More than 200 jobs saved! The sale of the Whakatāne mill is welcomed by region but caution is expressed
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (right) during a visit to the Whakatāne factory. Photo / NZME
The mayor of Whakatāne, Judy Turner, is delighted that the Whakatāne mill has been officially sold.
The owners of the SIG Combibloc plant announced yesterday that they had sold the plant to a consortium of investors led by European investor Dr Dermot Smurfit.
The announcement means that in addition to the staff who chose to lay off, more than 200 factory workers will keep their jobs.
“This is really exciting news, it’s a great result and well done to all parties involved,” said Turner.
“I am especially happy for the contractors outside of the direct factory employment as it has been a very nervous time for them and their staff.”
Turner said she was relieved the factory was saved as its closure and loss of jobs would have been devastating to the local economy.
“To the new owners, congratulations and well done. We are very happy to have you on board, ”she said.
Karl Gradon of Toi’s Economic Development Agency said nearly 300 families will breathe a sigh of relief with the announcement.
“We welcome Smurfit to the business community. We have a wonderful opportunity to build on the momentum that Smurfit brings to their alternative to plastic packaging technology, and it looks like we will have an impressive customer base. to which they will link Whakatāne Mill on a global scale, “he said.
“It’s very exciting for us.”
The Smurfit consortium includes New Zealand investors, and many have experience owning and operating paper packaging businesses.
A spokesperson for the Smurfit consortium, Ian Halliday, who will become president of the Whakatāne plant, said the consortium was eager to develop a more competitive operation to support customers in New Zealand and around the world.
“We believe that the Whakatāne plant has a very bright future as the only folding boxboard plant in Oceania, and we intend to invest heavily in the plant to support our customers and the carton industry. New Zealand forest products, ”he said.
The factory will stop producing liquid packaging board and will focus in the future on customer requirements for high quality folding box board, support and food service, all of which are currently manufactured at the factory. ‘factory.
The general manager of the plant, Juha Verajankorva, said that the acquisition agreed by the Smurfit consortium was a positive result and represented an exciting new era for the plant.
All senior management will remain with the new owners.
“This is a welcome development for Whakatāne and the wider Bay of Plenty region,” he said.
“This is also great news for the New Zealand paper packaging industry and we appreciate the positive support of our workforce, suppliers and customers in their work towards this successful outcome. greeted by all.
“Our preference has always been for a sale of these assets so that they can continue to be productive. It took almost until the final whistle, but it is a satisfactory result,” said Verajankorva.
News from plant is great for Eastern Bay area, says EMA
Confirmation that the Whakatāne mill continues to have a future is great news for the city, the wider region and New Zealand’s pulp and paper industry, EMA says.
“Whakatāne has had to face ups and downs in recent years thanks to significant investments from the Provincial Growth Fund generating exciting new developments, mixed with the tragic eruption of the White Island of Whakaari and its impact on local tour operators, aggravated by Covid-19. pandemic, ”said CEO Brett O’Riley.
“The potential loss of the plant, a longtime EMA member in the region, would have been a further blow, as it is one of the city’s largest employers and a key part of the business ecosystem. pulp and paper from the eastern Bay of Plenty.
“It is great news that a bailout of international and local investors has come together to solidify the future of the plant and the livelihoods of its workers.”
O’Riley said the news of an additional investment in the plant, with its unique position as the only folding boxboard mill in Oceania, was another vote of confidence in its longer-term future.
“It seems there is a lot of goodwill to make this new investment work and while it is likely that there will be some short term transition issues, the longer term view looks very positive for Whakatāne.
“We will do our best to encourage New Zealand exporters to use their products.”
Attention for the sector
Karl Gradon, of Toi EDA, expressed his caution, saying that while this was good news, there were still clouds on the horizon with the fiber processing business.
“China has announced log self-sufficiency by 2035, which creates a significant risk for the forestry sector.
“The majority of New Zealand logs are exported to developing countries in their raw form in anticipation of their domestic logs becoming available within a few years. Toi EDA encourages the government to develop a policy that encourages investment in value-added processing in New Zealand, rather than shipping value creation overseas. “