Controversial Chinese water bottlers Cloud Ocean Water has stopped production at its Belfast water bottling plant in Christchurch, citing "challenging market conditions and working capital constraints".
The company in February revealed plans for a second plant adjacent to its existing site in Belfast, but now says it will delay development of the second plant until market conditions improve.
Cloud Ocean Water said in a statement tonight it has today informed staff of a proposal to mothball its two production lines due to challenging market conditions and working capital constraints.
“It is with great regret that our board has made the difficult decision to pause production and readjust our operations. This is due to challenging circumstances including sales being lower than expected and fast growth that has put pressure on our working capital,” said Cloud Ocean Water director Feng Liang.
“We are proud of the progress we have made marketing bottled water as an added value export for New Zealand. However, sales into China, our main market, have been disappointing and will come under further pressure during the winter months,” Liang said.
It's proposed that production is paused and the current workforce of 160 is reduced to 35 staff, with final decisions to be made at the end of the month following a consultation period, the company said.
A community group Aotearoa Water Action's has been seeking to overturn Cloud Ocean Water's water consents. Hundreds of opponents marched in central Christchurch in March protesting against the water bottling operation.
The company appealed a High Court ruling that old industrial consents for the site do not allow for large-scale water bottling operations.
In tonight's statement, Mr Liang said: “This situation is not what we expected when we invested $70 million in expanding the plant to two production lines, providing nearly 200 direct jobs and more downstream".
“Cloud Ocean Water remains confident that the prospects for exporting bottled water to markets across the Asia Pacific region."