Plan to lure call centres

John Christie
John Christie
Dunedin is positioning itself to become a hub for national and international call centres, as part of a push to grow the city's economy.

The Otago Daily Times has been told an international company with plans to establish a call centre base in New Zealand had been considering bringing about 150 jobs to Dunedin earlier this year.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) regional manager Ken Aitcheson, of Dunedin, confirmed that when contacted, saying the unnamed company's move ''was an opportunity that came across our desk''.

The idea stalled when the company decided to ''step back and have a think'' until at least next year, and it was not known if the opportunity would present itself again, he said.

However, council staff were hoping to tap into similar interest as they worked on a new strategy to attract call centre companies to the city, it has been confirmed.

Des Adamson
Des Adamson
Dunedin City Council economic development manager Des Adamson said the strategy sought to promote the city's points of difference to companies and deliver a boost to the city's economy.

The key would be to understand the companies' needs, and offer something not found in other centres, he believed.

''We really need to know what actually is turning them on,'' he said.

The initiative was part of the city's wider economic development strategy and had the potential to bear fruit, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie believed.

The council had unveiled a new investment prospectus earlier this year, designed to attract high-wealth national and international investors, but now wanted to target specific sectors, including call centres, he said.

The ODT understands talks with operators are ongoing. Mr Christie said the city had ramped up its efforts to secure opportunities this year.

''Obviously, at some point, we're going to get somebody who's got that interest and we'll succeed in it. It's just a question of when.''

Dunedin's mix of available office space, including vacant or underutilised heritage buildings, an educated workforce and digital infrastructure made the city ''quite an attractive proposition'', he believed.

Any new arrival would not be the first, as Fisher and Paykel, the Accident Compensation Corporation and Contact Energy are among operators already together employing hundreds of call centre staff in the city.

Mr Christie said the sector was only one area being targeted, but he would be ''pretty excited'' if more jobs could be secured.

The city's students could be well-placed to secure call centre jobs, especially those with language and computer skills, he believed.



It's great that certain people think that call centre jobs are ''awesome'' because those very same people can work for the very same low wages and conditions that people will undoubtedly be subjected to. I'm personally sick of these type of people earning over-inflated salaries stating how great it will be for people to be earning next to nothing.

Good industry to encourage

Call centre jobs are desirable, modern, mid-level positions, and for more than 15 years local governments round the world have fought tooth and nail to get them.

The main skills needed are good language and communication skills (why the Indian centres are a pain), customer service, and reasonable technical savvy. Most of the jobs are in customer service rather than the tougher sales positions which sometime attract people's ire.

I worked setting up some call centres for people. Banks, for example, soon found that because of the breadth of product knowledge individuals in their call centres quickly developed, and their wide knowhow of how the company worked meant they were ripe for promotion --- good people learn fast, and can move upwards.

Some idiot once wrote a line comparing work in "crowded" call centres to the "dark satanic mills" of Blake's England. But the fact is they  are set in comfortable modern offices, with good equipment, aircon, coffee machines etc. I've noticed they also tend to be very sociable workplaces - people working closely  together on similar projects get on well together.

This is a very, very good industry to encourage. 








Planning to lure call centres

While some people might be happy to do that sort of work this is not the way forward for Dunedin and neither is it a front page news story. Is this all we are aspiring to these days? Sounds and looks pretty desperate to me.

We need these jobs

Dunedin already has a highly successful call centre to model this on. The staff are highly paid by Dunedin standards - in fact my wife earns more than I do as a qualified tradesman. There are fantastic careers opportunities if you're that way inclined. 


I'm constantly amazed at the number of people that complain about our city but when an idea is put out there do they help figuring out how to make it successful? No, they shoot down everyone and go on complaining. Who says it's a low pay job? That would depend on the buisness the centre is for. They range from taking messages to answering technical questions.

If we got a business call centre other divisions might follow and like IT you might develop hubs - first call centres, then design teams and maybe manufacturing. Who knows?

For a start jobs are jobs, better than none and like any entry level job who knows where it will lead. You gotta get a foot in the door first.  Call centres employ people, people pay taxes and rates and require fewer or no benefits, and can be located anywhere. It's a start 

Let's not automatically knock every idea no matter how fanciful. Let's constructively talk about the pros and cons and whether with modifcations they can work. Even if they can't a more suitable idea may arise from the debates. [Abridged]


Call centres

Few would say it's their first career choice but this is a practical step in the right direction. Post-industrial northern England did the same in the mid 1990s as a way of replacing lost working class jobs. It would be over-optimistic to see them as a way of retaining graduate students however.  Graduates can, and should, aim higher though doubtless many use them as a stepping stone to bigger things. It may be that there deeper benefit is in providing jobs for locals who might otherwise have stopped paying the mortgage. The council should do what it can to keep rates and compliance charges down should any actually express serious interest in setting up here. 

I disagree with the commentator who said they pay an average of $55k a year which is absolute rubbish. The ones I worked in were not badly paid, though the work is stressful, thankless, and occasionally deeply unpleasant. Call centres  have high staff turn-over for a reason. 



Decision-making too good

Amazing how DCC chases away tourism opportunities in the $100 million hotel but now they are practically on their knees trying to claw centres?

Who keeps coming up with these brilliant ideas?

Call in, not out

It's unclear who the employers would be, but this work is not unskilled. CC workers need to be patient, um, polite, well versed in company purpose, clearly spoken and tolerant of abuse. Oh, and if 'Cockburn', calls, the name is 'koburn.

Not really good news

We don't just need high paying high skill jobs to turn our economy around - not everyone has those high skills. We need (relatively) high paying low skill jobs too. And unlike most service industry jobs this sort of business will bring wealth into our economy from outside which has to be a good thing.

However this isn't a good news story - it says that a company considered opening a call centre in Dunedin, then changed its mind, and that there's a small chance it might change its mind again. Really this is not news, it's on par with the perennial "The Stones/Katy Perry/... might play the Rugby Stadium" headlines we've seen again and again.

Call centre

I guess that depends what sort of call centre. I know people who have worked in them before and they weren't on anywhere near $55k

Call centres

Don't knock it. Call centre staff earn on average $55,000 and require no qualifications. That's not high paying but it's not bad for having no qualification. There is also career progression from there.

Why build a call centre in Dunedin?

my opinion the main attractiveness of new Zealand in general for contact
centres, especially within the Oceania region, by corporates and outsourcers are
many. For the uninitiated there are some key areas these businesses
look at when considering operations in New Zealand: well-spoken, hard-working employees who are easy to train to a high service standard. Our phone
operators are held in higher regard by customers than those from other regions (India for
example). Operational costs are low due to low staff costs.

The main areas of concern for an area like Dunedin would be the
volume and retention of permanent staff. The temporary workforce would be easy
to build due to student population, but many contact centre operations have
their busiest periods from November to March when many students are back home.
Infrastructure would be another major area of concern, along with the high cost
of electricity and so forth.

As a few have said here, investors are running from Dunedin in
light of poor governance from council. This could deter other investment in the
local economy from contact centre based businesses also.

I hate to say this, but if I was going to set up a contact centre anywhere in New Zealand it
would be in Auckland or Wellington where there is population to support the
centre as it churns through employees (large contact centres on average have a
churn rate exceeding 15% for frontline roles), Many Australian based outsourcing
businesses have already done this over the last 5 years including some of the
largest players in the BPO and CCS space (Salmat and CCA for example).


Good to hear planning by people to get more jobs in Dunedin, but call centres? Not exactly high skilled good jobs. There must be a better idea out there. But I must be part of the anti-everything brigade because I ask questions.

Little Mumbai

Language skills - Like being able to speak English?  Any company wanting to utilise the cheap wages in NZ would only be wanting to service Australasian region. 

Dunedin can aspire to be Little Mumbai.

The Polytechnic could even offer a one year certificate course in Call Centre Operations! The benefits are endless. 

Poisons Centre

Our one call centre that requires a high level of skilled staff is under attack. Let's not lose a jewel while trying to pick up rubbish.


Awesome work! Nice to see a positive piece with talks of bringing jobs. Keep it up.  

Great idea

Great to see some positive moves, even if we wait with bated breath for the anti-everything brigade to once again come out and say 'No, go away.'

I would suggest to the NZTE Dunedin, they approach the major Telco companies and get them on board too - have them offer exclusive deals for call centres starting up in Dunedin.  

Also, they could place major advertisments with business-orientated media, stating Dunedin's huge advantages over other cities - comparatively low rent, 22,000+ students available for part time / casual work, great lifestyle, great schools/tertiary institutes, etc.

Do it right - and it could be yet another huge advantage/benefit on top of education that Dunedin has.  Again, just ignore the anti-everything brigade, eventually they will just go away. 

Wow, exciting..

Let's aim high, lets fill the dingy windowless buildings with low paid casual staff with no permanace and a high turnover rate. Yes people of Dunedin, let's market that to the world.

Then lets build a shanty town to accomodate them all.

Our council is blind and a laughing stock. Our City is becoming a place to look for the new odd stuff headline. 

Innovative investors are running a mile from this city. At least we have a new Reading cinema opening so we can watch the comedy unfold, thanks Reading for the intelligent investment.


Not fitting with Dunedin.

We can't have that.  Call centres, they don't fit in with the heritage aspect of Dunedin.  No, we can't have that.

Call centre jobs

Unfortunately, most call-centre jobs are dead-end, repetitive, depressing and low-paid. Does anyone care that the jobs themselves aren't any fun for the people doing them? Why aspire to this? Jobs at any cost - same old "growth" mantra. 

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