Plant shutdown leaves publishers scrambling for newsprint supplies
Newspapers and other newsprint users are looking for alternative sources following news of the closure of the country’s last newsprint mill in Kawerau.
Norske Skog announced Wednesday evening that its Tasman plant would close at the end of June, resulting in the loss of 160 jobs.
News organizations and printers had known since October, when the plant was under review, that the shutdown could take place.
But while newsprint can be imported, post-Covid shipping delays and supply chain issues can make it difficult to ensure a steady supply.
* Resignation in the air in Kawerau as factory consults with staff
* The Tasman factory in Kawerau confirms its closure
* Norske Skog staff in talks as the review of the future of the Tasman plant comes to an end
The News Publishers’ Association, which represents more than 100 newspapers and 10 publishers, said the demise of the plant would “be the end of an era in local publishing, affecting all New Zealand newspapers”.
“Our members have contingency plans in place to ensure that there is no short-term disruption in newspaper printing,” said association chief executive Brook Cameron. .
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The Press newspaper has become an account of important events and changing attitudes over the past 160 years.
With the closure of the Tasman mill, Norkse Skog says the last national producer of newsprint in Australia or New Zealand is now its Boyer mill in Tasmania.
Stuff Ltd, which publishes numerous newspapers including the Dominion Post and Press, said he had received assurances about the paper imported from Tasmania until the middle of next year.
“Our plans include storing newsprint to ensure we have enough paper for our short-term needs and negotiating with Norske Skog to honor their existing contract with us,” said Managing Director Sinead Boucher.
Stuff was working with the News Publishers Association to secure long-term contracts to ensure a strong supply chain for the entire industry, she said. These discussions were ongoing.
Grant Mckenzie, Managing Director of Allied Press who prints the Otago Daily Schedules, said he had a similar arrangement to Stuff’s.
Bernie Roberts, managing director of Webstar Printing, said distance made the supply chain vulnerable and would “undoubtedly” increase costs, which may or may not be passed on to consumers.
“The Tasmanian plant is over-committed … there are a number of challenges.”
Webstar wasn’t a heavy user of newsprint, but in the case of magazine paper, shipping delays were hitting home, Roberts said.
“Our lead times for commercial grade magazine inventory are now six months, they were previously three months, and prices are increasing quarterly. “
Other companies associated with the Tasman plant are also studying the implications of its closure.
Japanese pulp company Oji Fiber Solutions employs 207 people at the Tasman site and shares some equipment with Norske Skog, but manufactures a different product.
It recently invested $ 63 million in the Kawerau plant to focus on cement paste and similar products.
Managing Director Jon Ryder said his company will work closely with Norske to ensure business continuity.
“We think about the people who are affected; we have had a long and close relationship with Norske Skog Tasman through our adjacent pulp mill, so it was a sad day on Wednesday ”.
E tū shop steward Bruce Habgood said workers were relieved to have clarification on their future, but the sense of loss was real.
“There is a strong sense of mourning that the mill is closing – this has been part of the town’s history for several generations and that is why the Canton of Kawerau was built in the first place. “
There was also apprehension for the companies that supported her. “They can really suffer from ‘a thousand gashes’ after the mill is finished.”
An unaffected company is Norske Skog’s Nature’s Flame wood pellet company. The company, which provides a green energy alternative to industries, said it will continue to explore options for its long-term ownership.
Nature’s Flame produces 90,000 tonnes of shavings per year for industrial use and said it is exploring the possibility of increasing its capacity by an additional 30,000 tonnes.