The outspoken Minister of Regional Economic Development has blasted The Warehouse Group chairwoman Joan Withers for her 'inept' handling of the Kaikohe Warehouse’s U-turn on closing

Regional Economic Development Minister and self-declared “champion for the provinces” Shane Jones is again calling out the chairperson of one of New Zealand’s biggest companies.

Reacting to the news that a Warehouse branch in Kaikohe will no longer be closing, Jones took aim at the company’s chairwoman, Joan Withers.

Although he says he does not know her personally, Jones says he knows she is a “person who likes to put herself forward as a paradigm of all this corporate virtue and sustainability and all the other fluffy words,” he tells Interest.co.nz.

He says its “actually galling” that Withers “lectures and highlights all sorts of credentials that she has about equity and inclusiveness and then has presided over such an inept episode.”

“Well, I would [tell her] to go back to the ABCs of brand stewardship and treating your customers and communities with a great deal more respect than she and the Chief Executive have done today.”

On Wednesday, it was revealed The Warehouse in Kaikohe would be shut down as it had “no choice but to close” after unsuccessful negotiations with the landlord over its lease.

But on Thursday morning, The Warehouse said it was “delighted” to announced the landlord had changed their mind.

But Jones says it should have never got to the point where closing was even an option.

“I think the whole issue has been handled ineptly by The Warehouse.

“What’s disgusting is that the board of The Warehouse were prepared to turn Kaikohe into a zombie town just because they couldn’t find a compromise with their building owner.”

This morning, Jones appeared on the AM show to condemn the closure, calling it a “kick in the guts” for the town.

He did this because he had “zero confidence that the board and its Chair would do anything about [the issue.]”

“I’m a politician – my market is the public of New Zealand. I did what I think a provincial champion should do, highlighting and calling out The Warehouse for its hypocrisy.”

He says he never made contact with Withers or anyone else on the board.

Earlier on Thursday, FIRST Union called on Jones to mediate a deal between The Warehouse and local landlords over pending closure of its Kaikohe store.

Groundhog Day

This is not the first time Jones has taken aim at a major Kiwi company for making moves that would hurt rural communities.

Two weeks ago, he was calling for the chairman of Air New Zealand to resign after the airline announced it was ditching some of its flights to certain regions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said he went “a step too far” but admitted his comments “won’t surprise anyone.”

Asked if she was confident that Jones was not going to make similar comments again in the future, Ardern said then that Jones is “of course always going to have opinions.”

And it appears that Jones is not likely to rein in his criticism of big companies either.

“[I have] a broader message – if corporate New Zealand is going to trot out these fluffy inanities about how good they are in terms of climate change and social license then expect to be called on it if you don’t practice what you preach.”

He says he is entitled to take these sorts of issues up and publicise them in an effort to put pressure on the companies.

“I am totally disinterested in going cap in hand to their corporate bureaucrats now or ever.”

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.

32 Comments

If he has any balls, he should call out:
Fletcher building
AirNZ
Regional councils
Fonterra
Kiwi Rails
and ......

... true ... there's no shortage of legitimate targets who deserve a good old fashioned boot up the bum ... but the Warehouse hardly ranks amongst them ...

I mean ... if they did close in Kaikohe , is that such a bad thing .. .. a dozen or more smaller Mom & Pop enterprises will emerge , and thrive in the absence of the big red shed ... locals will pay a slightly higher price for their goods ( all made in China ! ) ...

I doubt that would happen to be honest. The Warehouse now has some moral obligation to places like Kaikohe. What they are selling is another matter altogether.

... folks living in Warehouse free towns seem to get by just fine ... so , not so sure about the moral obligation ... after all , the big box stores put many small operators out of business ... there are any number of smaller companies selling similar products , " Loose Change " for instance ....

I'd rather that Jonesy had given a legitimate target a right old booting : Fonterrible and Feltchers top my list !

moral obligation? A companies moral and legal obligation is to its shareholders. Now a council providing core infrastructure like potable water yes OK, but a retail store selling chinese crap? hmmm no.

The advent of them sent other smaller businesses out, they also sell things like school uniforms, they also provide much needed jobs. Having made a commitment to the place, having displaced other businesses, yes, they have an obligation. I know it is something seemingly a bit strange in this day and age, but it's time it was acknowledged and not just the $$$$

Hopefully he is using this as a razor strop. He did have a crack at AirNZ. Can't help thinking, go for it Shane, Winston may have spent most of his life as a burr under political saddles, Jonesy could be the turpentine under the tail.

up
10

Jones would have a great deal more credibility on business matters if he had ever actually run a business.
He appears to have even less experience than the PM.
At least she can claim to have worked in a chip shop.

For me he strikes me as almost a corrupt politician taking handouts from lobbyists to deliver "outcomes" to businesses rather than be an actual worker.. To be fair to him however he knows how to stay in the news which is what he'll need to win the coming NZF leadership and keep NZF above 5%.

Well he is saying that anybody who can do 180’s like that shouldn’t even be in charge of a car. On that point, I would say he is correct.

You have never had to do a serious commercial negotiation I see....

Actually I have. Multi million $’s , as well. But your point is fair and taken on board. With the subsequent news, my shot would have been better aimed at the landlord in question.

Ah, I remember the days of the handbrake 180s in the Morrie Minor.

I too had one of those. Hand brake not always necessary. A bit of involuntary shingle would suffice. Always thought designed with rolling in mind. But have to admit that A30/35’s & Standard 10’s far superior in that regard.

One day in an emergency when the spring on the carburettor went I replaced it with one out of a ballpoint pen. Imagine doing that with your Nissan Qashcai (if that is how you spell it)
A45 Farina or an Anglia were the pinnacle. I think we referred to the Ford Popular as a "Roll your own"

up
12

I wonder if The Warehouse has ever had Mr Jones as a customer ?
If only they sold cheap porn amongst their racks of DVDs

... tee heee heeeee .... good one !

Jones reminds me of one of those job candidates that looks great based on the CV, then when you meet him you rush off after the interview to check the font on his degree certificates. His 'interview' on the AM Show was shambolic. He comes across as patronising, surprisingly mostly about the Tangata Whenua.

He is an absolute classic.
Knocking these companies who employ thousands of people and pay tax in this country.
What is Shane Jones’s business acumen, that gives him the right to criticise how companies operate.
It is like the COL that have told property management companies how they can run their business by not being able to charge letting fees.
This COL is seriously a mish mash of unachieving nobodies that think they have a clue at what they are doing.
Surely by now everyone that had a hand in supporting this COL must be working out that they are going to be the most despised government this country has ever seen.
There is nothing of any benefit to NZ that has been achieved since they have been in government!

... this coalition government does appear to be unraveling at a great rate of knots ...

We may look back upon Wild Bill English and softly sing to ourselves that great Fred Dagg refrain : " You don't know how lucky you are , mate ! "

... I wonder where it leaves the Winston First Party , if it all goes down the gurgler in the 2020 election ...

Dunno, he's keeping NZF in the news in ppls faces, future NZF leader I suspect....

And thank god he did, I say. Normally, I look at Shane Jones as a bit of a blowhard, but today, he earned a bit of respect for me. Unlike some here he understands that small communities cannot survive something like this. The Warewhare moved in to Kaikohe and no doubt put paid to a number of smaller businesses. Having done that they do actually have some moral obligation to the town.
About time we don't only use $$$$$ as a measure.

You respect ignorant politicians with no commercial nous for attempting cheap political point scoring against respectable businesses who have added hugely to our national economy??

I'd stick to your $5 SnG's mate...

I don’t have an issue with random politicians taking jabs at companies that the government are large shareholders of (ie Air NZ) but to jab at non government owned companies is off point. Directors of companies have a responsibility to their shareholders and if that means they have to close/divest failing parts the business to maintain it as a going concern then that’s their decison. If it’s not a regulatory or anti-trust issue then it’s none of the politicians’ business.

Great body language for a seasoned " Minister of the Crown"

Why not Nationalize the companies he mentioned and get on with it ? after all, that is WP's idea of control. Then we can open a branch everywhere like a corner dairy or a Four Square ...

Hope that we won't have to put up with this kind of "Political Figure" and this CoLs for too long !!

The Jones Boy has I think has adapted a leaf out of Mr Trump's play book of bombardment of so many shock and hyperbole "news" stories that everyone ends up so punch drunk that we'll never notice when he does truly come a greaser.

But then again, to some people he's a champ. Nice work Jones.

Surely you meant 'chump'?

Twenty two comments so far and not one single comment has wondered whether it was the Landlord trying to jack the rent up, or was it The Warehouse trying to screw the rent down "unreasonably" using their size

The Mexican stand-off was over the rent of the premises - who was the screwer? who was the screwee?

My perception listening to the report on RNZ yesterday afternoon is that the Warehouse or more likely their Lawyers who were bullying a small Landlord into changing a current leases terms to their advantage. Whoever is responsible its time to publically Name and Shame the parties so customers and neighbours can judge the integrity and acceptability of such individuals and react accordingly.

The screwer is this COL and the screwee is everyone in NZ!

At least the screwing is happening in the other direction from the last 9 years, so it really is unscrewing.

Shane Jones has never done anything for anyone or achieved a single thing in the 13 years he has been in parliament other than eat pies and chips.