Pelt plant closure would cost 86 jobs
More than 80 jobs are likely to leave Horowhenua if the sale of Silver Fern Farms' fellmongery near Shannon goes ahead.
Silver Fern is negotiating to sell the lamb pelt processing plant, after it was approached with an offer by Lowe Corporation.
An announcement confirming the sale is expected on Monday.
As part of the proposal, Silver Fern would toll-process its pelts through Lowe's facilities in the North Island.
Toll processing is an arrangement where one company processes raw materials for another company.
Silver Fern Farms chief operating officer Kevin Winders said negotiations were still ongoing, but if Lowe was successful in purchasing the plant it was "highly likely" the Shannon site would become redundant.
There are 86 people employed at the plant.
Silver Fern mentioned Lowe's Tomoana processing facility in Hastings as having "modern processing assets and significant capacity for expanding production".
In that same statement, Silver Fern chief executive Keith Cooper said the Shannon plant was an "ageing asset" and needed a lot of work.
The site was limited by its waste treatment and water management facilities, which were often under stress.
He said lots of money would need to be invested to future-proof the plant.
"Its dated processing facilities are not competitive.
"This proposal will see us collaborating with an industry partner, creating scale and therefore efficiency and improved productivity."
He said staff had been approached to give ideas on how the plant may run after the sale.
One worker at the plant said he and his co-workers were told Lowe was looking to purchase the plant, shut it down, then process all the pelts in Tomoana.
He said he was worried about how the closure of the factory would affect Shannon.
"Our factory is the main income provider for our small town.
"We are a whanau-orientated work force, where two out of three men are father-and-son combinations."
He said they had only been given a week and a half to give their ideas on how the plant could be used after the sale.
New Zealand Meat Workers general secretary Graham Cooke said negotiations were ongoing and closing the factory was not a done deal.
Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy said he was aware of the proposed sale and possible loss of jobs.
"It's another blow to the challenges Horowhenua has had around employment opportunities for our community."
But Mr Duffy was optimistic about people staying in the region if they lost the plant. "When you look over the years at the significant business losses we've had . . . our population has sustained itself.
"We just have to travel a little further for work."
Lowe Corporation did not respond to requests for comment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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