15 Oct 2008

Call for Government to buy threatened sawmills

7:32 pm on 15 October 2008

Logging workers are calling for the Government to buy sawmills earmarked for closure by Carter Holt Harvey.

On Tuesday, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union confirmed a decision by the company to close two mills in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, with the loss of 316 jobs by December.

More than 200 are at a Putaruru plant which manufactures timber framing and about 100 jobs will go at a Mount Maunganui plywood mill.

Seventeen other mills throughout New Zealand have already closed this year.

Chief executive of the Forest Industry Contractors' Association John Stulen says the Government should take over the mills for the good of the workers and the wider industry.

Mr Stulen says the mills could lead the way to new market opportunities in veneer and cross-laminated wood products.

However, the Government has ruled out the idea of buying the mills to save jobs in regional areas.

Forestry Minister Jim Anderton says the closures have to be expected in the current economic situation and the Government does not have a list for private firms.

Mr Anderton says Carter Holt Harvey did not warn the Government of the planned closures.

The Timber Federation says it is not surprising that milling operations are to close, given a decline in the domestic demand for timber. It says construction permits for housing are down by 50% on last year.

South Waikato Mayor Neil Sinclair says the Putaruru mill has been the town's lifeblood since 1903 and news of the planned closure was unexpected.