MP hits out at mill closure

INDEPENDENT Member for Mount Gambier Don Pegler has lashed out at Carter Holt Harvey for announcing the closure of two mills in the city just weeks away from Christmas.
Nanjing Night Net

He also raised concerns the company had only given a three-week window for all operations to be consolidated onto the onesite.

He said the proposed plan was a major restructure and would change the shift patterns at the Jubilee Highway site for dozens of workers.

“I would have thought if the company had any heart they would have had a larger period than just three weeks,” Mr Pegler said.

The MP said the timing of the decision – which would impact on many families – was also unfortunate given the festive season.

“It is disappointing they made the decision right before Christmas,” Mr Pegler said.

Meanwhile, he stood by the government’s decision not to significantly reduce the log price for CHH, claiming such action would have had devastating consequences across the timber industry.

“It would have been at the expense of the entire industry – at the end of the day there is no industry if there are no forest growers,” said Mr Pegler, who explained a log price reduction would have stopped investment in plantations.

Responding to claims he had not done enough to stop CHH’s decision, Mr Pegler said he lobbied the government to give CHH a multi-million-dollar investment package.

He said he had also been pushing for the government to set up a training assistance package for displaced workers.

“There is no more I could have done given the overseas timber coming into Australia is a Federal Government issue,” Mr Pegler said.

He also claimed the government needed to be careful about handing out large amounts of money to private companies given the failure of the Scrimber operation and the potato chip factory.

Mr Pegler said the government was also wary about giving out large cash sums to CHH’s New Zealand owner Graeme Hart.

“He has a history of flogging off businesses – that’s how he has made his money,” he said.

Despite families hurting in the region, Mr Pegler said he believed the regional timber industry had a positive future given its significant resource.

He said the latest decision by CHH was part of the regional industry’s evolution.

CONCERNS: Independent Member for Mount Gambier Don Pegler is concerned Carter Holt Harvey made the decision to close two mills just weeks out from Christmas. Picture: SANDRA MORELLO