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Opening Of The Contact Energy Call Centre In Levin

Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes

Thank you for inviting me here today to open the refurbished Contact Energy Call Centre.

We have a good reason to celebrate. By upgrading these facilities, Contact Energy has clearly made a commitment to 90 call centre jobs here in Levin. As Minister of Regional Development, and having looked around towns all over New Zealand I know the value of larger employers in small communities.

When a business such as this makes a commitment to a community other jobs grow around it. People will stay in the community rather than leave and there are flow-on affects for local retailers, schools and service providers.

Call Centres are also great facilities. They provided skilled work and also can provide excellent customer service.

Interestingly the comments to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs Powerline, initiated by my colleague, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Phillida Bunkle, said that power company customers wanted things like:
 regular monthly bills that are easy to understand
 easy contact with retailers if they had any questions
 local interests and concerns reflected in the policies and business decisions of the retailer.
 easy and quick changes between retailers
 easy access to information
 disconnection only ever being done legitimately and fairly, including making allowances where consumers are unable to pay the full amount owing because of genuine hardship.

In many cases these things would be facilitated by the type of call centre we have opening here.

Better still, when a New Zealand customer rings their company, having a New Zealand voice answering the call, from a local centre has to be good for the company and for our country.

I want to invite companies to site their call centres in New Zealand rather than overseas. We have a skilled population, strong telecommunications infrastructure and there are agencies locally and nationally who can help you find a location. So I say to the customer services managers and CEOs, think local when you're thinking about where to put your call centres.

The Labour Alliance Government is clear that the future of New Zealand lies in the hands of New Zealanders. If we need to, we can put together international partnerships, attract foreign investment, and work with technology from overseas, but Kiwis are our major asset and that is where our future lies.

The challenge for New Zealand is to be a country that is attractive for skilled, talented individuals to live in. Attractive to invest their energy and resources in. Attractive for industry.

We need a strong, diverse economy. One where skills, talent and creativity can be developed. Where there are real jobs and where working people can look forward to rising real incomes.

I want to commit myself to working in partnership with business and local communities to promote regional development, and I see call centres as having great potential for our regions. The Government is rolling its sleeves up to play our role in facilitating the expansion and success of our regions, and call centres can be a part of this.

Regional development projects with a Hi Tech component are particularly valuable.

Last week I opened the new offices of Allied Telesyn in Christchurch, a Hi Tech international company undertaking research and development and capitalising on the skills and innovation of Kiwi software engineers.

This research facility will work for its international company and hire over 250 skilled technical New Zealand staff in the next two years. They are going to develop and market new and innovative products and around them, they will create more jobs. The expansion of their plant alone will put $10 million into the local economy.

This Government supports business, where business is fair and supports its community.

Towns and regions need services to flourish. New Zealanders on lower incomes need to ensure they pay as little as possible for services such as banks, and we all want strong regional business sectors. A strong local bank network that covers towns and small communities, along with call centres, and other key businesses can keep towns vibrant and provide jobs to local people.

A year ago the Alliance was erecting election campaign hoardings. Some of them promised Our Bank…Opening Soon.

This Alliance policy was developed as we saw the effect of banks closing in local towns. Fees were increasing. Branches were closing. Staff were being laid off in their thousands. Some towns were left without any banking services at all – not even an ATM.

All this while profits were sky-rocketing. Overseas-owned banks made a profit in New Zealand of sixteen hundred million dollars last year. Thirteen hundred million dollars of that was repatriated overseas.

It’s true that many people are happy with their banking services.

But there were a great many other New Zealanders who wanted better service. And above all, people were saying that they wouldn’t mind paying bank fees so much if they knew the profits would be recirculated in their own local communities.

The proposal is to use New Zealand Post and their established network of branches around New Zealand. Hundreds of NZ Post outlets are already hooked up with computers to provide complex financial services. NZ Post already provides branch agency services on behalf of other banks.

Next month I take a paper to Cabinet which will signal the start of making the bank a reality.
We have been boosted by the public opinion survey released this Monday which said that 58 per cent of kiwis supported the idea of a peoples bank and 40 per cent would seriously consider moving their banking to a people's bank.

This high number of possible customers is no doubt attracted to the idea of a locally owned bank which will to charge lower fees to its customers.

Developing our regions requires a full range of services and industry in our communities and call centres, like banks, are an important part of a local infrastructure.

Today Contact Energy deserves to be congratulated for this major commitment to Levin. You are training local people, you are investing in Levin, and you are showing a commitment to customer service. This effort is to be applauded as showing the way for other companies to locate their call centres in New Zealand's regional centres.

Thank you again for inviting me. I love to share good news and also to share your hospitality. I look forward to returning to Levin to open a Kiwi Bank or any other facilities that will keep this community vibrant and growing.

It is therefore my great privilege to declare the new Contact Energy Call Centre open.


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