Employment solution looms

February 07, 2018

Murray Goulburn chief executive officer Ari Mervis thanked Rochester employees for their significant contribution to the company.

Some former staff of the Rochester Murray Goulburn factory could find employment at two other dairy processing sites in the Goulburn Valley.

Milk processing at the Rochester factory closed last week, throwing the last 30 people out of work, but Fonterra is recruiting staff for its expanding Stanhope site and dairy company ACM is believed to be looking for staff for a new factory it is building at nearby Girgarre.

Murray Goulburn chief executive officer Ari Mervis thanked Rochester employees for their significant contribution to the company.

‘‘The decision to close the Rochester site was difficult to make, however a necessary step on the journey to ensure the competitiveness of MG,’’ Mr Mervis said.

The company announced the Rochester factory was closing last May in an attempt to create efficiencies following an exodus of suppliers.

Canadian company Saputo proposes to buy Murray Goulburn, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval, but the company says the Rochester closure will stand.

Milk supply from the Rochester region has transferred to Murray Goulburn’s Cobram factory along with the manufacturing of many cheese products previously produced at Rochester, while whey powder production at Rochester will move in time to its Leongatha site.

The Rochester site was acquired as part of the merger with the Rochester Butter and Canning Company in 1963.

Campaspe Shire’s Cr Leigh Wilson said there had been some interest from outside businesses in the site, but nothing was yet firm.

Asked about the mood in the town on the last day, Cr Wilson said it was a sad moment, but most people were just glad to see it over with and they wanted to move on.

‘‘We are a resilient community. We will survive,’’ he said.

Cr Wilson chairs the town’s development committee and he said it was interested in casting a wide net for future business opportunities.

‘‘I don’t think the future has to be with dairy. It’s a water-intensive business and that can be difficult in our area. We have been successful in attracting other types of business,’’ he said.

Campaspe Shire has commissioned a strategic economic report to help find opportunities for the town.

Murray Goulburn has been represented on a community advisory group and Mr Wilson said the company had apparently listened to the issues, but was not able to share any more information than what was available publicly.

Many people in the town have been dismayed to see Murray Goulburn winding down operations while other dairy companies were expanding.

Older residents can also remember how the company successfully lobbied to close down a street close to the centre of the town, so the factory could expand. Several businesses had to relocate and an old church was demolished.

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