By Whakatane Beacon
The Whakatane Beacon's final roll of newsprint came off the production line at Norske Skog on Monday, marking the end of an era for newsprint production in New Zealand.
Working in symbiosis since the mill started to produce newsprint in 1955, the Beacon and Norske Skog have shared a vitally close relationship for more than half a century.
Beacon chief executive and former mill manager Aaron Buist said the relationship with mill owners Norske Skog would continue, but not as locally with the closure of the Tasman mill and the loss of more than 150 jobs.
Beacon products will now be printed on paper from Norske Skog's last remaining mill in Australasia, located in the Australian state of Tasmania.
"We will be continuing to buy from Norske Skog at least through until the end of next year," he said.
"There's a bit of sadness there. We've always been proud to be buying local and supporting local, but the reality is we don't have that option after Tuesday when the mill stops.
"The one main thing is surety of supply; we need to ensure we can continue to get paper when we need it so we can continue to produce the community newspaper product."
The newspaper industry had seen a trove of support from Tasman and the closure would leave a massive hole, Buist said.
"It was a big site, employing a lot of people and providing a great number of opportunities for people to learn trades and to have exposure to heavy industry in a manner of different ways ... now that won't exist, and I think that's going to leave quite a hole."
Watching the final roll wrapped and ready for the printing press was an emotional experience for staff when they toured the mill the day before closure.
The reel used to make those final rolls served as a 7m-long, 20-tonne symbol for the end of an era.
Affecting the jobs and lives of hundreds, the mill closure extends to whānau and friends of workers, and Buist reminisced on the support the mill had provided him.
"Tasman, for me, was the making of me in terms of my career," he said. "It's allowed me to have a wonderful start to life for my family."
His connection to the mill has spanned nearly two decades with Buist starting work at the mill in 1999, working on the phones in a customer-facing role.
Working his way up through the business, as many have done over the years, Buist later found himself in the driver's seat, which has made the closure hit close to home.
"For me it was a bit of an emotional day ... there's a bit of sadness too. A big stalwart of New Zealand industry which has changed a whole lot of people's lives, including my own, will lay silent after today."
Buist said he felt lucky to have his final memories of the mill be one of production, rather than the sobering silence that followed last night's final shutdown.
Walking through the massive industrial spaces to the hallways of the offices, Buist connected with former colleagues as if greeting old friends or family.
A sombre tone was felt around the mill that day, but many workers are quietly optimistic for what is to come. This, for Buist, was a welcome relief.
"I know they will be well prepared and have time to take the opportunity to figure out what comes next for them," he said.
"From a Beacon perspective it has been a wonderful relationship and I'm certainly very grateful for it and I wish everyone the very best."