IT’S all over — to an extent.
After 40 years, Murray Goulburn’s (MG) Rochester plant closed forever on January 30 following the final day of production on January 24.
As the clock struck noon, the workers walked out of the plant for the final time.
“It is a sad day but it is also a good one,” Shaun Coghill, an employee of 14 years, said.
“MG was a good place to work for me and they gave me a lot of opportunity.
“I am thankful for MG and the time they gave into me – it’s just sad it had to finish this way.”
About 10 employees will remain at work for another fortnight to help decommission the site.
This year marks four decades since MG opened its Mackay Street factory. But the company, which is likely to be sold to Canadian company Saputo, said the future of the Rochester site was a matter for its new owners.
MG chief executive Ari Mervis said: “We thank our Rochester employees for their significant contribution to MG. The decision to close the Rochester site was difficult to make, however a necessary step on the journey to ensure the competitiveness of MG’’.
A spokesperson for the company added: “MG is acutely aware of the impact on our valued employees and the local community and we have sought to provide appropriate levels of support since the closure was announced”.
Rochester ward councillor Leigh Wilson was surprised by the resilience of the community.
‘‘I think there has been a sense of relief now that it has closed,’’ he said.
But he has warned the town will not tolerate the MG factory being left abandoned and unused in the centre of the town.
MG extended the factory across one of the town’s streets many years ago and some older residents who remember the sacrifice are not happy the company has wound down operations.
‘‘We gave up the street, an old church and several businesses had to shift. It’s slap-bang in the middle of our town,’’ a spokesperson for the company said.
Cr Wilson said the town would be pushing the proposed new owners of MG to either sell the site or use it.
He also said the shire was undertaking the biggest strategic study ever carried out for Rochester to see what opportunities there were for growth. The report may take a few more months to complete.
Cr Wilson was confident this would lead to longer term investment in the town.
Whether a dairy company is interested in the old factory is not a major concern for Cr Wilson.
‘‘I have been advocating for some time that we move away from water-intensive industries and look at other industries,’’ he said.
The second of many community consultation sessions was held on Thursday.
Mr Coghill, who finished as a team leader, has been one of the lucky ones: he found another job to go to but will have time off before starting in April.