Mayor admits job cuts will hurt town

Date published: August 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Comments

Kawerau mayor Malcolm Campbell admits Norske Skog Tasman’s announcement of cost cuts will hurt the town but says it will not break it.

The company’s proposal to close one of two operating pulp and paper machines, potentially resulting in substantial job losses, is something Mr Campbell said he had been aware of for some time, so Thursday’s notification was not unexpected.

“There would be a large number of businesses throughout the country being prudent and taking measures to ensure they remain viable in our economic climate. As a business owner, I know I am working harder and working smarter just to keep the doors open.”

Mr Campbell said he wished Norske Skog Tasman’s announcement hadn’t come but it had.

“We’ve half-pie been waiting for it, and myself and Whakatane and Opotiki mayors Tony Bonne and John Forbes have been working hard to create economic development in the region.”

He admitted sometimes it felt like it was a case of two steps forward and then one backward.

“To say any possible closure would only affect Kawerau is crazy, this will impact on the entire Eastern Bay and also have tentacles reaching into other national businesses,” Mr Campbell said. “But without trying to play it down, I don’t think it’s as bad as the initial knee-jerk reaction would indicate.”

It was his personal opinion that, in 10 years, paper would not be produced in Kawerau. “A long time ago I asked my councillors what would happen if the mills did shut down and, because of that thought, we have been working hard to ensure growth in other areas.

“A number of skilled people have been brought on board and we have several initiatives we are working on.”

One of these is industrial symbiosis. “Industrial Symbiosis Kawerau is a smarter way of doing business by creating efficiencies and opportunities, while tapping into the abundant renewable resources of the region,” Mr Campbell said.

He conceded the loss of jobs was a setback for the town and said he felt for the families who would be affected.

It would have been nice if they had made their announcement before the Olympics, where Kawerau’s Sarah Walker won silver in BMX racing.

“The possibility of job cuts has certainly taken the winds from the sail of a region basking in the afterglow of the Olympics,” Mr Campbell said.

Kawerau New World owner Greg Dyson said the news was not good. “It’s devastating in a community like ours when there is already high unemployment. It’s another kick in the guts, for sure.”

Mike Bryant, Bay of Plenty Regional Commissioner for Social Development, said staff had contacted the Norske Skog Tasman Mill to offer support to affected staff. “In these situations our focus is on helping affected staff find new jobs and, if needed, providing income support,” Mr Bryant said.

Source: Rotorua Daily Post