Buller's mayor wants Solid Energy to relocate most of its
head office to Westport.
Garry Howard has written to Solid Energy's interim
chairwoman, Pip Dunphy, urging the company to centralise near
its coal mines.
Mr Howard said Westport was awash with rumours following the
continued slide in export prices for coal. Unless prices
recovered, there was an expectation Solid Energy would
He and his council realised Solid Energy would have to
respond commercially to protect its shareholder.
"However, we hold grave concerns about the effects on
Mr Howard said Solid Energy had given repeated assurances its
future was as a dedicated mining company. His council
endorsed that view and believed Solid Energy should, wherever
possible, centralise its operations close to the point of
"We recognise that the company will have to retain some staff
in Christchurch to manage the port operations and that it may
be appropriate to retain a sales office near an international
"However, we believe that the company could further reduce
its costs by centralising all its other support and
administration functions in Westport."
This approach had worked well for other West Coast mining
companies and other high-profile success stories such as
Westland Milk Products, Mr Howard said.
Solid Energy warned earlier this month that jobs would go,
particularly at Stockton opencast mine, if international coal
prices don't improve.
It has described local rumours that 150 to 200 Stockton jobs
are on the line as "just speculation".
Solid Energy revealed last week that it still employs 81 at
its Christchurch head office, despite assurances almost a
year ago that it planned to reduce staffing there to 50.
It has not returned some head office functions to the
regions, as planned. Nor has it found smaller, less expensive
It is paying $16,833 for the two floors it rents at 15 Show
Place Addington, but says that is considerably cheaper than
the current Christchurch commercial rental market.
The Christchurch head office employed 206 people when Solid
Energy hit the skids in July 2012. Overall company staffing
has fallen from 1658 to 867.
- By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News