South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand to study the latest innovations and through those visits formed long term relationships that help benchmark best practice in Alberton Timber operations.
The benchmarking process includes exchange of financial data, experience, photographs and videos of production and shared insights. Staff input was critical in the design of the plant in terms of safety, ease of use and efficiency.
Luke is very particular and focussed on delivering a quality product – he works with the ethos of “if you wouldn’t buy it yourself, don’t make it”.
All these initiatives and business practices caught the eye of the judges in the Excellence in Agribusiness Awards, and the business is a finalist in the first year of the Excellence in Fibre Award, sponsored by East Gippsland Shire Council, as well as the Excellence in Innovation Award, sponsored by National Australia Bank.
Since commencing operations in 1992, Alberton Timber has been a major employer in their local area, and has continually demonstrated a strong commitment to the local community.
The business is constantly evaluating ways to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill, with a new chipper being installed that will allow all offcuts to be turned into chips to fuel boilers, as well as be sold to farmers and garden suppliers.
Mulch shavings are in high demand, with 10k m3 of mulch processed per year, and a further 3k currently on backorder.
Other environmentally friendly initiatives include discussions with a Canberra based company about biofuel, and potential considerations about revisiting the possibilities of biochar use.
Alberton Timber have used and will continue to engage mainly local contractors for new plant builds and upgrades, meaning that at least half of $1.7m upgrade will stay local and have a positive impact on the local economy. The remaining cost is in the actual equipment purchase costs from overseas.
When undertaking their sawmill upgrade, the family business collaborated closely with Wellington Shire Council and maintained their good relationship with the town, sending letters to every resident advising them of the work and pending upgrades.
Prior to the steamer expansion, they had about four employees – this has since almost doubled to 7.
They believe their employees are their biggest asset, so they’re very proud of the relationship they have with their staff. This has built a strong workforce morale and inclusive culture where regular scheduled social activities like group cook ups are just part of general business!
Recognising the need to continually build their workforce capability, they work closely with TAFE Gippsland to address all their training requirements.
The Yarram and Alberton region is fast becoming a hub for forestry. Agriculture, including forestry, is a vitally important sector for the local economy and it is the foundation for the growth and security of small vibrant communities. Innovation is underpinning the successful expansion of a small to medium enterprise, Alberton Timber, which in turn contributes to the region’s future prosperity.
The future looks bright for this well-established Gippsland business, with plans to diversify and ramp up production across their entire range, in particular on the Cambio posts that are in such high demand from vineyards in the region and beyond.