Capital cuts for Kiwibank but Hastings happy

DIANE JOYCE AND DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014

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About  100 banking sector jobs will go from Wellington - and some staff may be made redundant - as Kiwibank establishes a backup head office in Hastings.

Hawke's Bay business and civic leaders were united in their delight at 100 jobs landing on their doorstep in October.

The bank announced yesterday that "contingency planning" signalled the need for a sizeable office outside Wellington to take over in the case of a disaster, such as an earthquake, affecting its city base.

Its head office, with more than 1000 staff, would remain in the capital. Kiwibank spokesman Bruce Thompson said Wellington-based staff would be given the opportunity to shift to Hawke's Bay. There had already been an enthusiastic response.

However, he could not guarantee that all Wellington Kiwibank workers' jobs were safe.

"We could end up with a surplus in Wellington. In a situation like that, you could end up with some job losses. [But] 12 years ago we had 35 staff; now we've got close to 1100, so I expect any dip to be short term."

Wellington's business sector has taken a series of hits recently.

Oil giant BP confirmed in December it was shifting its head office from Wellington to Auckland. Just under 90 of its staff agreed to relocate, with the others opting for redundancy.

Earlier this year, New Zealand Post announced it was cutting more than 100 jobs in Wellington.

They were the first major cuts since the state-owned enterprise warned in November that up to 2000 positions would be axed in the next few years.

In Hastings, Chamber of Commerce Hawke's Bay chairman Wayne Walford said the news was fantastic. "It's a huge deal.

"And it also provides an opportunity for staircasing for people already in the banking industry living in Hawke's Bay."

The real estate industry would benefit, said Property Brokers' regional manager, Paul Whittaker.

In the short term, he would expect the influx to put pressure on the rental and sale markets - "but even if half of them decide to buy in a two-month period, it will provide a short-term spurt to the market".

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the move was the first "tangible result" from the council's programme to encourage businesses to move to the Bay.

The "conversation" had started about 12 months ago, and serious negotiations over the past four months preceded last week's announcement. "I'm thrilled. It is one of the most significant economic developments for Hastings in a very long time. I can't remember the last time 100 jobs were dropped into Hastings in one hit."

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- The Dominion Post

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