12 Oct 2020

Future of Kawerau paper mill uncertain

7:44 pm on 12 October 2020

The future of another major industrial operation is under review because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The paper mill in Kawerau.

Photo: Flickr/Kimberley Howell

Norwegian forest products company Norske Skog plans to decide on the future of its Tasman newsprint mill at Kawerau early next year, and has warned no options are off the table.

The company has announced a review of the mill because of the rapid, negative and likely irreversible impact Covid-19 has had on the newsprint industry in the region.

It said it was now looking at various long term options including making bleached chemical pulp and once it had a preference it would be put to staff.

A Sydney-based spokesperson for the company said the review was already underway and the company hoped to have it completed by the first quarter of next year.

"All options will be explored in the review. In the current, very challenging, business environment we cannot exclude any options.

"It's premature to be talking about job losses or redundancies until we explore all options for the mill. We shouldn't speculate at this stage," the statement said.

The Kawerau mill currently produces about 150,000 tonnes of newsprint a year, and has more than 160 staff.

Norske Skog has a paper mill in Tasmania producing about 285,000 tonnes of paper a year. It said the Australasian market for publication grades of paper had fallen by 25 percent compared to last year.

"Most people are well aware of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the newsprint industry and a review of options is therefore not surprising," the company said.

The Kawerau mill has been battling for survival for more than a decade, having had temporary closures, a halving of production, and selling assets.

Along with other major energy users it has long complained about high energy costs.

It is the latest heavy industry enterprise to come under the microscope with the Tiwai Point smelter slated for closure, and major restructuring taking place at New Zealand Steel's Glenbrook mill, and the Marsden Point oil refinery.

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