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$12.1m loan for WET will boost jobs, spending

New funding for wood processing facilities here is expected to create more work for Gisborne businesses outside the wood industry.

A regional support package for Tairawhiti was yesterday announced by the Government, along with a $12.1 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund for WET Gisborne Ltd.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the loan would accelerate the development of WET Gisborne Ltd's wood processing production line, which will produce a laminated structural wood product at the Wood Cluster Centre of Excellence at Matawhero.

In addition, a $2.98 million loan will go towards the Wood Cluster Centre of Excellence combined heat and power plant, which is integral to the overall success of the Wood Cluster.

“This is a draw-down on the $19.5 million investment to the Wood Cluster Centre of Excellence announced in July last year,” Mr Jones said. “I'm pleased we've been able to work alongside the region on projects that will help diversify the forestry sector, which is overly reliant on log exports to China.

“This investment is another way the Government is supporting Gisborne and the wider region as the forestry industry experiences the effects of Covid-19.

“The PGF support will allow construction to begin on the production line and is part of a wider focus on wood processing that is expected to create 74 new jobs in coming months.

“Work is about to begin on the first phase of the production line that will increase capacity from three-and-a-half days per week to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation. The second phase, which will establish New Zealand's first fully commercial scale line, will start next summer.

“The centre will process and produce higher-value forestry products and see more money going back into the community via bigger pay packets for local workers.”

WET Gisborne Ltd is a joint venture between Trust Tairawhiti (formerly Eastland Community Trust Ltd) and Wood Engineering Technology.

Trust Tairawhiti chief executive Gavin Murphy welcomed the news.

“The trust have been committed to growing wood processing manufacturing employment opportunities for our locals. Five years ago the opportunity to partner with Wood Engineering Technology in Tairawhiti was the catalyst for purchasing the Prime Sawmill land.

“The past two months have reinforced the importance of wood processing to provide diversification and growth in Tairawhiti. Higher value products and jobs created by an additional WET processing line are a significant step forward for an industry that has faced and continues to face a tough challenge.

“On top of employment and diversified product, we anticipate much of the $12.1 million will be spent locally on services and materials for the expansion.”

Wood Engineering Technology WET Gisborne ltd chief operating officer Shaun Bosson, Trust Tairawhiti chief executive Gavin Murphy and commercial general manager Richard Searle at the WET plant in Gisborne. File Picture