East Coast MP Kiri Allan says the imminent closure of the Whakatane Board Mill is "devastating" for the community and she will be arranging a meeting to see what can be done to prevent it.
Earlier this week, more than 200 staff at the mill were presented with a proposal to close the mill, which will see them all made redundant by the end of June.
The mill has been an intergenerational employer in Whakatane for more than 80 years and produces paper and packaging products.
"This news is devastating for all in the Eastern Bay of Plenty community," Allan said.
"We have over 210 families feeling shock, uncertainty and heartache at this news and it is the latest event to hit the community hard. I am gutted for those families."
As soon as the news broke on Tuesday night, Allan contacted the Minister for Forestry, and Economic and Regional Development Stuart Nash, and the two intend to have a meeting with mill executives to see if anything can be done to save the struggling business.
"We are the Labour Party, we are the party of workers," Allan said.
"The loss of these jobs is concerning for us. We are wanting to get there ASAP to speak to all the stakeholders including the mill, the mayor and Toi EDA."
Allan said her hope for this meeting was that all stakeholders would decide what could be done collectively and what options were in the realm of possibility.
The Government has invested more than $300 million in the Bay of Plenty through Covid-19 economic support and Allan said some of these projects were just starting to get going and there was a possibility some mill workers could be redeployed.
"This closure will hit the Whakatāne community hard and we need to work out if we can soften the blow in any way," she said.
Allan's comments will be welcomed by the Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce which, alongside Toi Economic Development Agency, had called for the Government to step in.
Eastern Bay Chamber of Commerce general manager Lucy Devany said beyond the 210 staff employed by the mill there were between 50 and 100 direct contractors and many businesses that supported them indirectly.
"A lot of money spent with the wages and contractors at the mill recirculates into the local economy, which means that our cafes, retailers and other service businesses are likely to be impacted," she said.
"That's why the chamber is calling on central government to step in to help this situation."
Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner has also welcomed the news that Allan would be getting involved.
"Before we start wringing our hands, we need to analyse what options are out there and what can be done to keep those jobs," she said.
"I'm chuffed that Kiri Allan is going to do that. It would be great to bring all the agencies together for a discussion around what can be done and how we can support all the affected families in the meantime."
Turner said there needed to be a national conversation around adding value to the products New Zealand produced and suggested, with the Government looking to ban all single-use plastics, the mill could look to innovate and create better paper products for packaging.
She said the Government needed to be a strong partner to help businesses innovate to meet a changing world.
"If the worst-case scenario does happen and the mill closes, we need to be ready to provide support to those affected people," Turner said.
She said this support needed to cover the needs of affected contractors as well as the 210 mill employees.
"It is our role as councillors to facilitate that, economic wellbeing is one of the four 'wellbeings' that we as council focus on," she said.
As well as the effect on staff and contractors, Turner said the potential closure of the mill would impact many other businesses in Whakatāne.
"But we can't have a give-up attitude without considering all other options first."