Oil giant BP has confirmed that, after 40 years, its head office in Wellington will close in the new year and move to Auckland.
About 90 Wellington staff were told the news yesterday. They have been working in a temporary office on Willeston St since July when BP House, on Customhouse Quay, was damaged in the first of two big earthquakes this year.
Head office staff would merge with about 70 staff working at the company's Penrose site to create an integrated BP head office.
The search for a suitable Auckland site to house up to 170 head office workers has started. BP hoped to announce the location to staff early next year.
All staff have jobs if they move to Auckland. They have until mid-February to make that decision. If they go, they will have access to a relocation support package.
Some staff may be employed at a small regional office to be maintained in Wellington, otherwise normal redundancy conditions would apply.
The new head office in Auckland is set to open by the end of July.
The Dominion Post reported in November that BP was considering a move north.
It spurred passionate Wellingtonian, property developer Ian Cassels, to try to persuade BP to stay. He said BP had acted well during the process but made the wrong decision.
"They have more staff in Wellington than Auckland. I bet you dollars to donuts that if you asked how many people would move from Auckland to Wellington, there would be a much greater number than the other way round.
"It's nuts really . . . we are all being herded brainlessly north just so we can double the price of houses and make living [in Auckland] quite marginal financially."
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council worked closely with businesses and the "vast majority" were committed to the city and optimistic about their future. The council targeted business development through its development contributions proposals, rates postponement during construction and focus on events and business promotion.
"[This] will continue to grow Wellington companies and attract new enterprise . . . We will rise to the challenge of diversification and city promotion."
BP moved out of its two floors in BP House after they were damaged in July's earthquake. The sub-tenants on the other floors have also shifted.
Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Raewyn Bleakley urged the council to continue its work around the provision of rates relief for quake-damaged buildings. It highlighted the need for the council "to work urgently with central government to address the whole issue of earthquake strengthening".
BP's communications and external affairs manager Jonty Mills said the earthquakes provided a catalyst for the move to Auckland but the company was ultimately relocating for business reasons, such as being close to its supply chain, refinery, and a major chunk of its customer base.
"Our head office has been here [Wellington] for about 40 years. We acknowledge it's an end of an era . . . but at the same time we remain very committed to Wellington.
"But from a long-term strategic perspective it [move to Auckland] was the right thing to do."