Newsprint chief changes reels

NORSKE Skog general manager Ernie Hacker is about to depart the Albury newsprint mill and retire to Tasmania.

Mr Hacker, who also worked at the mill during its infancy in the early 1980s, has been in charge for 3½ years.

His replacement, Milo Foster, is due to start within a fortnight.

Mr Hacker was farewelled at the Australian Industry Group regional headquarters in Albury yesterday with parliamentarians Sussan Ley and Greg Aplin and mayor Kevin Mack among those present.

Mr Hacker worked for Norske Skog in Canada, Tasmania and New Zealand before returning to Albury in early 2011.

“I’ve really enjoyed all my time in Albury,” he said.

“We are producing a third of the newsprint at the Albury mill.

“Pretty soon we will be producing 100 per cent of the paper used in Australia with the way the industry is going.

“I always say to the employees at Albury that this will be the last mill standing in the region.

“I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”

Mr Hacker revealed the company had embarked on a cost-saving program that had achieved savings of up to $90 per tonne on the 270,000 tonnes of newsprint produced annually.

The mill’s workforce is 185 people with an average age of 48.

“It goes to show people like to stay there,” Mr Hacker said.

Mr Aplin praised Mr Hacker’s work and Norske Skog’s ongoing commitment to the Albury area, saying the continual investment was important and the jobs provided vital.

“Transcending that is the vital role Norske Skog has played in our community,” Mr Aplin said.

Mr Hacker said Norske Skog was committed to build a $50 million biomass boiler and steam turbine to cut power costs by $1 million a year but it depends on the Coalition’s alternative to the carbon tax — the Direct Action Plan — going ahead.