Huntly coal miners found out yesterday whether they still had a job to go to or were consigned to the spoil, as Solid Energy followed through on an announcement to shed half of the workforce.
The State-owned company told staff in August the Huntly East underground mine would cut production and redundancies would follow.
They were able to salvage three jobs in the cull but confirmed to staff last week 90 workers would get their final notice - 22 in management and support service staff and 68 mine workers.
Miners have waited a week for the selection process to be confirmed and until yesterday afternoon, many did not know what lay ahead in their future.
The mining community were notably absent at a Waikato District Council meet-the-candidates gathering in Huntly last night - but the layoffs were still the meeting's main focus.
Mayor Allan Sanson said yesterday was an important day for Huntly.
"We need to show some sympathy to those jokers," he said.
Hundreds of new jobs to the north of the district might go some way to ease the burden on the town, Mr Sanson believed.
Other mayoral hopefuls: Blair Donaldson and Frank McInally and the wife of Bruce Cameron, another contender, were all doing their best to share their passion for the small town.
"I have Huntly at heart, Huntly is my main concern," Mr McInally said.
Mr McInally wasn't so excited about the jobs to the north, instead asking what would happen to the miners in Huntly.
Mr Sanson believed in having agreements with companies coming into places such as Pokeno where jobs would first be offered to locals.
Mr Donaldson felt that the new bypass would "damage us".
"I aim to promote small business. It's small business that runs these towns," he said.
The event, organised by Huntly Rotary Club, was hosted at the Essex Arms.
Meanwhile, 57 kilometres northwest of Huntly, about 50 people gathered at the Onewhero Rugby Club to hear mayoral and council candidates pitch their vision for the district.
Mayoral hopeful Noel Smith said the council needed to support out-of-work miners and their families.
When Affco laid off meat workers at their Horotiu plant, the council set up a community resource centre in Ngaruawahia to help job seekers, Mr Smith said.
"That's something we need to look to do in Huntly. It's about the council showing leadership and ensuring miners are supported."
But it was Glen Murray farmer and mayoral candidate Bruce Cameron who used his status as a council outsider to strike a chord with the feisty gathering.
Mr Cameron said the council had shown a lack of engagement with residents in the district's north, in particular with its stance over the livestock movement bylaw.
The bylaw came into force over the entire district in July last year and prohibits moving stock in urban areas or on public roads which have more than 2000 vehicles passing in a day.
"It lacks common sense and reflects a totally lack of engagement with the community ... there needs to be a lot more dialogue and a lot more respect to ratepayers," Mr Cameron said to a nodding audience.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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