Nelson seeks Aust Contact Centre jobs

Nelson and Hastings mayors Aldo Miccio and Lawrence Yule want to bring more jobs to provincial New Zealand cities – by taking call centre jobs off higher-paid Australians.

In a joint election-year release yesterday, headed “Mayors ready to fight for local jobs”, they said they’d been working with Wellington technology entrepreneur Rod Drury, who had suggested basing technology call centres in the regions.  They said they would be working with their economic development agencies on a strategy to “bundle together services and promote these to Australian businesses – finance and insurance companies, for example”.

They would highlight the advantages of New Zealand’s regions, with the aim of creating “highly-skilled jobs” in some of the smaller centres. “We know the Nelson region has so much to offer as a great base to live and work,” Mr Miccio said.  “We want to challenge the idea that all the work is in Auckland. We want to start a revolution and change the way people think about doing business in smaller cities. “With the technology available these types of businesses can be based anywhere and we know we can offer an attractive package.”

Mr Yule said the call centres were usually 24/7 operations so there could be capacity for many new high-value jobs, and an economic boost to the whole community.  “We know our regions can offer great value that can attract Australian companies.”

Mr Drury, chief executive of the online accounting software company Xero, said “online product experts” was becoming a stimulating, location-independent career.  “New Zealand staff are under 60 per cent of the cost of Australian equivalents. If we can package our regional towns as high-value contact centres there is a fantastic opportunity to create modern regional jobs.”

The two mayors were offering “the sort of leadership that needs to happen” in New Zealand, Mr Drury said.

Nelson EDA chief executive Bill Findlater said he had only just learned of the plan and was yet to get to grips with it, but didn’t want to dismiss it out of hand.  He understood that the trend towards basing call centres in developing countries with lower pay rates such as India and the Philippines was being reversed.  There was “quite a bit to be said for having call centres located handily”, and cheaper labour costs might attract the Australian businesses.  “We’re going to sit down and look at what we can do to make it attractive for businesses to relocate here. I think it’s too early for me to comment on the success or otherwise of it,” he said.

Bill Moore, Nelson Mail, 16 Feb 2013