Cuts 'probably the only option' for Vbase

9:00 am on 18 June 2011

A Canterbury business leader says downsizing was probably the only option for the event management company Vbase, which has cut the equivalent of 151 full-time positions.

The company, which is owned by Christchurch City Council, runs four of the city's main venues - three of which (the Town Hall, the Convention Centre and AMI Stadium) remain closed because of earthquake damage.

It also manages the CBS Canterbury Arena, which reopened in March.

The Christchurch City Council announced last week that it will be assuming governance and management control of Vbase, which has debts of more than $50 million.

The chief executive of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Peter Townsend, says the company has done the best it could under the circumstances.

He says it was caught by a series of devastating earthquakes at exactly the wrong time - a time of huge investment in facilities in anticipation of hosting events such as the Rugby World Cup.

'Big changes' in workforce dynamic

Mr Townsend says Christchurch is experiencing big changes in its labour-force dynamic.

"In the hospitality and entertainment sector we are not seeing a rise in the number of unemployed people.

"We're seeing a shift from the central city to the suburbs and I hope that people at Vbase - many of whom I know and many of whom are really highly skilled - find ready jobs in our city.

"Personally I'll be looking for a couple of them."

Debt loaded for a reason

The chief executive of Vbase, Bryan Pearson, says the company was structured with debt of more than $50 million for a reason.

"It reduced the impact on the ratepayer," he says, "and it enabled the Christchurch City Council to develop some wonderful facilities.

"The intention was that that would be repaid over a 30-year horizon - but we didn't anticipate two major earthquakes."

Mr Pearson says his own position has been made redundant but he will stay on for the next few months to ensure a smooth transition.