Sole breadwinner Ake Persson was less than two years away from retiring and still paying the mortgage on his house when his employer delivered what he described as a "bolt of lightning" that made his heart sink.
The 63-year-old was among the first tranche of workers who were laid off from their jobs at Carter Holt Harvey's Whangārei sawmill in March due to a shortage of logs and after major upgrades to the company's Kawerau plant.
Persson worked at the sawmill on Union East St for over 21 years, starting in January 1999 when it was known as TDC Sawmills. He started as a forklift driver before moving to boilers and kilns and said the sudden announcement about the closure was "quite tough" to take in.
"The announcement felt like a bolt of lightning. It was nerve-wracking to start with, especially when you've got a mortgage hanging over your head."
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Persson, originally from Sweden, lives on a lifestyle block in Ngunguru with his English wife who stopped working as a cardiac intensive care nurse in Auckland and moved back to Whangārei after injuring her back.
The CHH sawmill pumped about $5 million into the Whangārei economy each year and employed 111 workers, some of whom managed to secure jobs elsewhere.
But Persson said the prospect of landing even part-time work was daunting, given his age and the fact hundreds who have also lost jobs during the lockdown were desperate to get back into the workforce.
"It's a bit hard to get used to not going to work. I am prepared to work but with the amount of people also looking for work, I don't think my chances are high.
"Having said that, I know of people who are in a lot worse situation than me, even with redundancy payouts. They are actively seeking alternative work."
He said with a large chunk of workers at CHH's LVL plant in Marsden Pt to be made redundant, Northland's already fragile economy would struggle even further.
"It's a heavy blow alright, especially since the area doesn't have any major industries as such that can employ those that have lost their jobs. I think younger people will leave
Northland as they are more flexible with work arrangements than those like me that are approaching retirement."