April start for Bell wind-down

For whom the Bell tolls. By Alistair Craig.
For whom the Bell tolls. By Alistair Craig.
Bell Tea confirmed yesterday it will begin winding down its Dunedin operation next month, ending a more than 100-year connection with the city. 

Bell Tea and Coffee Co chief executive Mark Hamilton, who informed the factory's 10 staff of its plan on Monday last week, returned to Dunedin yesterday to confirm that following consultation the company was going ahead with its plan.

The decision to shut the Dunedin factory and move machinery to its Auckland operation was due to the estimated $1 million-plus cost of earthquake strengthening and other work required at the building.  

Mr Hamilton said yesterday it would progressively shut the Dunedin factory from April 4, with the last machinery expected to be removed before June.

''We've said to the guys today that our objective is that, by the time we close the plant, that they all have jobs to go to,'' he said.

Two staff had expressed an interest in taking jobs at its Auckland factory and other staff would be helped into possible work at Foodstuffs' distribution centre in Christchurch or at Pak'n Save and New World supermarkets in Dunedin.

After last week's meeting, yesterday's news was not unexpected for staff.

''The staff were disappointed, but not surprised today,'' Mr Hamilton said.

The Bell Tea and Coffee Co was founded by Norman Harper Bell, who was born in Melbourne and gained his expertise in the tea industry with the Robus Tea Co.

He arrived in Dunedin in 1894 and joined R. Wilson and Co. In 1898, the trademark Bell Tea was registered.

In 1905, he bought Bell Tea and other trademarks and Mr Bell and two new partners started trading as the Bell Tea and Coffee Co.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

Bell Tea

Despite Mr Hamilton’s claims to the contrary, it appears that the work the building needs done to it has been used as a convenient excuse by the new owners to exit Dunedin. The $1 million (plus) required for strengthening and other work wouldn’t buy an old villa in many parts of Auckland. I don’t know what the company’s profits are, but they had annual revenue of $60 million in recent years. If they are simply streamlining, they should at least call a spade a spade and be straight up about it.


All around New Zealand this has to stop the building still has to be strengthed not much of a problem here in Auckland where they have already torn down most of their heritage but you cannot keep moving all industry to Auckland. I'm lucky I work from 3.00pm but if i go up the road in the morning up to 9.00am the main road onto the motorway is still backed up for a km from the motorway and we are 15 plus km out of city centre. And there was an article in the paper the other that times on the weekend the motorway traffic is the same we need to be moving industry out of Auckland not into.

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