Lumber firm's future uncertain

By Doug Laing

The future of Wairoa milling company Clyde Lumber seems still uncertain a week after its last train of sawn timber left town amid the mothballing of the Napier-Gisborne railway line.

Sources in the town say the plant closed last week for a Christmas break and staff were told the position would be reassessed early in the new year.

Company owner and Tauranga businessman John Ebbett was unable to be contacted yesterday by Hawke's Bay Today.

The uncertain future for Wairoa was highlighted by Mayor Les Probert at a meeting of the Regional Transport Committee in Napier yesterday, when he spoke of the potential loss of up to 25 jobs and a million-dollar wage bill in a town already struggling, and losing people regularly to jobs in Australia.

His council had worked to help Mr Ebbett establish the business in the town in 2010, as it could with other businesses, but was still left wondering what the future may be.

"We've been stuffed around, to be honest," he said after yesterday's meeting, at which there was wider concern over continued difficulties in meeting with Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee to discuss the closure and its ramifications.

Apparently hastened by the severing of the line by storm damage and washouts between Wairoa and Gisborne, state-owned KiwiRail has mothballed the line, running the last train for the mill on December 4.

But any work which may shut the line down is being deferred, pending consideration of an independent report on the decisions by which the mothballing has been made.

Varied council representatives were agreed it might be difficult arguing against the decision on an economic basis, but Mr Probert says there are many social implications which need to be taken into account, including the future of Wairoa and the wider East Coast region.

It includes heavier freight traffic on State Highway 2, up to $4million will be spent on new or extended passing lanes during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 years.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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