National retailer Bunnings is proposing to close its Ashburton store, with 30 staff affected, and Ashburton mayor Neil Brown is concerned more job losses in the district will follow.
Six other Bunnings stores are also up for closure around the country, with the company saying trading challenges had been exacerbated as a result of the Covid-19 environment.
The seven stores, employing a total of 145 staff, were no longer viable, said Bunnings NZ director Jacqui Coombes.
The Ashburton store employs 15 full-time staff, plus nine part-time and six casual staff.
“We feel for the staff at the Bunnings site,” Mr Brown said.
The proposed job losses will add to the district’s rising unemployment figures. Numbers on the job-seeker benefit have risen from 531 in March to 652 in April.
Mr Brown said he hoped government had more support planned for small and medium-sized businesses, of which Ashburton had a lot. More job losses would be on the cards when the wage subsidy ran out if government did not.
“I am concerned about what is coming in the future, because we don’t know.
“It is easy to plan when you have something to plan for, but when you don’t it makes it very difficult.”
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon said the news was awful for Bunnings staff who would lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
“With the wage subsidy coming to an end in about a month there will unfortunately be more job losses unless the Government comes out with a strong support package in the Budget.
“Nobody expects that all jobs can be saved, but it’s vital we see some ongoing support for industries worst hit, and a strong economic growth strategy to create new jobs for people losing theirs.
“Part of that needs to be government with infrastructure projects around the country, but will also need private sector investment which means reducing some of the barriers and costs to establishing a business.”
Bunnings staff are being consulted about the proposed closure, which could see the Ashburton store close its doors by June 30.
Staff are being offered redundancy packages, as well as support and advice. The company says some could be redeployed. Hornby and Rangiora may also close.