Key Points:

Wellsford's largest employer, Irwin Industrial Tools, is the latest casualty of the worldwide recession.

The small rural township, with a population of just over 4200, 82km north of Auckland on State Highway 1, is facing job losses as Irwin prepares to close down some of its unprofitable production lines.

Irwin, which manufactures circular saw blades, exports 99 per cent of its product - much of it to the US - and employs 162 staff.

In a statement released yesterday, operations manager Michael Kelly said difficult trading conditions over recent years, a high and volatile New Zealand dollar, and falls in the US building market were responsible for the company's decision.

"We are proposing to close down the manufacturing of product lines where we are uncompetitive and where we no longer have orders," he said. "This loss of production represents somewhere in the region of 75 per cent of current capacity."

Mr Kelly said the company would seek feedback and input from employees over the next few weeks to determine a final outcome.

"We recognise the impact this announcement will have on both staff and the community, and regret the distress this will cause."

Irwins opened in 1980 under the name Izards, when it was owned by businessman Richard Izard.

He ran the plant until 1994 when it was purchased by the US-based company Irwins.

In its heyday, Izards employed 525 people, supplied 40 per cent of the world's saw-blade market, and operated plants in Taiwan, Canada and England.

- NZPA