Builyan sawmill back in action as local family takes over

Darrell Hopf helps run the Builyan sawmill, now owned by his parents.
Darrell Hopf helps run the Builyan sawmill, now owned by his parents. Mara Pattison-Sowden

A BOYNE Valley family has taken over the Builyan sawmill, reviving the town's lifeblood.

The family venture is starting small but it is a start, and it has seen the old machines whiz back to life after six months of sitting idle.

After several months of preparation, the Hopf family officially re-opened the sawmill under Janforest Sawmilling Pty Ltd on January 14.

With mum and dad - Janice and John - owning the business, their sons Darrell and Randall are managing the operations, while all four are doing the physical work along with another four staff who were previous employees of the mill.

The business was shut down by industry heavyweights Parkside Group in April last year, after more than 40 years operating in the area.

As many as 20 workers were called in on the morning of the closure and notified of their redundancies.

The Hopf family has been "in the business" since the 1940s. They used to be logging contractors for Parkside before leaving three years ago to build their own small sawmill on family property.

But the prospect of expansion, and facilities that were difficult to increase, led them to negotiating the takeover of the Builyan mill.

From November to January the focus was on servicing gear, and maintaining it in preparation for opening.

Darrell Hopf said it was a tough business to be in at the moment, and a bit risky, but there was still a reasonable amount of resource.

"I think we've done the right thing," he said. "It was a bit of a risk but hopefully we get a bit of patronage from the local suppliers."

Darrell said sawmilling was in the family's blood, chiefly hardwood. They produce timber for flooring products and structural buildings in particular.

"We like what we do - it's a lifestyle, and for it to continue we have to look after it," he said.

"Where we are now, we have the majority of extra facilities we wanted."

The timber is checked and sorted for different uses.
The timber is checked and sorted for different uses.

These include a chemical treatment area which the Builyan mill has.

Darrell said speed also had been holding them back.

"We can now produce faster," he said. "We've also gone up a step in the amount of timber we can produce."

He said the process meant there was little waste environmentally.

"One fella takes some of the sawdust, while some clients want woodchips from the off cuts."

"Instead of only using 50% of the product, you use 95%."

And yet the mill is running at half of the capacity they would like, and if all goes well the mid-year could see an increase in production.

"We've got new machinery from the other sawmill and will add that to here, and we hope to employ a few more specialised people within the sawmill," Darrell said.

"The idea is to produce a greater amount but be sustainable in what we do.

"If we double production, and with local resource and government resource, we should be able to sustain it for a long period of time."

Darrell said they had a good group of people who cared about their work.

"You don't do it for the money; you do it because you enjoy it," he said.

"It's a fair bit of a challenge.

"It will be a good thing for my brother and myself to continue - we've all got homes in the area."

Topics:  boyne valley builyan employment sawmill

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