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FORESTRY AND WOOD PROCESSING COMPANY, JUKEN New Zealand Ltd (JNL), has announced a multi-million dollar plan to revitalise its Kaitaia Triboard mill, six months after undergoing a similar process at its plant in Gisborne.
And, as with the wood-processing operation on the East Coast, it will lead to a loss of some jobs and the company is currently in discussions with staff at Kaitaia to discuss potential effects.
JNL is proposing to make a significant investment over the next few years to upgrade and modernise the mill. Triboard is an engineered wood product made only in Kaitaia and is unique globally, being used in residential and commercial buildings.
The company plans to upgrade the 30-year old mill in order to return it to profitability and that will see a shut down across parts of the mill to enable the work to be carried out. A more efficient operating structure is to be introduced, along with investment in new technology and machinery to streamline production.
Dave Hilliard, New Zealand General Manager of JNL, says that although the proposal involves some hard decisions, it will give certainty to the Northland community about the long-term future of the mill.
“The Triboard mill is important to JNL and to Kaitaia and we want to keep it open for the long-term, which is why we’re proposing to make a multi-million dollar investment in upgrading the site,” he says.
“This investment will result in a modern, safer and more efficient mill which can continue to be one of Kaitaia’s largest employers well into the future.
“We are being upfront though that the steps required to be taken to address the mill’s issues are unfortunately likely to result in some job losses.”
Mr Hilliard says there are three major issues relating to plant, people and production that currently make it hard for the mill to operate in a sustainable way.
He says: “The mill’s machinery and technology is old, despite investment in recent years the site presents Health & Safety challenges that need to be urgently addressed and the mill’s production is severely constrained by inadequate and uncertain log supply in Northland. Because of these issues, the mill is making a substantial loss.
“The plan we have begun consulting our people at the Triboard mill will modernise the mill and address the key issues in these three areas. The changes aimed at streamlining production are likely to impact staffing levels. Juken employs around 250 full-time staff across its Northland operations. These proposed changes would reduce numbers of full-time employees at the Triboard mill.
“However, the final number of roles impacted won’t be known until consultation with staff and unions has been completed and a final decision made.”
One of the major issues facing the mill is a shortage of logs from Northland forests and an uncertain supply picture in the future.
Security of log supply in Northland is not an issue JNL can fix on its own, says Mr Hilliard, adding: “We are in early but constructive discussions with the Government about the shortage and how it can be solved. This is an issue that is impacting all Northland mills and creating real uncertainty around wood processing in the region.
“I’d like to acknowledge the efforts of the Minister of Forestry, the Hon Shane Jones, who is actively working with us to help resolve the supply shortage and is a strong advocate for the forestry sector.”
Following the consultation period with staff in Kaitaia, JNL says it will consider feedback on the proposed changes before making any final decisions on the future structure of the Triboard mill.
An aerial view of the JNL Triboard mill at Kaitaia.