AFTER nearly 90 years of operation, Gympie-based Robertson Brothers' sawmill at Brooweena will close this Thursday, leaving the tiny township without its biggest employer.
A Workplace Health and Safety notice means the mill can no longer operate.
The prohibitive cost of installing the safety upgrades necessary resulted in the decision to close the doors on the mill and the 15 people employed there.
Brooweena man Allan Heath lives opposite the mill and has worked there for four decades. "It's the heart of the town," he said.
Mr Heath said when part of the sawmill burnt down in 1988, he joined other workers and locals to rebuild it.
"I always thought I'd retire there," he said.
He said Brooweena township had only about 40 residents, with about 200 people in surrounding areas.
The closure will put 15 permanent staff and subcontractors out of work, all of whom live in or near Brooweena.
Robertson Bros Sawmills Pty Ltd has owned the Brooweena mill for about 20 years.
A spokesman said it was with extreme disappointment the decision had been made to close the mill.
Graeme Roberston said yesterday while the Brooweena closure would of course have some impact on the overall running of the company, it would not directly affect the Gympie mill on Old Wolvi Rd "at this stage".
A spokesman said Workplace Health and Safety had deemed some of the Brooweena mill's equipment did not meet safety requirements to operate.
"They gave us instructions not to work our number one bench at the end of the month," he said.
"But if we can't operate our bench, we can't operate our business."
The spokesman said the worst part of the closure was that the employees were all locals.
"It's certainly not our wish to close the mill," he said.
He said it would cost millions of dollars to modernise the mill.
Robertson Bros is reportedly thinking about searching for second-hand goods to keep the mill operating.
- Opened 1924.
- Burnt down and rebuilt by workers and locals 1988.
- Set to close Thursday, November 28.
- 15 local employees and subcontractors to be made redundant.