A herpes virus in oysters has forced the closure of Sanford's Kaeo oyster processing factory with the likely loss of 66 permanent and seasonal jobs.
Sanford Managing Director Eric Barratt says employees were told of the plans this afternoon.
The decision is simply a reflection of not having enough oysters to process as a result of deaths from the OsHV-1 virus which has decimated the young oysters the company was growing for harvest in the next two years, Barratt said.
Although the plant ceased processing for the season last month Sanford is now consulting with Kaeo employees, Government agencies and Northland civic, community and business leaders over alternative employment prospects for the employees, he said.
Ultimately the decision may result in the loss of 15 permanent positions and a further 51 seasonal employment opportunities, he said.
The company is already putting in place a job search programme, contacting major employers in the Northland area in case of any vacancies appropriate for any of the team, Barratt said.
"We are also asking all Sanford plants and fleet operations to identify any vacancies throughout the group."
Barratt said Sanford is working on a number of initiatives on its own account, with industry and with research organisations to mitigate the impacts of the virus.
"However at this stage it is not anticipated that these initiatives will have a consequential impact on the stock available for processing in future years."
The Kaeo site will continue to be used as the base for Sanford's marine farming operations in Northland while the company attempts to identify ways of mitigating the effects of the virus," Barratt said.
"And at this stage, because of the success of the programme, we plan to continue our support of Kiwi Can at the two schools in the area."
While the decision is a sad for the Northland region Sanford will do all it can to mitigate the effects, Barratt said.