Fenning Timbers


A shiny new reach stacker sits beside neat rows of blue shipping containers, stacked and ready for action at the Fenning Intermodal Freight Terminal (FIFT). The transport hub is the brainchild of Leonard Fenning, owner of Fenning Timber, a man with a history of innovation and ideas.

Leonard grew up in Port Macquarie in NSW, then moved to Armidale to work in and eventually run, his family’s Timber business, Fenning Timber. The company operated in Walcha, Lorne and Tamworth in New South Wales. Leonard bought Collins Timber in 1997 and enjoys, once again, living on the coast. “I thought I’d only be in East Gippsland for a little while,” he said. “But it has grown on me.”

Leonard has installed the latest technology into Fenning Timber, paying particular attention to occupational health and safety. "No-one touches the timber" said Leonard. "It is all done by machinery" The days of workers losing their fingers in the machines, are long gone.

Leonard has delved into other industries besides timber production, such as power generation and has operated a business in China. The freight terminal has partly grown from uncertainty about the future of the timber industry, with different state governments changing the rules and the industry shrinking.

"I’m trying to do something nice in my life beside cutting down trees" chuckled Leonard.
Leonard recognised the potential for businesses to grow in East Gippsland and the need for more efficient transport systems for bulk goods, including timber. The FIFT will be a boost to job growth and long-term investment in the region. ‘There are many businesses which will benefit from the hub,’ said Leonard. "Businesses such as Whelan’s, Patties and Bonnacord, for example, transport huge amounts of bulk goods backwards and forwards every day"

"Truck transport takes a lot of man hours" said Brian Donchi, Fenning Timber Resources Manager. "Drivers are in short supply. Roads are in poor condition. Truck driving is not family friendly".

Governments are keen to see alternatives to heavy trucks on the highways. Regional Development Victoria provided $25,000 for a feasibility study for the transport hub. "Governments want the trucks off the roads for long distances" said Leonard.

Leonard bought the Bosworth Road site of the intermodal hub, next to the rail-line a few years ago. "We weren’t sure what we were going to do with it" said Leonard. "The transport hub makes good use of the site which sits beside the rail line". The site has been developed with security fencing, a B-Double entry, a weigh-station and the facility for warehouse storage. In future stages the site could provide off-grid power, for use during emergency black-outs, to keep the town running.

The state government is in the process of upgrading the rail lines along the Gippsland corridor. The Avon River rail bridge at Stratford was recently upgraded to cater for faster speed and higher payload. Minister for Ports and Freight, Melissa Horne, on her visit to the freight terminal said, "We are committed to continuing to make investments to make rail freight more efficient and benefit producers and businesses".

Fenning Intermodal Freight Terminal will make the first freight train to run to Bairnsdale in 13 years, possible. Leonard looks forward to seeing East Gippsland continue to grow into the future and to seeing his initiatives come to fruition.