Nelson's future: a centre for calls?

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 12:00 23/03/2013

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A move to bring contact and call centres to Nelson aims to provide 100 to 300 jobs paying $50,000-plus in the first year, says Nelson Myor Aldo Miccio.

Mr Miccio met yesterday with Gen-i chief executive Tim Miles, Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule and Xero chief executive Rod Drury to move the initiative forward. He said Gen-i was keen to take it further.

The idea was to relocate New Zealand contact centres to Nelson and Hastings, and to attract Australian call centres to the two regions.

A call centre mainly acts as an answering service, while a contact centre deals further with customers' needs.

Mr Miccio said Gen-i, which had offices in Melbourne and Sydney, would put a business model together during the next month, with input from the two regions, then test the model with companies in Australia and New Zealand and take it to the market.

Australian companies were moving call and contact centres out of Asia because their Australian customers preferred English-speaking centres, he said.

"The main sales pitch to the Australian companies is that New Zealand is 40 per cent cheaper." This was mainly in employment costs, with lower wages and superannuation.

Mr Miccio said that for New Zealand companies, it was about not having centres in one place, as insurance against crises such as earthquakes. Now that technology was consistent around the country, there was no need for contact centres to be in just Auckland and Christchurch.

"With the housing affordability problem in Auckland, it makes sense to have staff enjoying a better lifestyle with cheaper housing in Nelson and Hastings."

It was not a case of New Zealand becoming a Third World call centre country, he said.

"The Third World countries do not deliver the service Australian customers want, Australia is a lot more expensive, and we are cheaper than Australia."

He said the contact centres would employ sales representatives, and there were some potentially highly skilled ICT jobs.

In Nelson, 94 per cent of school leavers who did not go on to tertiary education ended up in hospitality and tourism, on an average wage of not much more than $25,000, Mr Miccio said.

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke's Bay would look to work together to provide training for the new centres, he said.

"There will be an opportunity to train the existing workforce and school leavers."

Gen-i is the information technology arm of Telecom, and Telecom is expected to cut up to 1500 jobs. Mr Miccio said some of those people might be able to move to contact centres in the regions.

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The Nelson region has seen a steady loss of workers to Australia, usually seeking better-paid jobs. The latest figures, released yesterday, show that 824 residents moved there in the year to February - 431 from Nelson city and 393 from Tasman district.

Mr Miccio said the aim of the call centre and contact centre initiative was to attract 100 to 300 relatively high-paying jobs to Nelson, earning $50,000-plus in the first year, and to increase that number year on year.

The outcome of yesterday's meeting meant he was pleased to have what the parties believed to be a successful model confirmed.

- The Nelson Mail

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