Stockton sheds around 400 jobs

By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News -
Stockton mine. Photo / APN
Stockton mine. Photo / APN

Solid Energy's Stockton mine, near Westport, has shed almost 400 workers since June last year, but few of them appear in the company's nationwide job losses figures of about 700.

That's because most of the Stockton job losses aren't redundancies - Solid Energy simply hasn't replaced workers who have left, or has shunted mine contractors.

At September 1, about 724 people - 584 mineworkers and 140 contractors' employees - were working at Stockton, according to figures obtained by The News from Solid Energy under the Official Information Act.

That's 379 fewer people than before the coal crisis hit.

In June last year, Stockton employed around 1103 - 704 mineworkers and 399 contractors' employees.

By Christmas, the total workforce had fallen by about 237, to 866.

Solid Energy said the Stockton job losses over the past year were mainly due to workers resigning and not being replaced. However, 10 positions had also been made redundant since September 2012.

Three were supervisors, five were support staff and two worked in the technical area.

None had since been re-employed at the mine as consultants or fixed-term contractors, the company said.

Figures for contractors at Stockton were only estimates, because the mine did not keep daily totals of the exact numbers of contractors' employees on site.

"It is also important to note that not every contractor who is on site on any one day is regularly contracted at the mine. Stockton mine's contractor numbers continually fluctuate because contractors are engaged for particular projects."

The job losses have hit the Buller economy hard, despite the fact a chunk of the lost workers had been commuting from other areas.

Some local businesses have reported a 60 per cent drop in turnover, building consents are down and the real estate market is flat.

Air New Zealand recently announced it was cutting two return services to Wellington next year because patronage had fallen.

It's a big turnaround since 2011, when economic analyst BERL ranked Buller New Zealand's top performer overall among 66 local authorities.

The report gave Buller top placing for four of the nine ranking indicators, including employment and business unit growth.

Stockton mine has shed almost as many jobs as Bathurst Resources plans to provide when its proposed Denniston Escarpment Mine is in full production.

Bathurst expects to employ about 250 at Escarpment initially, building up to 450.

Bathurst has previously said it aims to take on some of Solid Energy's Stockton mineworkers who have lost their jobs.

The company still needs final resource consent, which the Environment Court has indicated it will grant. However, Forest & Bird could still appeal the consent.

Forest & Bird is also seeking a special right to appeal another issue in the Court of Appeal.

- The Westport News

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