A Northland engineering giant is finding it hard to retain its Refinery NZ-based employees who have work cut out for them during a planned standby of all units at the refinery.
Culham Engineering had 62 employees based at the refinery at Marsden Pt last year of which 20 remained on site pre-Covid, working on maintenance and finishing projects.
Now with the refinery planning to put all units on standby, known as a "hotpark", in July and August to balance fuel supply across New Zealand, Culhams will have only a few employees remaining on site.
"We are working very hard to accommodate this shift in other areas of our business with regard to employment," Culham managing director Rob Kirwan said.
National fuel demand, including jet fuel, plummeted by about 80 per cent when the country went into lockdown in late March to combat Covid-19.
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Culham employs 500 people and contractors and is one of the largest employers in the region after the refinery and the Northland District Health Board.
Kirwan said cancellation of jobs in Auckland and elsewhere has exacerbated the situation and at present, the company was focused on finishing existing contracts while looking for new jobs.
Refining NZ spokeswoman Ellie Martel said because the company was operating in reduced production mode and has lowered its capital programme, it did not need many contractors.
"Our employees have continued to work through lockdown as essential workers and no reductions in jobs have taken place.
''During the hotpark, our people will continue working or take leave, with no job reductions," she said.
Marsden Pt - the country's only refinery - can process 135,000 barrels of crude oil a day and usually makes about three quarters of the country's fuel, with the rest imported.
Its net debt was at $252 million at the end of April. Expected capital expenditure for 2020 was down to $40m, from the $70m earlier planned, and maintenance on the refinery's main crude distiller and petrol making units had been deferred until March next year.