Toi Ohomai business division lead Leon Fourie told the Rotorua Daily Post the “complex decision” to cease commercial operations at the Waipā Campus sawmill was made after a review of the high operating costs of the facility.
Fourie said following a consultation process with kaimahi (staff), the closure would result in 16 job losses. He described the facility as a “purely commercial enterprise”.
“We are assisting these employees with other work opportunities.” However, Fourie said it would not affect students at the Waipā Campus with their courses continuing “as usual”.
Waipā Campus – Timber Industry Training Centre was the “only dedicated training facility in the country to operate a working sawmill and wood manufacturing plant”, Toi Ohomai’s website said.
Fourie said the review identified there was little connection to the core business of vocational training and the financial position was “not sustainable”. Toi Ohomai would retain ownership of the facility and was in the process of “identifying and evaluating” options regarding the sawmill’s future.
It was in discussions with businesses that had supplied the Waipā Campus sawmill and “alternative local timber processing options are being identified,” he said. The last day of operation would be Thursday, April 20. Fourie said the decision to close the facility after more than 60 years had not been an easy one for Toi Ohomai.
“We know how much the rich history of the sawmill means to those who trained and worked in this unique place for so many decades. The closure of the sawmill was an unfortunate but necessary step as the organisation focuses on supporting its core business of delivering vocational education and training.”
Toi Ohomai would continue to provide training programmes in timber processing and machining and build long-term careers in the forestry sector, he said. “We want to support and grow the forestry industry, particularly in Rotorua, and we will do this by leveraging the strength of our new national network of Te Pūkenga.”