Shock waves continue to be felt throughout Oamaru and the wider Waitaki community after the announcement that 192 people will lose their jobs, following the sale of Summit Wool Spinners Oamaru to Canterbury Wool Spinners.
All 192 will finish up at the end of this month for the Sumitomo Corporation but some will find work under the new owners, who will investigate the viability of the plant.
Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton, who attended an early morning meeting at the plant on Friday, with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and representatives of the purchaser and the vendor companies - Godfrey Hirst and its subsidiary Canterbury Spinners Ltd and the Sumitomo Corporation - said he had found the meeting "positive".
"It is devastating for everyone connected with the mill and the wider community," he said.
"I feel for the staff, particularly those with young families, who are facing the future with such uncertainty.
"We must hold on to the belief that the new owners will find a use for this facility."
Mr Familton said he had welcomed the new owners to the Waitaki District.
Those at the meeting were told Godfrey Hirst would re-employ some of the workforce, although at this stage the numbers were still unclear, he said.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, and a spokesman for Godfrey Hirst, both confirmed that the new purchaser plans to undertake a review of the business and plant.
"They will look at the best way of integrating the plant into the overall Godfrey Hirst business," Mrs Dean said.
The spokesman for Godfrey Hirst said once the redundancy agreements had been worked through and settled with the current workforce, the company would look to re-employ up to 50 people to help with the business assessment phase.
"This could take between one and two months," he said.
"These people will be employed on a temporary basis and the hope is that the plant will remain open."
He said the company had lost capacity when their plant at Bromley sustained severe damage as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes and it was not appropriate to try to re-establish operations at that site.
"Godfrey Hirst is a large Summit shock: How many jobs can be salvaged?
Australasian company and are well placed to see if they can make a go of the [Oamaru] site," he said.
"The hope is that they will, but wool carpets do compete on a tough world stage with synthetics."
Mrs Dean said Government agencies had moved quickly to support the people who were losing their jobs. As such a skilled, stable and reliable staff, they were highly desirable to employers.
"There are jobs in the Waitaki and, focusing on the way forward, these workers will be very sought after," she said.
North Otago Federated Farmers president Richard Strowger said it was devastating for families who were trying to make ends meet.
"We hope for a positive outcome," he said.
"These are people we need to hold on to and, to risk losing them because they relocate to seek other work opportunities, will have a flow-on effect through every sector of the community."
Waitaki Ratepayers Association president Warren Crawford said rates in Waitaki could be affected if Summit workers relocated elsewhere.
"A lot of these people own their own houses and are Waitaki ratepayers," he said.
"If they are unable to find jobs locally and relocate, it could affect our rates."
The principal of Spivey Real Estate, Tony Spivey Snr, said any closure was a sad day for the town.
"I don't believe the plant will stay closed for long," he said.
"The new owners will see the wisdom of keeping it open but any closure, even in the interim, provides a level of uncertainty.
"I am a believer that as one door closes, another one opens."
Mark Shadbolt, director of Wools of New Zealand, said any news such as the closure of a critical sector of the local economy was bad news for Oamaru and the New Zealand wool industry.
"It is a sad day for Oamaru," he said.
"The mill has a long history in Oamaru and North Otago and we, as wool growers, have got to get involved outside our farm gates to make sure the industry remains viable."
Meetings were held at the Summit plant on Friday with staff and their unions, and further meetings are planned this week.
The plant, Oamaru's second largest employer, is owned by the Sumitomo Corporation and has been part of Oamaru and North Otago for 130 years.
It has been sold to the Godfrey Hirst subsidiary Canterbury Wool Spinners Ltd, which operates plants in Lower Hutt and Dannevirke. Canterbury Wool Spinners is a subsidiary of carpet manufacturer Godfrey Hirst New Zealand Ltd.
Summit Wool Spinners is New Zealand's largest independent spinner, supplying top-quality carpet and rug yarn for both domestic and international markets.