"Anti-Kiwi" NZX companies are shunning Northland, according to Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, who says he's "had a gutsful" of businesses pulling out of places like Kaikohe.
He reacted angrily to the announcement by The Warehouse yesterday that it would in June close its Kaikohe store, saying he was "genuinely surprised" and feared for the livelihoods of staff who work there.
But The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery chief executive Pejman Okhovat said the closure "was not a planned course of action" and the business would try to find positions elsewhere for Kaikohe staff.
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"We've confirmed the news with our store's team members today and we hope to find roles for them at our nearby Waipapa and Kaitaia stores, or in our other Warehouse Group stores in the area, including Warehouse Stationery and Noel Leeming," Okhovat said in an email yesterday.
But Jones said that was little comfort and the latest closure was unpalatable.
"With me, it jars. I'm genuinely surprised they are having to bail out of Kaikohe," he said.
Yet, The Warehouse was just the latest business to turn its back on the north, he said.
"It's not just The Warehouse. It's KFC and Air New Zealand too," Jones complained this morning of the businesses, owned by NZX listed entities.
However, the companies he criticised are also some of New Zealand's largest employers. The Warehouse is one of this country's largest retail chains, employing around 12,000 staff and the group also owns Noel Leeming and Warehouse Stationery.
Restaurant Brands shut its KFC at Kaikohe in November 2015 and Air New Zealand has pulled back from Northland. Jones was also furious about the announcement by Air New Zealand last month regarding an end to its service to the Kapiti Coast, which comes after flights to Kaitaia were axed in 2015.
"The boards of New Zealand are running their businesses with this rhetoric about social conscience but their culture and behaviour is anti-Kiwi," Jones said this morning.
"I've had a gutsful of these preening, self-important bureaucrats on boards. They are not faithful to the rest of us Kiwis. We have a corporate culture that spouts social conscience but whose behaviour is different."
But The Warehouse Group says it has played a significant community role since Stephen Tindall founded the business more than three decades ago. The Warehouse is in more than 92 locations, it says.
Community and environment are key areas, it says, citing more than $40 million provided to thousands of community organisations. It cited The Warehouse Group Foundation, raising more than $3.3m with community partners between 2015 and 2016, youth employment, conservation, literacy and numeracy, financial literacy and wellbeing.
Restaurant Brands said in 2015 that after a number of years making losses, a proposal to close the Kaikohe store was presented to staff.
"The closure follows the expiry of Restaurant Brands' franchise agreement for KFC Kaikohe and the end of the lease for the premises. All staff were given a three-week notice period and we also offered staff the opportunity to relocate to other stores, but appreciate this will not be possible for some," the company said at the time.
In 2015 Air NZ axed its twice-daily flights to Kaitaia and a number of other regional centres. Earlier last month the airline announced it was also ending flights to the Kapiti Coast. At the same time, however, it has boosted aircraft size and flights to Kerikeri.