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Mamaku sawmill shuts in NZ

Twenty-five Mamaku Sawmilling Company workers have lost their jobs and were officially told after a meeting with the owner’s solicitors and union representatives yesterday.  Source: Rotorua Daily Post

Employees were told last week a closure was on the cards for the mill, which has been running for about 70 years.

Company director Bill Taylor released a statement last week, saying the mill had been losing money since 2012.

It cited external factors for the closure.

“Along with numerous sawmills around New Zealand that have closed, Mamaku Sawmilling Co Ltd has struggled to combat the difficult trading conditions. The business has been adversely impacted by increases in the price and availability of pruned logs, and the historically high exchange rate.

“The company’s processing site in Ngongotaha, where 20 employees are employed, will continue to operate while other options are considered,” Mr Taylor said.

Former mill operator Sam Simpkins had worked at the mill for nearly 30 years.

“It was a huge shock. I have been here for 30 years. It’s devastating for the area. There used to be 15 mills down here,” he said.

“I am of retiring age, but I still feel I can put in a good day’s work. I am weighing up my options but I will probably look for work elsewhere.”

Mr Simpkins was not concerned about finding another job at a mill in the area.

The company has organised for local recruitment agencies to help prepare CVs for any employees at no cost, and has arranged for Work and Income staff to be on site to assist workers with financial and job search assistance.

Workers will receive their normal pay until April 8.

However, production at the sawmill will end next Tuesday.

Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) organiser Red Middlemiss said the company had been a good employer.

“This business has never been about them and us and they have been a good employer. Still, it’s outside circumstances that have made them shut down. They are doing their best.

“A lot of the guys already have jobs, which makes it a little bit less painful.”

He blamed the current economic climate for the closure.

“It is lack of foresight by successive governments, that’s all it is. They sold off all of our forests, so it loses that personal contact. No one cares about the workers. They just want to know that the logs are coming out.

“We’ve negotiated that the non-union members get the payout as well,” he said.