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

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