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More than 200 staff lose their jobs as Whakatāne Mill confirms closure

All 210 staff at Whakatāne Mill are losing their jobs, with the company confirming its closure today.

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It’s yet another blow for the Bay of Plenty town. Source: 1 NEWS

The Bay of Plenty mill has produced paper and packaging products for more than 80 years but general manager Juha Veräjänkorva admits the volumes are "modest by global standards".

"Our costs-per-unit can no longer compete," he said.

Around 210 staff are employed at the mill and all will be made redundant. Most will be out of work by the end of June while a "small group" will finish shutting down and decommissioning the plant.

“Our focus at this time is caring for our staff and we will continue to work with union representatives and other agencies to support our people through the redundancy process,” Veräjänkorva says.

E tū union's Raymond Wheeler called the closure "devastating" for the local community, particularly in the wake of the  deadly Whakaari eruption in December 2019 and Covid-19's further disruption to the region's tourism industry.

"Now the region has been dealt this blow. It’s an enormous hit to the regions and to the eastern Bay of Plenty," he says.

Meanwhile First Union is still holding on to hope, saying a new buyer could repurpose the plant and keep it running.

"There are opportunities in the industry and there is an important role for Government to play in securing the wood supply chain and increasing our manufacturing capacity," says Jared Abbott, FIRST Union Secretary for transport, logistics and finance.

The mill recently lost its biggest customer, parent company SIG Combibloc.