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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.

NZL

An aerial view of the JNL Tri­board mill at Kaitaia.

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