Whanganui can support redundant catfood plant workers – mayor

Whanganui has a “bouyant” economy” which will help the 152 workers affected by the closure of a catfood factory, mayor Hamish McDouall says.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mars Petcare in the suburb of Castlecliff produces pouches which are then filled with catfood but its sales have been steadily declining to the point where last year it signalled it might have to close its doors.

On Tuesday the company confirmed it would close the factory next year and move its operations to Thailand, costing the city 152 jobs.

Mr McDouall said the Whanganui factory remained profitable, but the company could gain greater profits in Thailand.

“The market for the pouches in Australasia is very static … whereas with the growing middle class in Thailand, there‘s an incredible growth over there in the petfood market.

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“It‘s cheaper for them, and they‘ll make greater profits.”

He said the factory workforce was good, and there had already been enquiries about taking them on elsewhere.

“Had we been talking four or five years ago it would have seemed much more of a gut punch than than it is now because Whanganui‘s got a fairly bouyant economy.

“We‘ve got a big food company moving here within a couple of years and I‘m pretty sure that a lot of the Mars [Petcare] employees will be [employed] by that company.”

Mars Petcare‘s reputation would take a hit in the community, he said, though it had been a good employer and was committed to helping workers get other jobs or training, or to retire with a decent redundancy payment.

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