17 Nov 2023

Juken mill closure: Dozens of workers lose jobs as demand for pine products falls

11:14 am on 17 November 2023
Wood processing factory. Forestry.

File photo. Photo: 123RF

A Japanese-owned forestry company is closing a large wood processing mill in Te Tai Rāwhiti - with 60 workers set to lose their jobs before Christmas.

Juken New Zealand has told its staff Friday morning it had decided to close the nearly 30-year-old mill due to ongoing financial difficulties and falling demand.

The plant processes radiata pine from Juken's East Coast and Wairarapa forests to make wood products for the Japanese housing market.

Managing director Hiroyuki Kawado said after two weeks consulting with staff on options for the mill, the difficult decision has been made to close it.

"It is with sadness that I have advised them that the decision has been made to stop production as we cannot continue with the ongoing losses being made by the mill and have not identified an alternative solution that will turn the situation around," he said.

He said demand for its products had continued to decline over the past five years and was not expected to improve - and the ageing mill would need significant investment to operate effectively and safely.

"While we are still open to having conversations about selling the business, or part of the business, to suitable buyers, this is likely to take a significant amount of time," he said.

"We are now consulting with affected staff to understand who may be interested in being part of that transition crew and/ or redeployment within our wider business.

"Notice of redundancy will be given once we have considered all requests for such roles. That is likely to be given next Friday."

He said it was a "difficult time" for staff, and said the company would have comprehensive support in place to help them find new employment.

It was also liaising with local community leaders, including the Gisborne Council and Trust Tairāwhiti.

Production will stop on 22 December, affecting 60 employees - but a transitional crew of 20 will stay on till March 2024.

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